Restored faith in Rink Street

2016-03-09 06:00
URBAN RENEWAL: The Eastern Cape’s largest architectural firm, SVA International, is spearheading the revitalisation of Rink Street. Directors Alasdair Strong (left), Bryan Wintermeyer (standing), and Debbie Wintermeyer (right) and their team are already at work in their new space.           Photo: SUPPLIED

URBAN RENEWAL: The Eastern Cape’s largest architectural firm, SVA International, is spearheading the revitalisation of Rink Street. Directors Alasdair Strong (left), Bryan Wintermeyer (standing), and Debbie Wintermeyer (right) and their team are already at work in their new space. Photo: SUPPLIED

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THE Mandela Bay Development Agency’s (MBDA) long-term plan for the upgrade of Rink Street has received a major boost, with the Eastern Cape’s largest architectural firm spearheading a move to the former commercial hub of Port Elizabeth.

SVA International, formerly Stauch Vorster Architects, has shown its confidence in the MBDA’s vision by relocating its Eastern Cape headquarters from suburban Walmer to a 503m2 space along Rink Street, which is being turned into a modern work environment.

SVA branch manager Debbie Wintermeyer said it was important for the firm to demonstrate its commitment to the urban revitalisation taking place in the former CBD and that her team had studied the data over the past three years before taking the leap.

“We recognised that sitting safely in the suburbs wasn’t going to help change the city. The intention behind our move was to create a presence in a place that needed change,” said Wintermeyer, who was also part of the team that helped create the developmental framework for the city.

She said SVA’s new presence along Rink Street, which they started renovating in October last year, was well positioned in the transition zone between upmarket Park Drive and the bustle of Rink Street.

“Rink Street is the last of the strategic connection points that could quite quickly connect the individual success stories that MBDA has created over the last while.”

Past projects in the area have included the Donkin Reserve and Athenaeum building upgrades, which acted as catalysts for adjacent private investments such as the Donkin Creative Quarter.

The agency is currently busy with the redevelopment of the Old Tramways building, which forms part of the Baakens Valley project.

MBDA spokesman Luvuyo Bangazi said the Rink Street upgrade would be one of the long-term projects linked to the proposed revitalisation of the St George’s Park precinct.

“The Baakens masterplan is a long-term blueprint that will guide future developments for the next 10 years or more,” he said, adding that some of the identified Rink Street upgrade elements would include improved pedestrian and cycle links as well as improved parking facilities.

“There is also consideration for social housing in Rink Street.”

He said these and other parts of the St George’s Park precinct revamp were long-term plans and would be subject to feasibility assessments, budgets, requests for proposals and the eventual appointment of consultants.

For every project implemented, the MBDA conducted annual economic impact assessments in the area to gauge their catalytic effect on property values and business confidence, Bangazi said.

“In every study we see the impact is positive, and the public investment by the MBDA has been the cause of some of the major private sector developments.

“Respondents are asked whether the upgrades have had any influence, and 70% or more say they would not have invested if it wasn’t for the MBDA cleaning up the front yard.”

He said the agency was delighted to welcome businesses like SVA back into the city centre.

“We see that business confidence in these areas is rising and that can only be good for all of us and the city government in terms of an increased rates base, job creation and marketability of the city.”

Wintermeyer added that Central had become a particularly important hub for the creative industries, with a number of advertising and PR agencies, photographers, art galleries and the like setting up shop there.

She said feeder institutions like NMMU’s music, art and design hub and the AFDA film school had also positioned themselves in nearby Bird Street.

“Being here is great for connecting with people on the street and collaborating with the design fraternity. We are creating liveable art for people.”

Wintermeyer added that one of the remaining challenges was encouraging the densification in the city centre.

“I think the intent is there – a lot of people have shown faith in the city by putting their businesses here.

“We need more bold moves. It will happen,” she said.

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