Facelift for Durban’s beachfront on the cards

A wide-shot angle shot of the Durban beachfront. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

A wide-shot angle shot of the Durban beachfront. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 29, 2023


DURBAN - Durban’s beachfront is set for a major facelift as the eThekwini Municipality sets about its plans to spruce up the promenade.

This means that some of the popular establishments that locals and tourists have become accustomed to will undergo changes.

In an interview with the “Sunday Tribune”, Thapelo Mmusinyane, the municipality’s head of the Real Estate Unit, said new leases were advertised for The Joint Jazz Café, Bike and Bean, Circus Circus and Minitown in November, keeping in line with the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), which required them to be fair, equitable, transparent and competitive.

“In short, we cannot deal with leases of properties without following an open tender process and, at the time, some of leases were expiring or had already expired. So, we took that process and as an outcome of that process The Joint Jazz Café, Minitown, Circus Circus and Bike and Bean were then awarded to successful bidders,” he said.

Mmusinyane said that a lease agreement has been signed with developers and operators for Circus Circus and Bike and Bean, while the lease agreement was still being negotiated with the successful bidders for The Joint Jazz Café and Minitown.

He said establishments along the promenade had to be in line with the zoning of the area.

“When we took these properties out, we took them out in terms of the zoning, and if you were not aligned with the zoning, in terms of what the property is allowed to be used for, we would have disqualified you.

“So, they will continue being run as restaurants. Obviously, they will have different operators but more or less the offering would be the same, with cosmetic changes in terms of what it is they will be doing. So, they will be remaining as you know them but (you) may not necessarily be getting the kind of menu that is currently there,” said Mmusinyane.

He said the remaining establishments, such as Surf Riders, Joe Cools, The Deck, California Dreaming, and Blue Lagoon, would be advertised next month, and that proposals were being requested from prospective developers.

He said the lease period for Surf Riders was estimated at nine years and 11 months in order to still keep it as a restaurant, while Blue Lagoon and Joe Cools were estimated at 30 to 45 years because they envisaged a complete redevelopment of the specific structure.

“The leases are a bit longer because we want a total redevelopment of those current structures. We do not want refurbishments, we want something completely new and modern, so that is why these periods are a bit longer,” he said.

Speaking about the public pools along the promenade at South Beach, which is run by the city’s parks and recreation unit and has become an eyesore due to its derelict condition, Mmusinyane promised that it would be operational by December. He said this had been confirmed by the head of the parks and recreation unit.

“We are now inviting development proposals. We have upgraded the promenade for about R380 million, which is now a major attraction. We are inviting the private sector to play their part in reinventing, modernising and redeveloping that area to match what we have on the promenade,” he said.

He said plans for The Joint Jazz Café, Circus Circus and Bike and Bean would come to fruition in the next month or two.

Mmusinyane emphasised that the lease for Minitown had come to an end.

In this file photo, Brian Deonarain is seen with the city hall that he built at Minitown. The eThekwini Municipality has confirmed that the lease for Minitown, an attraction along the Durban beachfront, has ended. Picture: Terry Haywood

“Minitown will be a big development and I think that will probably be in the next 12 months, because they still have to get some studies done and building plans approved.

“We anticipate finalising the process of the awards of the other establishments that are going out next month, by the end of this calendar year, and we will then make those announcements with regard to their time frames. But for the major developments, we are looking at a period of between a year and three years because of the level of development taking place there,” he said.

One of the owners at Minitown, who did want to be named, said he did not want to comment about the matter and would get back to the journalist when he was ready.

Gareth Alexander, manager at Circus Circus, said as far as he was aware, the changes would not be affecting his establishment, which has 40 employees and has been operating for eight years.

The management for The Joint Jazz Café could not be found, while management at Bike and Bean asked to be given more time to respond.

Additional reporting by Simangaliso Ntshangase