City of Harare says it will evaluate applications for the conversion of the central business district (CBD) buildings into multiple uses including residential on a case by case basis.

Experts in the property sector have suggested conversion of some CBD office space into residential in view of the increasing voids in CBD due to the exodus of businesses into office parks and suburban areas, while others have downsized operations or eventually closed.

This also comes as demand for residential space in the capital city is continuing to rise.

Speaking at a recent virtual property market seminar hosted by West Properties Zimbabwe in conjunction with Financial Markets Indaba, City of Harare principal town planner Barbara Mugocha said the city was open to that suggestion but would require to scrutinise each application and proposal in line with town planning laws.

She said the proposals would be dealt with in a way that does not kill the purpose of having a CBD.

“If you have a building that you wish to convert to residential, bring your proposal and we look at it as an individual proposal, it cannot be a one size fit all for all buildings.

“This also has to be in line with city laws and town planning. We already have existing plans that have allowances for some floors to be used for residential purposes. But if it comes to converting a whole building, then we have to look at that application, its merits and maybe change the plan,” she said.

Of recent, property firms have recorded voids in commercial CBD properties, prompting experts in the sector to call for conversion of the space into other uses.

Companies such as Mashonaland Holdings have already opened themselves to the idea. The property firm indicated its intentions to convert Charter House in the capital into a world class boutique hotel.

Another property firm, Zimre Property Investments (ZPI) had also converted its Nicoz House in Bulawayo into student accommodation.

While demand for space for commercial properties remain subdued, experts say opportunities still exist in residential where demand has been expanding in like with growing urbanization.

Student accommodation has also been identified as a low hanging fruit due to the acute shortage of accommodation at the country’s universities and tertiary institutions. -The Herald