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KZN: Investing in Glenwood

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Once home to ambitious members of Victorian and Edwardian societies, the area now hosts top schools and beautifully restored period architecture

The ravages of time have not been kind to many original Glenwood houses, but a slow revival has triggered urban regeneration and transformation of the older houses, complete with their tired-looking wrought-iron latticework, into commercial enterprises.

The neighbourhood now boasts coffee shops, antique shops, restaurants, galleries and boutique outlets to provide a bohemian village atmosphere to its mixed-use characteristics. Its proximity to the University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban campus has boosted its residential interest and offered commercial opportunities for investors to provide student accommodation.

According to the history portal www.glenwoodcollective.com, Glenwood’s streets reflect the neighbourhood’s character – stately and historic, yet inviting and inclusive. These elements are embodied in its street names old and new.

Historian Annie Devenish says Manning Road, renamed Lena Ahrens Road, is one of Glenwood’s longest and most lush streets as it flows from King Dinizulu Road (Berea Road) to skirt Bulwer park and incorporate a significant segment of the Glenwood Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D’Moss) corridor.

It is also one of the oldest Glenwood streets. When the area was subdivided in 1856 and sites sold, existing roads were named for the original residential tenants, with the Manning family having helped clear the road.

The Fulham Bakery is a neighbourhood institution. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Raised in the St Philomen’s Orphanage, Sherwood, political activist Lena Ahrens studied child psychology and law before mobilising communities against the apartheid government during the 1980s. She organised hunger strikes, campaigned for access to affordable housing, supported peaceful negotiations after various political parties were unbanned in 1990 and worked to expose drug dealers and corrupt police officers in the Sydenham area.

In 2001 she was shot by a fellow taxi passenger and died in St Augustine’s Hospital. During the initial street renaming campaign, the road was mistakenly signed Lina Arense Road, but has been corrected.

Chelmsford Road (now JB Marks Road) is another slice of history. Devenish says eThekwini’s thinking behind the renaming process was to decolonise the city’s spatial history and create inclusive landmarks representing the accomplishments of the majority. However, in the case of Chelmsford Road, the city may have better achieved its purpose by retaining the original name.

National fast-food chains provide a social space and late-night nourishment for the University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban campus students studying across the road or living in the apartments in the background. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Given the overall command of the British forces invading the Zulu kingdom during the Anglo-Zulu War, Frederic Thesiger, second Baron of Chelmsford, consistently underestimated the martial prowess of the Zulu nation. He was responsible for the British defeat at Isandlwana, the greatest British defeat in military history, but defeated Cetshwayo at Ulundi. The Anglo-Zulu War was his last field command.

A dedicated Marxist, JB Marks was a South African Congress of Trade Unions founding member and listed as a co-conspirator in the Rivonia Treason Trial. He received a state funeral when his body were repatriated from Moscow in 2015.

Historian TJ Tallie comments that letting Chelmsford Road remain would be an irony in commemorating the failure of colonialism, or “at least the inability of the British to control the Zulus in any way they imagined”.

“However, JB Marks is a fantastic choice because he represents resistance to the powers that people like Chelmsford served.”

There are various properties for sale and rent in the neighbourhood. Sales include R4.5million for a 245m² corner property; R6.2m for a 700m² grand home rezoned as commercial; R1.395m for a double-storey free-standing house converted into commercial space and R2.39m for a 250m² office space.

Rents range from R68/m² for 220m² to R130/m² for 172m².

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