Central CT regenerating

Its occupants are the first to agree that it is by no means the best-looking building in town, but what Media24 employees can boast is a canteen with spectacular views of the Mother City.

From the north-facing side of the top floor of the Naspers building in Heerengracht, the view embraces the Cape Town foreshore, the International Convention Centre and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront towards Robben Island and Bloubergstrand.

The south-facing side oversees the city centre and City Bowl stretching to the foot of Table Mountain, while District Six and Woodstock lie to the east and Bo-Kaap and Green Point to the west.

Yet, most critical from this vantage point are the cranes lugging concrete through Cape Town’s landscape, bringing to reality a city under construction. You can almost smell the money.

R24-billion will be pumped into the CBD in the next three to five years.

Cape Town Partnership CEO Andrew Boraine says in the past seven years the cumulative investment into the city centre has touched R14-billion while another R24-billion is scheduled to be pumped into the area in the next three to five years.

A sizeable chunk of this capital expenditure will develop public infrastructure ahead of the country’s hosting of the World Cup Soccer in 2010 with projects including the Cape Town station refurbishment, station precinct redevelopment and a R500-million upgrade to the electrical infrastructure.

Upgrades to Grand Parade, Greenmarket Square and St Andrew’s Square are also in the pipeline while the parliamentary precinct is facing a multi-billion-rand redevelopment that encompasses a hotel, convention centre and parliamentary village in the traditional central business district.

However, Boraine says it is the office and retail accommodation investment that has generated the highest levels of excitement. Likening it to 'experiencing a retail revolution', he says the residential drive peaked at 3500 inner city apartments and the pendulum has returned to office accommodation.

Despite healthy rentals of R115-120 per m² for A-grade office accommodation, vacancies are negligible at three to four percent. The R600-million expansion to the International Convention Centre is the latest project unveiled and involves demolishing the old Customs House on Table Bay Boulevard to add another 10 000m² of exhibition space, more office accommodation and a potential hotel site. Boraine believes hotels will continue the accommodation trend with another 10 to 12 hotels expected to come on-stream. Yet, these developments are not happening in isolation and other big projects underway or on the cards include:

  • The R2.2-billion investment into the Strand on Adderley Street as office and retail developments.
  • The R500-million Golden Acre upgrade.
  • Mandela Rhodes Place phase three.
  • Significant new developments in Woodstock, Green Point and Kloof Street.

The inner city has attracted strong international investor interest.

Boraine says Cape Town generally and the inner city specifically has attracted strong international investor interest from the Middle East, India, Ireland and Germany.

“However, this picture of prosperity is a far cry from five years ago when the city was experiencing capital flight, rising crime rates and a general lack of confidence. It is like chalk and cheese,” Boraine says, attributing the city’s reversal of fortunes to several initiatives aimed at making Cape Town safe and clean as well as raising public awareness.

He credits the strong partnership between the public and private sectors for being the key success factor. In the past seven years, the two parties have met monthly, effectively building trust between the role players and achieving levels of confidence across a host of issues.

Boraine clarifies it is not just private sector-led development. There has been vital public sector input and more than 300 kilometres of fibre optic cable will be laid in the next three years in a move expected to reduce the cost of doing business.

“We need the public sector,” he says. The reality is the government has benefited significantly from the inner city rejuvenation. Collectively the City of Cape Town, provincial and national governments own around 40 percent of the properties in the area and these properties have experienced an exponential increase in value.

Yet, despite the obvious benefits of inner city revival, urban designer Jacques Theron expresses scepticism shared by many local residents. “I am not sure a flood of money to the central business district (CBD) is the way to go. The biggest problem with (South African) cities is that we are not changing the flows of people,” he says.

The greater majority still utilise private transport into the CBD for work, meaning those living outside the inner city waste more than an hour travelling to and from their place of employment.

“From an urban design point of view, we need development outside the CBD in Bellville and Claremont,” Theron says.

Theodore Yach, a Cape Town Partnership founding member and Central City Improvement District chairman, emphasises the city is ‘still in early days’. Cape Town has only invested 10 years into a 30-year strategy with the long-term objective being to create an environment in which people can work and play.

"Let's add more people."

“Our mantra is: Let’s add more people,” he says.

Yach says the Partnership is engaged in high-level discussions to bring low-cost housing into the CBD with Culemborg mooted as a potential suburb for providing affordable accommodation to between 40 000 and 50 000 people.

Currently 70 000 people live in the City Bowl/CBD/Bo-Kaap area, but doubling that figure will introduce economies of scale and encourage people to walk rather than drive to work.

City of Cape Town acting development co-ordinator Kendall Kaveney says while many people clamour for a piece of Cape Town, the city fathers have realised the need for a co-ordinated development approach.

Borrowing from the best practice principles used by Kagiso Urban Management when Sandton underwent its revival several years ago, the city is compiling a set of agreements to consider every aspect of the impact proposed developments will have on city infrastructure.

“Presently, we do not have coherent, long-term maintenance strategies for possible inner city infrastructural upgrades. Rather, we have a range of departments and they have not been talking to each other about development,” he says.

He believes this project will address this issue by bringing to fruition a project-definition report and steering committee and by December the city aims to have a set of guidelines and principles that developers can use when building in the city.

Trafalgar Inner City Report

Article by: Angelique Ardé - www.iafrica.com