With bustling lanes filled with boutique shops, galleries and art performances, Durban’s R40m Rivertown Precinct is finally ready to take flight.

The project, initiated by eThekwini Municipality’s Catalytic Projects Unit, will bridge the space between the city’s iconic Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) and the beachfront.

Rivertown Precinct project manager Themba Masimula announced that a contractor, DC Earthmoving and Plant Hire, had recently been appointed to undertake the infrastructure work on the project.

It is expected to begin towards the end of June.

“The development is finally ready to proceed. It’s been on the cards for a while, but we are very excited to update everyone on the plans. The inner city regeneration is important and Rivertown is one of the projects aimed at stimulating investment and development the area. All cities in the world want to achieve the same principles when it comes to city planning, that is to create a space that is walkable, connected and integrated, providing a good environment to live and work in,” said Masimula.

The plans include making the canal that runs along John Milne Street a key feature of the precinct, giving rise to the name Rivertown.

The City’s vision is to regenerate the area with a mix between creative and commercial ventures such as private galleries, small theatres, restaurants and other entertainment venues, forging a cultural precinct that would offer local and international tourists a unique Durban, and KZN, experience.

John Milne Street is expected to be paved and closed to traffic, to create a “walkable” space that would host traders in an open market type setting.

300 trees are expected to be planted within the precinct.

Rivertown Precinct is presently home to a wide range of businesses from traditional retail, warehousing, motor repairs, sales and supplies to lifestyle and creative businesses.

Masimula said the beachfront was considered a “platinum” area, but there was link missing between the ICC, which attracted thousands of delegates to the city, and the beachfront. Rivertown will bridge that gap.

“This project has the potential to link the western part of the city with the beachfront. It can result in a seamless flow of people from the ICC to the beachfront. As people traverse the area from the ICC towards the beach, they must feel safe and free to walk,” he said.

Grishka Naidoo, from the eThekwini Transport Authority showed residents the plans for the transport network, and promised additional parking bays would be created.

“There are also plans for increased facilities for non-motorised transport modes. We will also be investigating having loading bays being used as parking bays after normal trading hours,” he said.

Residents are companies have been urged to cooperate with contractors while they are working on site, for the duration of the project which is expected to take two years.

Details of the different phases of the construction will be made available via the community liaison officer, whose name and details will be released publicly just before construction begins.