Revamped Freedom Square back on track

2010-05-11 00:00

THE city’s tourism industry is set to receive a major boost following a decision by the Msunduzi Municipality to forge ahead with the long-awaited greening of the Freedom Square precinct, at a cost of roughly R27 million.

Long overdue, the project was initiated as far back as October 2000 and was meant to have been completed along with the refurbishment of the Bessie Head Library and the new taxi rank.

The municipality originally planned to demolish and upgrade part of the existing Publicity House for the project, but were prevented from doing so by provincial heritage conservation agency Amafa, which has listed the building as a national monument.

Another site has been chosen,which is situated to the northeast of the existing Publicity House and will be better suited for the accommodation of tour buses and traffic movements.

The new three-storey building will house a restaurant, a fast-food outlet, offices, information centres, exhibition areas, hospitality suites, boardrooms, broadcast rooms and services areas.

It will also cater for a variety of tourist-related activities.

The Witness understands that the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department set aside a sum of ­R21,4 million in 2008 to fund and support the project.

In a letter written to Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler two weeks ago, the department states that while it has transferred R10, 4 million in the 2008/09 financial year and another R3 million for the current financial year, it is reluctant to release any more money for the project as the municipality is dragging its feet.

“No further funding has been transferred [and] … currently the grant is regarded as a high-risk venture as the municipality has not implemented the project,” states the letter.

It goes on to say that should the municipality continue to stall, the funding will be withdrawn and the municipality will have to return the money so that the department can use it to fund other projects.

Rather than forfeit the funds and rob the city of this major development, members of the executive committee made a decision to go ahead with it at a recent meeting.

The project, which will run over the next two financial years, is expected to:

• Attract tourists to the Freedom Square and city centre;

• Form the centre point from which tours can be organised to promote Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands;

• Provide an information centre and secure coach stop;

• Exploit development opportunities; and

• Provide a home for PMB Tourism.

The decision to forge ahead with the Freedom Square Tourism Hub comes barely a month after The Witness reported that the city’s multibillion-rand Camps Drift Project is back on the cards.



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