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Commercial precincts are benefiting, so are landlords and tenants

Urban Improvement Precincts (UIPs) are transforming commercial precincts and appear to be “the way of the future” for landlords and tenants.

Also known as Special Ratings Areas (SRAs) or City Improvement Districts (CIDs), these collaborative systems of management are yielding results and are predicted to continue gaining popularity.

Although each UIP is managed according to its own priorities and scope, says Yianni Pavlou, company principal at Portfolio Property Investments, they generally manage the common spaces in their precincts in terms of security, cleanliness and general look and feel. They are like a de facto municipality or body corporate.

These structures require more than 50% buy-in from property owners in a commercial area, and carry additional costs in the form of UIP levies and fees. But because the areas are clean and security is visible, customers and clients are able to walk around freely, he says.

“This is good for commercial property tenants as people feel comfortable visiting them, and good for landlords as they can arguably get better rents. It also makes it affordable for property owners to hire security as they can split the costs.”

In Durban, the UIPs in Umhlanga Village and Florida Road have proven extremely successful.

In Cape Town, the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), the city’s oldest CID, has yielded impressive results in terms of safety, security and the precinct’s aesthetics.

Pavlou believes these structures are “here to stay” and “have proven their worth”.

“A few years ago the funding of such structures was seen as a grudge purchase by landlords as they were already paying rates for the services (although not getting them). It was seen as an additional tax, so they needed to be convinced to buy in.

The first task of UIPs is to address crime and grime in an area. Picture: CCID

But over time they have seen the value in them.” Provided a UIP is well run and the levies and fees are not exorbitant, Pavlou says the trend will continue to grow. The eThekwini Municipality also supports the formation of UIPs and a number of such projects are up and running in many parts of the greater Durban area.

These are in residential, commercial and mixeduse precincts. The most recent UIP to be established is in Glenwood. Excellerate Security managing director, Derek Lategan, says the UIP 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 attract negative elements, such as criminals.”

While the current services provided by Metro Police, the police and DSW are “invaluable”, property owners often identify visible gaps in the urban management space requiring additional and individual care.

This can be achieved only by specialist teams working closely with the property owners, the municipality and other partners, such as police and metro police, Lategan says.

“The primary aim of UIPs is to unlock economic opportunity by creating vibrant complete urban environments which secure property values, encourage investment and deliver an improved environment.”

He says the first phase of a UIP is to address crime and grime. However, in time the objective is to grow into a comprehensive urban management structure providing a wide scope of on-theground services such as safeguarding, landscaping and general maintenance.

“Very importantly, UIPs work in close partnership with the municipality to optimise service delivery while lobbying for infrastructure to support economic growth. UIPs further unify property owners around a common vision for the respective area,” Lategan says.

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