Bold plan to energise inner city

Harbour precinct key focus area of MBDA project

Dorelle Sapere – Planning & Development Manager at MBDA and Luvuyo Bangazi – Marketing & Communications Manager at MBDA at the historic homes in Ellis Street
Dorelle Sapere – Planning & Development Manager at MBDA and Luvuyo Bangazi – Marketing & Communications Manager at MBDA at the historic homes in Ellis Street
Image: Werner Hills

The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) is steaming ahead with a clutch of exciting projects aimed at upgrading Port Elizabeth’s harbour precinct, restoring heritage and making the metro more accessible to all.

The finishing touches are being put to a new walkway (R12-million), and the ruins of St Peter’s Church, sacred heart of Old South End, are being secured and opened up (R7-million).

The renovation of historic homes in Ellis Street should start soon (R3.2-million) and a stylish new pedestrian bridge (R1.6-million) is being planned.

The aim was to drive the social transformation of the precinct, to create opportunities for tourism and other enterprises and to link the whole to the green treasure of the Baakens River Valley, MBDA planning and development manager Dorelle Sapere said yesterday.

“Our vision is to develop an iconic, world-class ocean city showcasing its diversity of people, culture, heritage and environment and that’s what our latest projects are all about.”

During a tour after her presentation, Sapere pointed out how the broad, paved walkway runs between the Old Post Office and the Transnet building, from the steps on the southeast side of Vuyisile Mini Square to the north bank of the Baakens.

It would be both a connecting thoroughfare and a platform for fun, art and education, she said.

“We see it as a creative space and will be calling soon for input from our artists.

“It will include several storeys of parking and will be lined with wild plum trees. The mini-amphitheatre below the Baakens River Bridge will be turned into an open-air cinema.
“The existing tables with inlaid chessboards beneath the trees on Produce Street will be cleaned up and we’re hoping the chess societies will make good use of them.”

The walkway will flow into a promenade along the north bank of the river ending in a park that will highlight the five indigenous biomes, or broad eco-zones, of the Bay.

It will be planted with indigenous, drought-resistant vegetation and will allow children to connect with the environment and especially the Baakens valley through various eco-games, she said.

Across in St Mary’s Cemetery, erosion around St Peter’s Church is being gunnited in preparation for the development of a timber walkway which will wind through the graves, a mosaic of memory reflecting the rich cultural diversity of South End before the 1968-73 apartheid-forced removals.

A little higher up the valley, a tender has been approved for the renovation of the nine dilapidated Ellis Street homes, some of the last of the original South End houses.

The contractor is due to start work this month, with expected completion by the end of June.

The project is the start of a broader one to build a range of social, gap and first-time buyer housing on the north side of Upper Valley Road up to Webber Street.

The development would look to recreate the colourfulness and community security of Old South End, Sapere said.

The MBDA is also in the last phase of planning a pedestrian bridge that will stretch over the Baakens River – just west of the Tramways to the new promenade.

The structure will be angled to avoid a build-up of debris and flood water will pass over it.