Creating environments where people and business can thrive

Urban Improvement Precincts, the Way Forward

Urban Improvement Precinct

The uMhlanga Rocks Urban Improvement Precinct (UIP) has undergone a massive rebranding in recent months, and is trailblazing the precinct and business community safety concept in KwaZulu- Natal.

The UIP has also been key to the re-emergence of Umhlanga Rocks as a prime destination in Durban, as the private and public sector have worked together to ensure effective public space management, which includes safety and security services provided by Excellerate Security.

 Cara Reilly head of place-making for the uMhlanga UIP management company UrbanMGT, says ones of the biggest parts of this urban management process has been the collective approach to urban decay, and understanding that crime and grime are inextricably linked and have to be managed as one.

This is the core concept of UIPs – or City Improvement Districts (CIDs) as they are known in Cape Town and Johannesburg – throughout the country. In KZN there are a number of commercial and residential UIPs in operation,  including in the Durban Inner City, Beachfront, Florida Road precinct, Umhlanga, Ballito, and Maytime, and their successes have proven just how effective partnerships are to community policing and crime prevention initiatives.

With Excellerate Security being the security provider for almost all of the UIPs in the province, crime has decreased and many criminals have been arrested. But furthermore, the areas have been cleaned up, seen improved reputations as safe places to move in, and attracted further investment.

Security guards and other UIP officers posted in the various precincts have been applauded on many occasions in the past few years. This is not only because they have assisted with the arrests of many criminals, but their proactive approaches to precinct improvement have been a huge deterrent for criminals.

Florida Road UIP Manager Jarrod Evans says the precinct has seen “marked improvement” in all areas since its establishment three years ago, and explains that, in order for a precinct’s public space to truly work, all services need to perform optimally.

In the past two years spent Evans says he has noticed “an incredible turnaround” in safety and security, owing to the dedicated Metro Police presence, a 24/7 Excellerate Security patrol vehicle , two additional nightshift officers, and Sidewalk Monitors.

“Our private security (managed by Excellerate Security) plays a big part as does our cleaning contractor, municipal service delivery, Metro Police and SAPS. All contribute to creating a public space that is safe, clean, engaging and an attraction for the city of Durban...One’s perception of Florida Road has change for the better and continues to do so.”

The perception of Umhlanga Rocks has also changed, explains Reilly, although, as a place of authenticity and belonging – a place where memories are made, it is crucial that, as it develops, uMhlanga Rocks is still able to deliver that feeling to locals and visitors alike.

“Some of our hotels are seeing four generations of families making memories and establishing traditions. So while concerns are that the Village of old is disappearing, the vision is mindful of uMhlanga Rocks’ history while shaping a new Village, and a new experience, one with better pedestrian accessibility and connections to green spaces and beaches; a higher quality retail and dining offering, a raised level of security, cleaning, greening and maintenance through the UIP and municipal structures, and a greater range of activations bringing life to uMhlanga Rocks.”

UIPs are also making wave in Johannesburg and  Cape Town, where a number of precincts have seen transformation since their establishment. And in some of these, Excellerate Security is also the official security provider, ensuring community safety and security and crime prevention strategies are effectively managed.

Excellerate Security Director Derek Lategan explains that the UIP/CID concept is based on the theory that in any environment, urban decay has a negative impact on more than just the area around it, and ultimately affects the feel and perception of an area as a whole. This not only impacts property values, business prosperity and investor confidence, but the general quality of life of all who use it.

“If an area feels dirty and unsafe it is likely to repel people and positive activity and, rather, attract negative elements, such as criminals.”

Therefore, Lategan believes that these integrated safety and crime prevention initiatives are they way of the future for optimum precinct safety, and encourages more private sector partners to work with local government to adopt such strategies to clean up their areas, attract visitors, and encourage investment.

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