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New Urbanism the way to go

12 Sep, 2011 - 00:09 0 Views

The Herald

are converted into offices and business enterprises. Those running the offices and businesses in the traditional residential areas also have their reasons for doing so.
They argue operating a business from a home set up provides them with unlimited and unrestricted parking space and office hours.

Privacy has always been the hallmark of some business ventures.
Some operators want their clients to visit privately and not be the subject of scrutiny.
Areas like Eastlea, Newlands, Milton Park, Highlands, Belvedere are now awash with eateries, offices, boutiques, hair salons, surgeries and gyms. The businesses are thriving because there is a market.
The concept popularly referred to as new urbanism began in the United States in the early 1980s.
Its goals are to reduce dependence on the car, and to create livable and walkable, neighbourhoods with a densely packed array of housing, jobs and commercial sites.

The encroachment of businesses into formerly exclusive residential areas is also a vindication of the country’s indigenisation programmes as more and more locals venture into business.
The setting up of the offices and business ventures is also an indictment on colonial city planning which was done “for the people and not with the people”.
Harare residents have been made to believe for very long time that residential areas should exclusively be for housing purposes while parts of the city are dedicated to commercial uses only.
Such a belief has seen areas like the Central Business District being dead at night and alive during the day.

Had the CBD been turned into both residential and commercial, a shortage of accommodation would never have been an issue in Harare.
For example cities like Maputo and Beira in neighbouring Mozambique have accommodation in the CBD. Most of the apartments are above shops and offices and the areas are always alive even in the dead of the night.
It would be wise if Zimbabwe had experimented with this kind of housing.

Traffic congestion would also not be an issue as fewer people would require commuting into the city centre.
More so if Harare had integrated land uses more and more people would not require to travel into the city for work, as they would find work in their neighbourhoods, walk their children to school, clinic, hospitals, banks, and shopping.
The provision of community private hospitals like Rock Foundation in Mt Pleasant, Harare East Memorial Hospital in Cranborne, Corporate 24 in Avondale and St Annes in Avondale are all attempts to bring services close to the people within the residential set-up.

Prominent Harare based city planner Mr Percy Toriro agrees that modern city is different from the old.
He has on many occasions admitted that increasingly city planning is getting to be a comprehensive and integrated exercise.
In the past there was an obsession with single use zones where a residential area would strictly be just for residential purposes, whilst likewise a commercial zone would only be for shops and offices.

As put forward by Toriro the issue of monozones was fast falling away in favour of multi-use, integrated settlements that meet the residential, employment, shopping, educational, administrative, and recreational needs of its residents.
While attempts have been made especially in Harare to decentralise land uses with the construction of shopping malls like Westgate and High Glen, what has not been readily accepted is the conversion of residential properties into offices and business enterprises.

There have been complaints mostly by people looking for rented accommodation that the conversion of residential properties into offices and businesses was “eating into the housing stock”.
Happily the concept is slowly being accepted in Zimbabwe.
Toriro says new regulations (Statutory Instrument 216) now provide for the conduct of small businesses in residential areas.

Integrated zones have advantages as they reduce the journey to school or work and reduce congestion on our roads.
Furthermore they create more robust and vibrant communities that remain lively even “after hours”. They also provide for optimum use of infrastructure.

Integrating uses would help efforts to curb environmental pollution as there would be less movement of vehicular traffic that emits gaseous fumes.
According to new urbanism website the new urbanism is a reaction to the spreading out of cities.
The core principles of new urbanism are that the city has to be walkable which means that no resident should need a car to get anywhere in the community and they should be no more than a five minute walk from any basic good or service.

To achieve this, communities should invest in sidewalks and narrow streets.
In addition to actively promoting walking, cities should also de-emphasise the car by placing garages behind homes or in alleys.

There should also only be on-street parking, instead of large parking lots.
Another core idea of New Urbanism is that buildings should be mixed both in their style, size, price and function.

For example, a small townhouse can be placed next to a larger, single family home. Mixed-use buildings such as those containing commercial spaces with apartments over them are also ideal in this setting.

A New Urbanist city should have a strong emphasis on the community. This means maintaining connections between people with high density, parks, open spaces and community gathering centre like a plaza or neighbourhood square.

Coping from best world practices Harare and other towns and cities in Zimbabwe would certainly meet the people’s expectations and demands.
If all the requisite services are located within each community there would not be a need for people to travel long distances burning fuel and wasting valuable time to access services which should ordinarily be gotten from a walkable distance.


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