Building a better Francistown

Kabelo Dipholo
NEW LOOK: Ghetto could be completely transformed in 24 years

Ambitious 24-year Development Plan to transform Ghetto

Imagine the iconic Blue Jacket Street transformed into a thriving modern-day hub, with hotels and 24-hour entertainment places lined-up on both sides of the famous Francistown road.

Or Haskins Street turned into a massive walk-way with restricted motor mobility, save for a few taxis to pick-up and drop shoppers at a central parking spot.

This is part of the vision included in an exciting City of Francistown Development Draft Plan 2022-2046 submitted by JS Planning & Design Studio to the council. The 24-year plan is expected to be the driving manual for the second city’s transformation.

Speaking at a stakeholder meeting on Monday, JS Planning Project Manager, Tshepo Sitale said given the strategic location of Francistown as a gateway to Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Zambezi Region in Namibia, the development plan can launch the city’s regional significance as a logistical and communications hub, linking the southern part of SADC with the northern part.

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Sitale stressed it is the little things so often ignored that can change the city’s fortunes.

“For instance, productivity. We turn Francistown into a city where things are done on time. If we put productivity at the top of our agenda, we’ll have people coming here to access services in healthcare, transport and others,” reasoned Sitale.

“Good productivity is enough to sell the city if we strive to do away with the usual rhetoric of ‘network is down’,” he added.

Sitale noted the northern capital has planning constraints caused by the railway line and Tati River, which creates physical barriers, fragmenting the city and complicating cohesive urban development.

Despite these challenges, he is confident they can re-invent Ftown and create a sustainable urban environment.

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“First we need to knit this city together, unlike now where we’ve Gerald Estates isolated. We’ve to have new strategic getaways,” stated Sitale, adding the new plan promotes mixed-use corridor loop to address the city’s fragmentation.

“The plan also seeks to transform Blue Jacket Street into a complete interactive boulevard and to upgrade Haskins Street, one of the most economically active streets in the city.”

He said the upgrade should leverage on pedestrianization with the primary objective to connect the railway and bus stations through active passenger transfer.

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“Public transport and bus stops should be well planned and encouraged, while individual car parking should be restricted to promote a more open and pedestrian experience,” the Project Manager told stakeholders.

The new plan also encourages densifying areas close to the Central Business District (CBD) like Minestone, and the building of two to four storey ‘skyscrapers’.

“We need to rethink the way we do things. In Gerald, for instance, there are 15, 375 plots which can house 61, 500 people. However if 20 percent were to develop high density, that is 10 units per plot, the estimated gross total population in Gerald would be 168, 000,” he highlighted.

Sitale, however, cautioned that if council does not align their Urban Development Plan (UDP) with the master plan, such talk will remain a dream.

In his remarks, hotelier, Praful Jog urged the city council to relax their bylaws to allow investors to set up base in Francistown.

“So many projects have been shelved because of the rigid bylaws. Most investors don’t have the patience, they’d rather invest their money elsewhere. Some of us are only here because we’re too old to start afresh elsewhere,” admitted the Adansonia owner.

Jog revealed he had to shelve a P30 million project because of the tough regulations.

“We talked about some of these things in the previous plan, but have failed to implement them. Failure to implement is what’s holding the city back,” insisted Jog.

JS Consultants are currently holding Kgotla meetings in Francistown to get input from residents before putting together a final plan.

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