Modernisation of cities take centre stage

Town planning experts have said Zimbabwean cities need to work on attracting investment in property and infrastructure development.

The experts are proposing a complete re-look at city by-laws to force accommodate changes that cater for emerging business enterprises.

While companies like Old Mutual are coming along in accommodating the informal sector, more still needs to be done.

This came out at the recently held Zimreal Property Investment Forum, where stakeholders agreed the country’s urban planning regulations are outdated and no longer in line with the current economic set-up.

Identified as one of the country’s prime real estate locations, the Harare CBD was a key focus for all senior level attendees, with numerous ideas thrown on how to re-package it.

Fidelity Life Assurance of Zimbabwe, Property Investments general manager Mr Gibson Mapfidza said the current urban blight and decay is as a result of a multiple factors that need to be addressed holistically.

He cited the traditional zoning model and buildings designs, developed in the 1970s, and old infrastructure that no longer suits the needs of the modern tenants who are now techno-survey.

“At a macro-spatial level, there is need to deal with our town planning laws, which are based on the traditional zoning model that separates land use zones. The operative Local Plan number 22 is outdated, and needs urgent review.

“The review will incite property owners to redress the micro-building specific design issues.

‘‘Indeed the building infrastructure design is equally old and, as a result, inefficient for the space users.

“For instance, most of our buildings, designed and built in the 1970s, have the old solid floors, making it difficult to route data and data cables.

‘‘These buildings were designed in the pre-ICT era. They also do not have the modern ceiling voids and other accessories,” he said.

Town planner and project manager, Ms Innocencia Tigere concurred with Mr Mapfidza and said there is an urgent need to review planning regulation regarding the development of the CBD.

“We need inspiration from countries like China and South Africa, where efforts have been made to repackage cities in line with economic trends to keep them attractive for investors,” she said.

The plans will also help accommodate the increased number of informal businesses, which now constitute a significant portion of the country’s economy.

The rise in informal businesses, coupled with traffic congestion, has contributed to the increase in voids in the CBD as businesses move to office parks.

Knight Frank Zimbabwe senior partner, Mr Amos Mazarire said the redevelopment of the CBDs, especially Harare, is an economic priority, in the face of dropping occupancy levels.

He however said the successful re-development of the CBDs needs a long-term strategy.

“Pension funds should be considering alternative uses, that is student accommodation and other residential purposes. Already, there has been an increase in above ground level accommodation being converted to retail use.”

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo also said local authorities need to go back to basics in complying with the laws to attract meaningful property and infrastructure investment into the country,

This, he said will be essential in creating a conducive environment to enable investors to identify areas of opportunities to pour in their money.

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