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Stephen Dlamini Road: Conversions on the Berea

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This small upmarket geographical area offers good facilities, top educators and space for business investment

Durban’s Berea neighbourhood has been the prestige of the city’s well-heeled for generations, with the original Essenwood Road (now Stephen Dlamini Road) and Musgrave Road addresses considered an arrival in social standing.

Today the road takes its name from anti-apartheid activist and factory worker Stephen Dlamini, who became the African Textile Workers’ Union chairperson in the 1950s. Dlamini ran trade union classes in Durban in a bid to empower workers with trade union rights and political education, and was involved in drafting the Freedom Charter. He died days after the inaugural democratic elections in 1994.

Over the past 20 years Stephen Dlamini Road has undergone a dramatic change in character as the older properties, particularly those closer to Berea Road, the N3 into the Durban CBD and Musgrave Shopping Centre, have been converted into commercial and business premises. Many of these conversions have stayed true to the original Edwardian architecture – semi-detached double-storey houses with front verandas and upstairs balconies and filigree cornices – but there remain a number of properties sadly in need of renovation and investment.

There are also examples where the original property was demolished and a modern structure erected.

Along the southern section of Stephen Dlamini Road, residential accommodation tends towards blocks of flats and gated complexes with Woodbury, Dulwich Hamlet and Ridgemount Flats being among the long-established properties. The weekly Saturday morning Essenwood Craft Market, once a hive of activity that now has diminished in line with competition elsewhere in the municipality, still offers smaller entrepreneurs the opportunity to ply their trade and for local residents to meet for morning coffee and breakfast.

In 2012 the eThekwini Municipality called on people to comment on the draft Functional Area Plan for the Berea. The purpose of the project was to review the existing policy adopted by the municipality and prepare a framework to underpin an area and be used to guide decision-making.

The Sirvape building symbolises the beauty that has emerged from some of the commercial upgrades in Stephen Dlamini Road. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

At the time municipality senior planner land use management branch, Shikar Singh, said the division had been inundated with development proposals for the “old Berea” and, due to emerging land uses in the development world, the current scheme was unable to respond to these development proposals.

“There is a need to provide a balance of land uses, such as residential, office, commercial, educational and recreational, including places of entertainment and amusement. The plan will direct decision in regard to issues of climate change and sustainability and help with the identification of market demand and trends,” he said.

Today there are issues with development in the Berea, including along Stephen Dlamini Road. Civic organisation Save Our Berea has decried a lack of transparency in the municipality when development proposals come to the table, with co-founder Kevin Dunkley saying building inspectorate and enforcement are typically reactive, not proactive.

Yet, development has continued in cases both where criticism is levelled and where the investment has upgraded the property and thus the neighbourhood.

Embury Institute for Higher Education, located on the corner of Stephen Dlamini and Silverton roads, is an example. A fully accredited private higher education institution specialising in teacher education for pre-school and primary school teachers, the building in which it is located was previously a synagogue. Decommissioned several years ago in line with the city’s dwindling Jewish population, the architectural design speaks to its history and to a new future with decorative, innovative cladding.

Another example is the La Bella Café. Located on the historic old site of Durban’s first fire station established around 1887, the restaurant was the dream child of Durban entrepreneur Bob Humphreys. He acquired the property in 2007 with the vision to create a space from which patrons could secure good food at reasonable prices.

La Bella Café is on the site of Durban’s first fire station, later the Berea sub-station. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Stephen Dlamini Road has various properties on the market offering potential investors commercial opportunities. Two free-standing houses, with multiple bedrooms to provide bed-and-breakfast institutions and potentially conferencing venues, carry price tags between R2.1million and R3.65m. Another vacated commercial property measuring 167m² is on the market for R2.6m.

Rentals vary depending on the property grade with properties being offered between R90/m² and R130/m². There are exceptions securing upwards of R160/m².

Businesses established along Stephen Dlamini Road

Flexible Workspace

Flexible Workspace provides fully serviced offices and virtual offices in prime business locations in Joburg, Midrand and Durban. The fully furnished and equipped offices offer clients immediate availability with flexible terms.

Durban Hair Skills Training College

The college provides qualifications in beauty and hair as well as providing life skills including communication skills, self-discipline, self-development and self-esteem to assist learners in their chosen careers. 

Aids Healthcare Foundation SA

The Los Angeles-based Aids Healthcare Foundation is a global non-profit organisation providing leading medicine and advocacy to nearly one million people in 39 countries. The mission is to rid the world of HIV/Aids through a network of pharmacies, thrift shops, health-care contracts and other strategic partnerships with innovative ways for treatment, prevention and advocacy being the hallmark of its success.

BSD BlueStar Financial Advisory Services

Authorised by financial services giant Sanlam, BSD BlueStar provides clients with dedicated professionals committed to offering sound financial advice. 

Financial services group BSD BlueStar has offices in Stephen Dlamini Road. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Nomads Backpackers

Owned by intrepid travellers Leigh and Paul, Nomads Backpackers has been operating in Durban for more than 20 years and offers inexpensive, quality accommodation in spacious double rooms and comfortable dormitories. 

Embury Institute for Higher Education

A fully accredited private higher education institution specialising in teacher education for pre-school and primary school teachers, the newly opened Embury Institute for Higher Education makes an impressive architectural statement on the corner of Stephen Dlamini and Silverton roads. 

Medscheme Medical aid company

Medscheme delivers quality, affordable health-care by using effective health risk management and efficient health administration.

Lifestyle and work advantages

Established neighbourhood

Previously an exclusively residential street, Stephen Dlamini Road now provides a mix of residential and commercial that offers businesses an established neighbourhood in which to conduct operations. 

Live, work and play

Forming part of the upmarket Berea, there are opportunities to live, work and socialise within a small geographical space. The area is renowned for its good educational facilities, from Tree Tops School established in 1932 to accommodate early learning preschoolers to Durban High School and Durban Girls’ College as some examples. 

The Saturday morning Essenwood Craft Market is held in Berea Park. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Location – CBD and national infrastructure

Stephen Dlamini Road is located minutes away from the Durban central business district as well as having sound access to national and provincial road infrastructure for working and/or living near the neighbourhood. 

Investment and development opportunities

The transition from residential into commercial properties means there are sound opportunities for investors to acquire older properties and either convert into refurbished office accommodation or to secure the rights through the proper heritage channels to demolish the building and construct a new complex. These constructions have included both apartment developments and office complexes.

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