STIMULATING INVESTMENT APPEAL: MBDA rebuilding Nelson Mandela Bay’s inner city socio-economic nodes


Resembling shipping and tourist cities across the globe, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan area – a cosmopolitan precinct falling under ‘Category A’ municipalities in South Africa, is by any label a region in transition.

This unmistakeable buzz, which can be felt from the metro’s outlying townships to its dynamic CBD heart, is partly due to the urban revitalisation effort of the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) an entity set up by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

While seeking to reverse urban decay in parts of the Bay – and possibly avoid the recent fate of Detroit, the agency’s integrated urban renewal work, which includes the revitalisation of existing infrastructure and physical assets, promises to transform the city into a modern global metropolis that is more attractive to investment.

“The MBDA is tasked with undertaking strategic interventions in areas under social and economic pressures in order to stimulate private sector investments, primarily in the tertiary sector of the economy - property and real estate as well as tourism.

“There are a number of prominent projects that the MBDA has already completed in and around the city including the revival of Parliament Street, Govan Mbeki Avenue, Route 67 and the Uitenhage Market Square,” said Luvuyo Bangazi, Marketing and Communications Manager at MBDA.

“Other projects currently in the pipeline include the upgrading of Singaphi Road (Red Location precinct), the New Brighton Sports field, Baakens Valley and the Tramways Building as well as the Port/Marina development, Telkom Park re-development (Request For Proposals stage), the Veeplas Hive business district repurposing and the operationalization of the Helenvale Community Centre.”

Perhaps the highlight of the agency’s current projects is the environmental revitalisation of Belmont Terrace & Bird Street in Port Elizabeth’s Central district which was allocated R17.2 million for the 2012/2013 financial year.

Designed out of an extensive public and stakeholder participation process including consultations and close cooperation with the NMMU Business School, the project includes the upgrading of roads, kerbing, reconstruction of sidewalks, storm water drains as well as the beautification of public recreational facilities like parks, play areas and other amenities.

Most importantly, the project completes a link between Donkin Park, The Grand Hotel, The Edward Hotel, the Athenaeum and the High Court zones with the rest of the city’s Route 67 heritage walk. All areas have also undergone or undergoing redevelopment.

“This environmental upgrade is at the heart of a key Arts, Culture, Heritage, Educational and Legal economic node of the City,” described Bangazi.

“The area is still predominantly residential. Thus, the re-development answers both to business needs - by enabling a flourishing educational and legal precinct which we hope will attract more legal practises and related services, as well as making the area clean, safe and accessible for all who work and live in it. The continued presence of the NMMU Business School’s arts unit will go a long way in sustaining and growing the creative and cultural offer in the area.”

He said the refurbishment of the Athenaeum building was 99% complete while the rest of the project, in and around Trinder Square, was between 50% and 75% complete - having fallen slightly behind schedule due to rainy weather.

“If all goes according to plan, the majority of the environmental upgrade will be completed by December 2013 while civil works that include kerbing and sidewalks should be completed by March 2014,” said Bangazi.

He said local tax-payers and businesses have also benefited from the immediate economic impact of the project.

“While the project is managed by ADA Urban Design & Adendorf Architects, the main contractor is Techni Civils which is working with a number of sub-contractors including Bay Projects, Alex Maintenance, Graham Clarke Electrical, Dekon Construction, All Form Construction, Mystree and Vusumzi Picket Lane among others.

“The number of direct jobs created through this environmental upgrade is around 300, however, the number is significantly higher when considering indirect jobs created downstream with suppliers and other specialist sub-contractors,” described Bangazi.

He said there was also evidence that the MBDA’s projects could become important long-term assets to the Metro when integrated into the overall local socio-economic strategy.  

A study by Urban Economics, a reputable national economics and research company, has confirmed the MBDA’s methodology and approach - that carefully planned and strategic public sector investment will always be followed by private sector investment.

“We have seen the economic impact of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in North End as well as of the property improvements in and around Kings Beach following the upgrades. The research also shows us that cleanliness and a sense of safety are key drivers in private sector investment,” explained Bangazi.

“The Belmont Terrace & Bird Street environmental upgrade, therefore, is a socio-economic intervention that we know will yield the same results – a better quality of life for residents as well as the establishment of new job-creating enterprises servicing the precinct’s Arts, Heritage, Legal, Educational and Tourism-related market needs.”