Old cities scare investors

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Enacy Mapakame
Zimbabwean cities are too old, they are scaring off investors. The entire city-scape must be overhauled to improve competitiveness and attract investment in property and infrastructure, town planning experts have said.

To do that the experts propose a complete re-look at city laws, hoping to force through changes that cater for emerging business enterprises, now the heartbeat of economic growth, in town planning.

They are also targeting cities that are built with population growth in mind, to help prevent situations as are widespread in Zimbabwe, where too many people are putting too much pressure on infrastructure built for too few people.

Multiple use of the cities’ buildings such as including residential, will also be essential as the buildings were initially made for small privileged populations.

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recently held Zimreal Property Investment Forum where stakeholders agreed the country’s urban planning regulations were outdated and no longer in line with the current economic set-up, which made them uncompetitive to potential investors.

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 and discussions raised on re-packaging it together with other cities.

Over the past three decades, the urban centres have suffered “decay”, making them unattractive to investors.

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

He cited the traditional zoning model and buildings designs, developed in the 1970s, 1980s, old infrastructure that no longer suites 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 landuse zones based. The operative Local Plan number 22 is outdated, and needs urgent review.

“It is the review that will inform or 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 intelligent buildings accessories,” he said.

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