'Motortown' beerhall
‘Motortown’ beerhall

This Sunday see the official launch of Rivertown, a new urban improvement project that hopes  to revitalise the Durban CBD by bringing renewed interest to the area. A new morning food market will be held every Sunday in a Municipal-owned building that currently houses Durban Museum’s Conservation Centre.

The building, which is located along Florence Nzama Rd (previously Prince Alfred Street), has an interesting history. The area was initially swamp land, until the city commissioned engineer John Milne to install a canal to drain the land and make it useable. Within a few years commerce had moved in, with wagon manufacturing and later automative engineering being the dominant industry – the area became known as ‘Motortown’. In 1914 the Municipal beerhall (now the Conservation Centre) was built as a social gathering place for black labourers in the area. It served this function until 1968, after which it was rented out to various commercial firms. In 1993 the building was due to be demolished by the Durban City Council, but was saved at the eleventh hour by the Durban Art Gallery staff, who saw its potential as a conservation centre. Just over ten years later, the building is about to reinvented yet again, this time as a mixed use area with retail, commerce and housing elements bringing sustainability and vibrancy to the area.

Well done to the City of Durban and the UIA team for spearheading this fantastic project that will retain an important part of Durban’s history while at the same time bringing new life into our somewhat socially neglected CBD.


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