Shared objective key to renewal.

Posted On Friday, 04 April 2003 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Urban regeneration can be pegged on on cultural activity, but it must be managed.

Property-Housing-ResidentialTHE success of an urban regeneration project is often linked to the creation of cultural industries in the same area. Think of Dublin's Temple Bar and London's Tate Modern Gallery: both attract continuous foot traffic and cash flow.

"The key is to work with everyone to agree on a shared objective," says UK urban regeneration expert Fred Manson, who visited SA recently. "The emphasis must be placed on public bodies in planning and enforcement. The private sector has to be shown that making a profit is possible and that regulation is in place."

Manson gives the example of the Tate in Southwark, UK, a modern gallery placed in an area of need. A walkway was created along the river alongside the gallery, as well as a bridge across the Thames River, so that public access was maximised and the river became a focus of cultural concern. The deployment of arts and culture strategies, says Manson, are behind the area's rapid and sustained regeneration.

"One must have an infrastructure of restaurants and bars, cherishing the old characteristics of the buildings in a modern setting. We can reuse old buildings and still conserve the feel of the place. Altering national monuments is a good thing as this attracts new interest, as does an arts quarter in a central business area."

The Newtown cultural precinct is part of a Gauteng urban regeneration project. Johannesburg Development Agency marketing and communications executive Tshepo Nkosi says that infrastructure acts as a catalyst to private sector investment.

"Bringing the private sector into the Newtown cultural precinct presented major challenges. The cluster of cultural industries in the area is of primary importance. However, we also had to increase access to the area (by building the Nelson Mandela Bridge and off-ramps), improve security (by installing 40 closed circuit cameras) and are establishing housing developments to attract the critical mass needed to sustain the area." The value of the project is R600m, R200m of which has already been spent.

"Once housing for middle- income and subsidised groups has been developed, we are expecting a rapid flow of private sector investment in the area," says Nkosi.

However, Peter Stark, who holds the chair of cultural policy and arts management at the University of Northumbria, UK, says: "One needs to assess the economic impact of particular arts and cultural institutions so that you do not depend on cultural consumption and cultural production alone. Substantial private sector investment in and around cultural quarters will arrive only when the public sector has secured the critical mass of footfall necessary for trade and safety by providing the anchor tenants."

Durban's Inner Thekwini Renewal Urban Management Programme leader Richard Dobson says a twin approach is needed.

"Urban regeneration needs urban management."

The city council has identified five areas of need ranging from rural townships to industrial areas to initiate a roll-out of services and instigate area-based management.

Dobson says the advantage of working with an in-house initiative is that operating within the council enables one to stay within decisionmaking loops. "Outside agencies often use the problem-by-problem solution, while working from the inside is a sustainable solution."

During the past two years between R12m and R14m has been invested in Durban's inner city areas, including the beachfront and the Durban South Basin, which between them account for 70% of Durban's economic activity.

"We are seeing a general trend towards people staying in the city centre. The new rates bill also means that decentralised office areas are more expensive to run, which in turn benefits the urban areas," says Dobson.

Plans to create a cultural zone in Cape Town are in the early stages of negotiation. Cape Heritage Trust director Laura Robinson says: "We are driving a civil society process to develop a cultural district in the Grand Parade. The area is surrounded by cultural institutions such as the Castle, Library, Drill Hall, District Six Museum, the city hall and many other historic buildings. Plans include walkways to the Castle, installing public sculptures and generating artistic input to increase the visibility of the area."

Making the project sustainable will require commitment from the institutions around it and from the city council, says Robinson.

"The constant changeover between local government parties means that the process of negotiations is a slow one."

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 10:32

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