Mayor Dan Plato toured the Wynberg business district last week to see what progress has been made since the area was declared a mayoral urban regeneration programme (MURP) in August 2019.
Among those at the walkabout were members of the Wynberg Improvement District (WID) established in October 2000 with the aim of revitalising its CBD by creating a safe, clean urban village environment.
Since MURP was established the WID have employed the management services of Geocentric Information Systems in July 2019.
Geocentric’s Gene Lohrentz said they manage some of the other MURPs and their mandate includes cleaning, public safety and urban renewal.
Ward councillor Liz Brunette has been a driving force behind cleaning up the area. In 2018, she invited the Bulletin to an inspection of properties bounded by Main, Ebor and York roads. We found the Uli Heydt building packed with tenants living in dark, filthy rooms with poor sanitation and dubious electricity fittings.
On Tuesday March 9, the mayor and City officials walked the same route. In Ebor Road, Mr Plato chatted with Leif Petersen, co-founder of the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, a not-for-profit that works with marginalised urban communities tackling complex development challenges and co-creating workable solutions.
Dr Petersen said the owners of several problems buildings had tried to join the WID in 2017 but this was rejected by the City.
“This was due to the problem building owners not signing up and thereby nullifying our application. An application needs a minimum threshold of property owners to be ratified,” said Dr Petersen. “This, despite being informed by the WID manager at the time, that the City would make an exclusion for this circumstance, which motivated us to join the WID in the first place, threatening our businesses,” he said.
Dr Petersen said that for the past eight years the City has been telling Ebor Road businesses that the block known as the Uli Heydt building was listed as a problem building and that they are working to resolve it.
In the 2018 walkabout, Ms Brunette said municipal arrears for the Uli Heydt property had run into millions of rand.
All attempts by the Bulletin to contact management of the building have been unsuccessful.
Dr Petersen said there were illegal water and electricity connections, people sleeping in squalor, open drug-taking and prostitution at the Uli Heydt building.
“As the owner of the building has lost control of the premises, we need the City to take action in resolving the matter,” he said.
“The Uli Heydt building problems are not only our concern, but affect all of Wynberg. It is the storage place of stolen goods and a harbourer of criminals and criminality. Right now Wynberg is at a tipping point – if the challenges of the Uli Heydt problem building (among others) are not resolved soon urban decay will continue to spread far beyond Ebor Road into the greater area and beyond,” said Dr Petersen.
Wynberg is one of the 23 city precincts undergoing renewal from a R200 million City budget allocation for various projects of which Wynberg MURP’s budget is R4.5 million for operational expenses such as additional cleaning and R2 million for capital projects such as signage, 11 CCTV cameras, road lineage and signage refresh, loose paving and replacing street lights with LED, according to Mr Lohrentz.
Ms Brunette said the following is to take place in the WID:
· The first phase will commence this month on upgrading of the Brodie Road parking area at a cost of R1 million. It will be completed before the end of June.
· Egham Road behind Maynardville Mall will be resurfaced in the next six weeks. The transport department will be meeting on site this week to discuss the resurfacing as well as the bullnose barrier which aims to keep traffic, especially taxis free flowing.
· Traffic calming measures will be done in Fleming Road and will be concluded by end April.
· A project to replace broken / dilapidated road signs and road names in the Wynberg MURP area public transport interchange / Main Road will begin in the next two weeks.
· The proposal to close Broad Road to vehicular traffic requires a traffic impact assessment to investigate the impact this will have on the surrounding road network. The City currently does not have consultants available for this study, but should have consultants appointed in the next two months.