A must read from UrbanLand – the magazine of the Urban Land Institute (ULI). A number of ULI Advisory Services panelists visited Port Elizabeth as part of a site tour in November 2015.
The ULI panelists spent five days in Port Elizabeth, touring neighborhoods and proposed development sites. They interviewed about 75 stakeholders, including representatives of the local port authority Transnet, community members, developers, and city officials. By the end of the week, they had a clear message for the municipality: start small, and get started.
On the periphery of the central business district in Port Elizabeth, a coastal city in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa known as the Friendly City, is, for lack of a better term, a disconnected urban space. Outside an entrance to the city’s busy port, a dour overpass crosses the Baakens River, which is clogged with rubble and vegetation. Across the street, the century-old Tramways Building exhibits a freshly painted and renovated red facade that breathes life into the scene [The old PE Tramways building is now the Mandela Bay Development Agency’s new offices and public open space. Before it was occupied by the Jadene Ice Rink and then left unoccupied and neglected for years].
The restored Tramways Building signals the start of proposed development in the area, a prime location because of its proximity to the port and city center. The building is the headquarters of the Mandela Bay Development Agency, a municipal company that steers urban regeneration in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, which includes Port Elizabeth and the nearby towns of Despatch and Uitenhage.
City officials hope to catalyze development in the urban space surrounding the river and port, as well as other parts of the Baakens Valley Precinct, a 300-acre (120 ha) site encompassing land in and around the lush valley that flanks the river and creates a green spine through the city, including a retail hub with office space and affordable housing developments.
The ULI team identified the proposed upgrade and commercialization of the port as a cornerstone of the development agenda.
The port is owned and operated by the state-owned entity Transnet, which has visions of creating a “people’s port,” possibly featuring retail and leisure infrastructure. The upgrade entails moving the port’s manganese terminal to the nearby Port of Ngqura, a major facility that services the large industrial zone 12 miles (19 km) northeast of the city; the move is slated to take place by 2019. Transnet is still in talks with consultants regarding the specifics of its development vision.
The city is well placed to capitalize on the economic opportunities presented by its port and the Port of Ngqura, said panelist Chris Bliss, estate director for the Liverpool ONE complex, a mixed-use development in the United Kingdom.
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