THE FLORIDA RD VIBE
No matter where you track on the timeline, no matter the highs and lows of the journey, Florida Rd has always been steadfastly Durban. Now, thanks to the collective focus of passionate “doers” in both the public and private sectors, Florida Rd is set to reveal its character and reclaim its place as a key player in the future growth of Durban.
So stand by for the Florida Rd vibe….
A vibe that embraces local experiences and businesses.
A vibe that serves different people and communities.
A vibe that engages diverse needs and desires.
A vibe that holds true in an ever changing local and global reality
The sense of movement that emanates from the modern Florida Rd was set by a past that saw transport guide the development that today we view as the nostalgic charm of the road.
Stretching from Greyville Race Course to Innes Road, it was the development of the tramway system on Florida Rd and around the Berea in general, that moved people into the area, and left us with a legacy of transports firsts and a series of Edwardian buildings, well over 100 years old.
- Florida Rd has always been a central route through Durban originally a well-worn elephant track that took the animals on their daily trek for water from the top of Berea down to the Greyville Marsh (now part of the Royal Durban Golf Course).
- It was along this track that the first private horse-drawn tram service in Durban began on 25th March 1880.
- The original shelter used as a stop for this service still exists today at the top of Florida Rd. At 137-year-old, this is the oldest shelter of its kind in eThekwini.
- In 1892 the first municipal tram line in South Africa was laid along Florida Rd, using horses as motive power.
- On 1st August 1899, the Durban Municipal Corporation took over the service, with the last horse-drawn tram running on 25th October 1903.
- The shelter was then used as a stop for the Umbilo Service that ran the Electric Trams that first began operations on 1st May 1902.
- It was then the turn of the double-decker electric trolley buses that began services on 24th February 1935 and ran alongside the electric tram until they ended their services in 1949.
- The first diesel double-decker buses started on 28 August 1938 with petrol and diesel single decker buses commencing on June 1925.
- The Edwardian veranda-fronts and elements of cast iron of most of the Florida Rd homes, were selected from catalogues and bolted together on site.
- The choice of patterns for the veranda pillars are typically Edwardian, complete with base, shaft and capital detailed with foliage, and braced with filigreed brackets and beams.
- The Elephant house at the top of the Berea dates from 1849 and is reputedly the first house built on the Berea and is possibly the oldest and most historic of the remaining colonial period houses in Durban. When first built, elephants still trampled around the property often damaging parts of the building.
- Number 101 Florida Rd is home to The Quarters Hotel and is made up of four beautifully restored Victorian homes.
- Number 113 Florida Rd is known as Heritage House. Built in 1901 it is now the Durban office of Home Fabrics.
- Number 178 Florida Rd is a landmark Edwardian house built in Baroque Revival style with arched verandas. Currently home to Velvet Lounge, this building was constructed by Mr Jack Hollis who was a building contractor for the Durban City Hall.
- Number 200 Florida Rd shows typically Edwardian veranda pillars complete with base, shaft and capital detailed with foliageand braced with filigreed brackets and beams.
In June 2016, street artist Shaun Oakley aka: thatdamnvandal was commissioned by the Florida Rd UIP to capture this history and indeed the pulse of the future of Florida Rd in a mural painted on the bare and rather unsightly public information kiosk located at the Gordon Rd Park.
While Shaun was given license to apply his creativity to the final realisation of the mural, the brief for the art work had to talk to a combination of local touch points. The history of the road as a central route through Durban, was a significant one, from it being a well-worn elephant track that took the animals on their daily trek for water from the top of Berea down to the Greyville Marsh (now part of Royal Durban Golf Course), to the road being the route for the first municipal tramline in South Africa, laid in 1892. The Edwardian architectural history and high street feel of Florida Rd was an important element that had to be brought into the design.
The rejuvenation of Florida Rd began in 2013 thanks to the efforts of local property owners, businesses and community groups, who banded together to form the Florida Road Urban Improvement Precinct (UIP).
A legislated and representative body, the UIP has motivated, lobbied and worked with the eThekwini Municipality since July 2013 to collectively manage public space in Florida Rd to grow and sustain property values, ensure business prosperity and create a high quality of life for all the area’s users.
The Florida Rd UIP levy is collected via the City’s rates system and paid over monthly to the UIP, who use this levy to deliver:
- Security through the employment of two capacitated security officers in a dedicated vehicle that patrols the area 24/7
- An extra weekend foot patrol service of two officers 6pm-6am on Friday and Saturday nights
- Direct links to private patrols who manage the residential initiatives in the surrounding areas
- A team of three cleaning and greening staff working on a rotation basis seven days a week
- A structured communication system to all members
- General precinct management, which includes continual fault reporting and follow up with the municipality. Faults are logged on a UIP
- A place-making initiative run through the Florida Rd Marketing Committee that is aimed at restoring Florida Rd as a Durban icon.