Now here’s one I’m sure most of you have never heard of. How can I be so sure? Well, although I live in Cape Town I count myself as a Durbanite (I grew up there and I’m still very passionate about the city). But until my latest visit home, I had never been to Priority Zone – I didn’t even know about it. And nor did most of my friends.
So what is this mystery place? It is, quite simply, an eco-marvel. It’s a rooftop garden in the heart of the city (in Pine Street) that grows so many vegetables it can feed the homeless, and sell the excess. It has solar panels to create energy for electricity and geysers, rain water collection systems so that they can water the gardens without using extra water, worm farms to recycle compostable refuse, food landscaping, a green roof and a recycling programme. They have also set up a cardboard recycling initiative where homeless people can bring in cardboard and get paid by weight.
What is so amazing about the Priority Zone is that you’re standing in the middle of the city, but surrounded on all sides by indigenous succulents, fresh vegetables, herb tunnels and greenery. There’s a meeting area, a relaxation area and a giant chessboard, and an abundance of birds, butterflies and bees – all within sight of the heart of the city.
What’s so amazing about the Priority Zone is that it has all been created purely to ensure the city is running to its full potential. The eco features and recycling initiatives are fantastic, but the prime purpose of the Priority Zone is to fulfil their vision: ‘A holistically healthy urban environment for all residents of eThekwini… A city that is efficient and responsive; attracts property investment and tourism, and creates opportunities for its citizens while always meeting their needs.’
It’s quite a remarkable place, not only because of the beautiful landscaping and hope that the garden provides for the homeless, but because of the promise for what can develop in the future. Next time you take a flight to Durban, be sure the visit Priority Zone, so that you can tell others that you were then when the first of many rooftop gardens and city clean-up initiatives began. No doubt, with the passion and fire of the team behind Priority Zone, this will just be the first of many.
A walking tour of the area is a must, but be sure to take your camera – this is one place that has to be seen to be believed… Just one more way that Durban is making itself into an exceptional city.