A way back to golden glow

Dur­ban’s Golden Mile seemed to have lost a lit­tle of its lus­tre, but if re­cent re­ports are to be be­lieved the golden glow is back. Lea Ja­cobs in­ves­ti­gates what has been hap­pen­ing in what was once re­garded as a top hol­i­day desti­na­tion

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

THE­O­RET­I­CALLY, Dur­ban’s beach­front has it all — miles of golden sand, the warm In­dian Ocean and end­less ho­tels that cater for all tastes. How­ever the area has slowly but surely been go­ing down­hill and the once fa­mous beaches, although not empty, are nowhere near as pop­u­lar as be­fore.

How­ever, re­cent re­ports in­di­cate that things have im­proved and the up­grades to the prom­e­nade un­der­taken be­fore the Soc­cer World Cup have boosted the area, draw­ing back those who had cho­sen places with bet­ter main­tained ameni­ties.

Are the re­ports true, or are those with busi­ness in­ter­ests in the area sim­ply try­ing to make the best of a bad sit­u­a­tion?

Some time ago, cer­tain sec­tions of the beach­front were re­garded as no-go ar­eas. Street crime was com­mon­place, the area was filthy and, per­haps most dev­as­tat­ing, four of the city’s beaches lost the cov­eted Blue Flag sta­tus.

Seen by many as a death knell for the city’s tourism in­dus­try, it was not deemed an im­por­tant is­sue by Mike Sut­cliffe, eThek­wini’s city man­ager, who as re­cently as last year was quoted as say­ing that the Blue Flag sys­tem is in use on rel­a­tively few beaches in few coun­tries and does not ap­ply to ma­jor global tourist des­ti­na­tions.

While he may be­lieve that the loss is unim­por­tant, there can be lit­tle doubt that its re­moval has boosted tourism in other parts of the coun­try. Vis­i­tors, it would seem, want the as­sur­ance that the water in the ar­eas in which they swim is safe, and that bac­te­rial lev­els re­main within recog­nised pa­ram­e­ters.

While im­por­tant, this was not the only con­cern for those con­sid­er­ing a hol­i­day in Dur­ban. The city, with its spec­tac­u­lar world­class sta­dium, proved to be a big hit with soc­cer fans from all over the world. Vis­i­ble polic­ing, re­moval of va­grants and the over­all clean-up ini­ti­ated dur­ing the tour­na­ment all added to the pos­i­tive vibe, and the tourists re­turned, if not in masses, at least in greater numbers than be­fore.

Heather Sud­ding, Pam Gold­ing Prop­er­ties man­ager in Dur­ban, says that un­for­tu­nately, although the sit­u­a­tion is im­prov­ing the per­cep­tion that there is still a high crime rate and that beg­gars re­main preva­lent on the beach­front con­tin­ues to af­fect prop­erty val­ues in the area.

How­ever, she says that the sit­u­a­tion has im­proved, due in part to a vis­i­ble po­lice pres­ence dur­ing day­light hours all year round.

Added to this, she says the Point precinct, sit­u­ated close to Ushaka Marine World, has ex­cel­lent se­cu­rity, a great deal of which is paid for by own­ers who be­long to The Point As­so­ci­a­tion.

Un­like Cape Town and nearby Umh­langa, where prime beach­front prop­erty is bought and sold at a premium, prop­erty along Dur­ban’s Golden Mile has never re­alised any­where near those prices. There is more to this than meets the eye. A large num­ber of North Beach’s prop­er­ties are sold un­der share­block or lease­hold ti­tle.

Keith Wake­field, from Wake­fields Es­tate Agents, says although the sit­u­a­tion is slowly chang­ing and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has as­sisted with the trans­fer from share­block/lease­hold to sec­tional ti­tle, he be­lieves not enough is done in main­tain­ing lev­els of street clean­li­ness or the en­force­ment of by­laws to main­tain ac­cept­able stan­dards.

He says that gen­er­ally speak­ing most share­block prop­er­ties are sold for cash. How­ever, there are banks that are will­ing to fi­nance the trans­ac­tion if their cri­te­ria are met.

It ap­pears that the North Beach area is the more pop­u­lar choice for in­vestors. Sud­ding says the rea­sons for this in­clude the fact that the ma­jor­ity of the units in the area are share­block and, as such, the build­ings have been bet­ter main­tained.

This, she says, has fu­elled pric­ing and gen­er­ally speak­ing, prices are far higher than those cen­trally sit­u­ated or on South Beach.

Wake­field says that at this stage the av­er­age price paid for a unit in North Beach hov­ers around the R680 000 mark.

A unit sit­u­ated in the cen­tral part of the beach­front will cost about R600 000, while a unit in South Beach re­tails for about R450 000.

As with any area there are ex­cep­tions, and Pam Gold­ing Prop­er­ties re­cently con­cluded a sale val­ued at R1,450m.

Over­all, it seems that although the area still has a long way to go the sit­u­a­tion is im­prov­ing and will con­tinue to do so as long as the mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­mains fo­cused on de­liv­er­ing ser­vices aimed at pleas­ing those who are with­out a doubt the lifeblood of the city — the tourists.

Although the views are im­pres­sive, Dur­ban beach­front’s rep­u­ta­tion has been tar­nished by high crime lev­els and the loss of Blue Flag sta­tus.

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