Tuesday, December 11

Blackburn Road: Black and white turns to colour

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Demolition of older dwellings has made this area desirable for developers

During the past 50 years, escalating in the past two decades, Durban North and Umhlanga have witnessed transformations rendering the neighbourhoods unrecognisable from fading black-and-white photographs filling the pages of family albums.

According to the Facebook page Durban North Past, Present and Future, Blackburn Road, running from Chris Hani Road (North Coast Road) to the intersection with Kenneth Kaunda Road (Northway) before bending left to run parallel with Umhlanga Rocks Drive, was originally home to a dairy farm from where local residents collected their milk pails.

The 900m stretch up to Kenneth Kaunda Road, where the historic Bell Inn provided the quintessential local hotel facilities, including accommodation, restaurant and the community’s meeting place for a drink after work, has some of its properties dating from the early 1900s, while Umhlanga Rocks Drive used to be covered in sugar cane before being transformed into a key arterial route between Durban North and Umhlanga.

The Bell Inn building still exists, but by being converted into commercial space it is a microcosm of the developments and changes that have occurred within its domain.

Chris Hani Road is a long-standing industrial section of the city, with the properties on the lower-end of Blackburn Road typically offering less expensive accommodation options for managers working in nearby factories.

Today investors have acquired these properties to create new facilities, including modern gated community complexes, hotels and commercial space. In many cases the original Natal Victorian-style architecture houses no longer exist, with investors buying these dilapidated houses exclusively for the land.

Evidence of the disrepair is a report provided to the provincial heritage resources authority, Amafa, arguing for the purchaser of a Blackburn Road property built in 1926 to wholly dismantle the existing house, despite it being more than 60 years old.

“There is no clear historic significance that can be associated with the building. Its current state is impossible to restore. The property in question is a disaster waiting to happen. Directly behind the site is a residential dwelling and one can only imagine what living behind a thief hideout must be for that family,” the report states.

It further argues the demolition of the existing building and construction of the proposed one would only add value to the surrounding properties in terms of living standards and market value.

“This building is causing a major problem in its current state and immediate action is required before someone is hurt,” is a conclusion that could have potentially underpinned various other demolition applications.

Pam Golding Durban North area principal, Carol Reynolds, says given its prime location and convenient features, there is constant demand for property in Durban North. This means investments in the neighbourhood are “sound decisions” as the precinct becomes a highly sought-after commercial node following zoning changes towards residential-office conversions.

A four-bedroom house in the upper end of Blackburn Road (thus incorporating sea views) is on the market for R2.45million, while a three-bedroom house lower down the street is up for R2.6m.

Conference centre and Royal uShaka Hotel add appeal

Smart Appliance

The Smart Appliance Centre occupies a renovated residential home. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Centre Established in 1983, Smart Appliance Centre has grown to become a household name in the appliance repair and electrical field. Factory-trained technicians carry out repairs on domestic and commercial appliances, either in customers’ homes or at the workshop.

Royal uShaka Hotel Durban North

The Royal uShaka Hotel and the adjacent commercial premises housing Kitchen Style KZN are two examples of how Blackburn Road has undergone transition. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Part of the Royal uShaka Hotel group, the newly constructed Durban North facility opened its doors in August this year and features air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. The hotel has a sun terrace and shared lounge in which guests can mingle or relax before enjoying their meals in the restaurant.

Marshall Security

Local security company Marshall Security has renovated one of the older residential houses in Blackburn Road to create its headquarters. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

The Durban North-based crime prevention company offers a combination of guarding, street patrols, investigations, training, armed response and electronic security. Founded to serve the Durban North community, the company now operates across KwaZulu-Natal and has built a close working relationship with local community forums, neighbourhood watches and the South African Police Service, to become a holistic crime-fighting entity.

Durban North Conference Centre

The Catholic Church, on the corner of Blackburn and Northview roads, found a new life when established as the Durban North Conference Centre. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Found in the former Northview Road Catholic Church on the corner of Blackburn Road, the Durban North Conference Centre offers premises for conferences, training, product launches, meetings, weddings and other functions in an iconic location.

Paddy’s Refrigeration and Airconditioning Training Centre

The Royal uShaka Hotel and the adjacent commercial premises housing Kitchen Style KZN are two examples of how Blackburn Road has undergone transition. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

A specialised training facility, Paddy’s Refrigeration and Airconditioning Training Centre focuses on the refrigeration and air-conditioning industry. The company offers end-to-end customised training solutions by determining the skills gaps of company staff, conducting the requisite training interventions, assessing post-training performance improvements and providing ongoing post-training support.

Advantages to living, working in the area

Proximity

Blackburn Road runs from Chris Hani Road (North Coast Road) to Kenneth Kaunda Road (Northway) and then parallel to Umhlanga Rocks Drive. This places these properties within easy proximity of the industrial premises on Chris Hani Road and the national N2 as well as the residential markets on the Durban North side of the street.

Maximum street exposure

As an arterial road, Blackburn Road is busy, offering business owners and tenants maximum street frontage advertising to passing trade.

Availability

There are older residential properties available for renovations into modern business premises and an opportunity to wholly redevelop land where the property has fallen into complete disrepair. There is also open space where a municipal sports field exists, should the municipality elect to offer the property to the market.

Lower prices

The bottom end of Blackburn Road, from where it intersects with Chris Hani Road until it reaches Kenneth Kaunda Road, considered “the wrong side” of the hill as it does not benefit from the sea views available from those properties running parallel to Umhlanga Rocks Drive. This means properties and land can be acquired for prices considerably lower than those on the upper end of the road, or along Kenneth Kaunda or Umhlanga Rocks.

Sound social infrastructure

As an affluent area, Durban North has sound social infrastructure including schools, places of worship, entertainment facilities and shopping centres. This offers investors into Blackburn Road an opportunity to live in a desirable neighbourhood within minutes of their business premises.

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