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MBDA calls public to choose design for Baakens pedestrian bridge

The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA), an entity of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM), is charged with the revitalisation and rejuvenation of specific mandate areas of Nelson Mandela Bay.

Since inception in 2003, the MBDA has been instrumental in the redevelopment of areas such as Kings Beach, Singaphi Street in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth Central Business District, Helenvale Township, Uitenhage Central Business District, the lower Baakens Valley and various other areas within the greater Nelson Mandela Bay.

Spokesperson for the MBDA, Luvuyo Bangazi, says: "The Baakens Valley precinct is one of the key focus areas of the agency for the current financial year. A significant amount of work has gone into the planning and design for the upgrade and rejuvenation of this precinct, for that last few years the agency has been chipping away and implementing that master plan."

Bangazi continues: "The Baakens is special because of its history and heritage linked to South End as well as its unique position, an intersection of river and port at the heart of the city. Studies have shown that this area has great potential as a tourism node, a creative industry hub and, in future, a mixed use development precinct that will see people live, work and play in the area. All the plans we are implementing are aimed at capitalising on all of these aspects.

"The MBDA has already invested significantly in the Baakens, including the refurbishment of the popular Tramways building which hosts a multitude of bay events for all kinds of initiatives. The agency has also progressed with the environmental improvements which have seen the reconfiguration of roads, clearing of alien vegetation, creation of added parking facilities and the current restoration of the St Peter's church precinct into a must-see tourism icon of the city," concludes Bangazi.

In a matter of a few weeks the MBDA will also complete the Flemming Street environmental upgrade, an important link in creating a connection between the city square (Vuyisile Mini Square) and the Baakens. The improvements on Flemming Street have seen the reconfiguration of the street into a beautiful landscape, lending itself to unique public events and the arts. Fleming Street now offers additional parking to ease the congestion on Govan Mbeki Road, and generally, the space lends itself to multiple uses as another meeting spot in the bay.

To complete the link between the inner city and the Baakens, the MBDA is in the final phase of planning a pedestrian bridge that will span the Baakens River from the city side to the valley side. The bridge, when constructed, will lead to a boardwalk connection to the rest of the valley offerings. The agency and its consultant team have produced a number of designs that it now wants the public to choose from.

Baakens Valley pedestrian bridge

Why build the bridge?

The purpose of the bridge is to continue the walk-way currently under way at the back of Vuyisile Mini Square on Flemming Street. The bridge connection is an important component in the city's movement plan, which is to link the Baakens Valley with the city centre. It will further enable access to more parking on the north bank of the river for events on the south bank. This will influence increased numbers of visitors to activities happening in the Tramways building and other urban regeneration and tourism events in the valley.

What will the Baakens bridge achieve?

The bridge will provide a safe walking route for pedestrians; slightly alleviate the parking congestion currently experienced by the city; and provide easy connection to pedestrians from the city centre to the valley. From the valley, pedestrians can use the timber boardwalk at the St Peters land to South End. The city has a shortage of public meeting spaces; this project will provide a journey in an area filled with beautiful history of the bay.

What is special about this bridge?

The bridge is primarily designed to be functional and practical. The Baakens River is also known for its 100-year flood line and so the bridge is designed to withstand the occasional flood. The agency is also considering the use of composite materials due to their environmental, strength and versatile characteristics.

How long will it take to complete?

The construction will take 10-12 months to complete.

Members of the public are welcome to make their choice known by emailing [email protected] or visiting the MBDA's Facebook page and take part in the poll.