DURBAN - MORE than a decade after movie maker Anant Singh struck a deal to buy the prime Natal Command site for a film studio, eThekwini Municipality has invited members of the public to provide comments on the proposed rezoning of the land for a R6billion development.
The Natal Command site, which is set to transform the face of the Durban beachfront promenade, will boast high-end venues including hotels, flats, restaurants and a shopping centre.
The development of the site is expected to create thousands of jobs during the construction phase, with a few thousand remaining once the businesses become operational. Key to the development will be the building of a film studio, which the municipality has longed for as it aims to develop the local film industry.
The development is contingent on the approval of the rezoning process the municipality said was in its early stages. It recently published the proposal for public comment. The process is open until November 15.
The artist impressions attached to the proposal for rezoning paint a picture of a high-end development. “It is useful to record that a proposal of the type indicated in the plans represents a project development cost in excess of R6bn,” it said.
The proposal also revealed that the land would be rezoned from the current state of “Government and Municipal” to “Special Zone 32: Film Studios, Ancillary Activities and Related Business”.
The prime beachfront site in question is sandwiched between People’s Park, Moses Mabhida Stadium, the Suncoast Casino and the beach. It has been broken down and classified as parcels 1, 2 and 3. Each parcel of land has been analysed and assessed as to what type of development it can accommodate in order to maximise its value and use.
One piece of land – between Masabalala Yengwa Avenue and Battery Beach Road – the proposal recommends, should be considered for residential accommodation, restaurants, art studios, a gallery and public transport facilities.
The second piece, in the vicinity of the Ruth First Highway and Sylvester Ntuli Road, was found to be more suitable for community-related retail, film school, film production offices and studios.
The last piece on Sylvester Ntuli Road and Snell Parade was found to be ideal for tourism-related activities like hotels, beach promenade restaurants and direct access to the beach. The report said the site was accessible and well-linked to the major road network which serves the surrounding area, as well as to public transport networks, with Moses Mabhida Station in close proximity.
“It was for this reason that the eThekwini Municipality has explored various options for the future use of this key opportunity space and accordingly identified the subject sites as highly suitable for a landmark tourism-related development, with the Durban film studios seen as a significant catalytic project which meets this objective,” it said.
Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the development would assist Durban to play a larger role in the South Africa film industry, adding that the rezoning would also accommodate the proposed mixed-use development.
The new basket of land uses will accommodate the proposed film festival park, retail, hotel and recreational facilities. If the rezoning is supported, said Mayisela, the new owner has to prepare a site framework plan. Thereafter, building plans must be submitted. This is the process which is currently under way.
He said the developed site would, in turn, contribute to the provincial and national GDP. “We expect that this will create more than 300 job opportunities for SMMEs, female-owned businesses, entrepreneurs and local suppliers.”
“It is anticipated that there will be 17 000 on site and 33 000 indirect construction jobs over the construction period. Post-construction, it is anticipated that there will be 4 300 permanent operational jobs,” he said. The report said the portion of the block located between Sylvester Ntuli Road and Snell Parade constitutes what is currently conceived of as the “hospitality and residential district”.
The report said 250 000m2 of development was possible in this block, with the conceptual design suggesting a 400-room hotel and 1 900 apartments arranged around niche tourism and retail space centred on the Natal Command heritage building.
The report said the block, which lies between Sylvester Ntuli Road and the M4 Ruth First Highway was not directly linked visually or functionally to the beach.
The concept plans, therefore, proposed this block be developed as the “Freedom Square Commercial District”, anchored by offices and studios linked to the film studio uses.