16 Feb 23

New urbanism in modern mixed-use precincts and estates

In South Africa, new urbanism principles are revolutionising how we live and the developments we build. As suburbs spread outward from the town centre, they begin to create new town centres in purposeful ways. This means more public spaces, streetscapes and reasons for people to walk within their neighbourhoods. In many ways, it is a throwback to the traditional neighbourhood that still survives in most European cities and was built to accommodate a human-centric design.


In new urbanism, there is a drive to bring amenities such as malls, recreation, green spaces and commercial spaces closer together in a sustainable environment. We have seen this design close to home at Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre where residential apartment developments and corporate offices are within walking distance to Gateway Theatre of Shopping and central public spaces such as Chris Saunder’s park and Umhlanga Children’s park on Millennium Boulevard.


It takes collaborative spirit and urban design leadership to envision, plan and create a mixed-use precinct in our modern age. At the forefront is Urban Planner and strategist Erky Wood formerly of Gapp Architects, now in the driver’s seat of his own consortium, Urban Praxis. He is involved in a number of projects across South Africa, and has had a significant influence on Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre where new urbanism principles have been introduced and put into practice.


Innovative new mixed-use precinct in KZN is North Point Ballito, situated between the N2 and R102. The site has a commercial focus, designating 380 000m² for a sprawling business park that can accommodate large and small companies. In March 2022, North Point Ballito launched Bliss Ballito, a residential estate with upmarket lifestyle facilities, including a community clubhouse and pool. These human-centric amenities and the fact that Bliss Ballito will be soon be part of a new mixed-use precinct where commercial, recreation and residential meet is what contributed to the first Phase being sold out on launch weekend.


Want to know exactly how new urbanism principles can be applied in a lifestyle estate? Simply ask the residents of Zimbali Lakes Resort. This luxury estate is a convenient village of activity just 15-minutes from King Shaka Airport and is nestled close to the urban nexus of Ballito beach, shopping malls and restaurants. Within the estate, landscape architects have designed a green landscape overflowing with an abundance of nature, leisure and new-age necessities right on your doorstep.


Zimbali Lakes’ new urbanism features:

  • An 18-hole golf course
  • Walking paths, running trails and biking trails
  • 20-Hectare lake
  • Catch and release lake
  • Retail and convenience shops
  • Uninterrupted power supply


In all these designs, sustainability and lowering our carbon footprint is key. In our quest to do more for the planet, estate design encourages using our personal cars less, and our feet more.

In Cape Town, Devonbosch is anemerging urban village set close to the Stellenbosch Cape Winelands. In fact, it is more than an estate, it is a future village. There will be few cars and a hive of people walking about the pathways on a regular basis. Envision each morning where you can safely walk your kids to school, cycle to the local grocer and effortlessly walk through town squares and public spaces to get to your office. Devonbosch proposes a new way forward of connected living where amenities are close and community comes first.


What are the principles of new urbanism?


#1 Walkability

The main goal of new urbanism is to achieve a walkable city, where amenities are within a 5 to 15-minute timeframe and people access goods and services in their neighbourhood.


#2 Connectivity

Roadways must form connections. This implies careful planning to ensure the public spaces are connected via many conduits to the rest of the city, ensuring everyone has equal access. This will inevitably help with the traffic flow.


#3 Mixed-use and diversity

Generally, the combination of residential, recreational and commercial enterprises in a mixed-use precinct are placed within walkable proximity to the other. The idea is to attract a range of people and create a vibrant culture. Part of this is also creating a mix of housing offerings where young and mature families can benefit, here you will find retirement opportunities sitting alongside residential lifestyle homes.


#4 Quality architecture, urban design and smart transport

As mixed-use precincts and estates increase, we can expect to see the density of the population within a single node increase. Architecture and public transport infrastructure play a vital role in this urban design.


#5 Sustainability

Architecture must be designed to be sustainable over time, with increased renewable energy features and where property development has a conscious.


The overall goal of new urbanism in our modern-day, mixed-use precincts and estates is to ensure a higher quality of life where people’s needs and desires are catered to. By increasing opportunities and access within a walkable node, people tend to lead lives whereby they connect more with each other and the environment all around them. These winning designs are leading the way and attracting many to relocate to these innovative spaces in South Africa.

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