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Wednesday May 28, 2014

Cape Town CBD busier than ever

Two 'cities' are rising in the Cape Town CBD - ensuring that Cape Town's famous mixture of work and leisure will be entrenched as a defining feature of the city for years to come.

Yesterday, Central City Improvement District (CCID) chairman Rob Kane presented an optimistic outlook for an increasingly vibrant central city.

On the Foreshore an unprecedented amount of construction and growth is happening, while closer to the mountain, the city is growing into an ever more attractive place to live and play.

Kane reminded investors of the growing demand for residential properties and retail goods to accommodate 'a growing workforce and a growing downtown population'.

There were only around 3 500 residential units in the CBD, but about 350 000 people moved through the central city daily.

Kane was speaking from the newly completed Portside building, at 142m, Cape Town's tallest. As the city's first building with a Green Star rating, it is arguably the city centre's most sustainable high-rise.

Grey water is recycled, energy consumption is minimised by LED lights, and bicycle racks encourage workers and visitors to use 'greener' forms of transport.

Andrew Fleming, senior researcher for the CCID, heralded this greening initiative as precedent-setting for coming developments.

'Lowering carbon emissions for the built environment in Cape Town's CBD is not even negotiable anymore,' he said.

'Tenants are looking for (Green Star-rated) buildings and investors are catching on to this.

'It is no longer a 'nice touch' to a development, it is an important marketing tool. With an increased number of construction sites, and retro-fitting of existing buildings, this trend will continue.'

A number of new developments are planned to follow Portside. They include the state-of-the-art Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, a massive R832 million extension to the Cape Town International Convention Centre, a R500m upgrade of the The Standard Bank Towers and plans to upgrade the Media24 building.

The upgrade of the Artscape Theatre Complex, set to be completed in 2020, will substantially contribute to this transformation.

'Of course new developments are not concentrated in the Foreshore,' Kane said.

'The whole central city is experiencing an unparalleled level of economic development and investment, as well as a thriving new residential and entertainment lifestyle element that simply wasn't here a few years ago.'

This trend was reflected in the CCID's '2013: A Year In Review' report. It noted, for instance, a considerable influx of permanent residents to the city centre.

In 2005, just 750 people lived in the CBD, but the latest 2011 census showed this figure had shot up to 5 286 people. They in turn had attracted investment in the retail of daily necessities and a 'night-time economy' catering for the 'widest possible audience'.

Lower Bree Street had been reinvigorated and the CBD now played host to more quaint and intimate restaurants and bars than ever before, the report noted.

Renewed interest in the CBD had enabled 'out on the street' ventures (open-air music concerts for instance).

The report specifically hailed the 'First Thursdays' concept, in which galleries and other attractions stay open late on the first Thursday of the month, with Capetonians enjoying them in large numbers. Last year a total of 661 events were attended by more than 1.3 million people.

Apart from Artscape Theatre, which is the biggest venue for arts and culture in the central city, the CCID's report noted a plethora of other venues including 26 art galleries, 22 museums and eight theatres.

Kane pointed to plans by the Madame Zingara Company, which has won the contract to take over the Company's Garden restaurant and intends to open a five-storey, Indian-themed retail and entertainment complex in Loop Street, as a positive indication that the trend towards leisure and entertainment was attracting investment to the city centre.

Other areas of growth included the film industry, call centres, law firms, financial and IT services and health care.

  • Business owners have their say

    The Cape Argus spoke to business owners and staff on how they felt about the city's surging development.

  • Farren Greening, owner of the Barnet Fair Barber Shop in Bree Street, hopes the development of the Foreshore will result in greater exposure for his business.

    'I think it's brilliant. This will allow for more foot traffic and will be great for business, so hopefully I make more money. This is quite a quiet street and I think this development will cater for a lot more people and provide places for them to go to. Personally, I welcome the development, especially if the market value goes up, because I own the property.'

  • Johmer Nell, one of the four managers at La Parada restaurant and bar in Bree Street:

    'Business is generally good on a Saturday and Sunday, but Bree Street is dead compared to Long Street. Any injection is good. The V&A Waterfront is very tourism orientated and we need to get people and tourists to this side as well. The people that support us are mostly loyal customers who live in the area, or people visiting relatives in the hospital around the corner. I support anything that can create jobs.'

  • Philip van der Linde has operated his jewellery shop, Linde Collection, in Shortmarket Street for the past 10 years. He believes the CBD facelift will allow for more smaller businesses to buy in.

    'The CBD needs to establish a retail environment. The cash injection will be great. The city can be made more appealing, rentals lowered, small businesses buying in, and more feed. This is possible only if the money is spent correctly.'

  • Di Smith, owner of the art shop G2 Art in Shortmarket Street, said she was always in favour of development.

    'My work is predominantly tourist-driven - approximately 90 percent of our traffic are tourists. I think it is a great idea to get upgraded walkways and cleaner streets, as well as more lighting in the area for business. This would also bring more locals into town. I was operating in a shopping mall and was basically told how to run my business. I have moved out of that mould - operating in the CBD has given me more freedom to run my business as I please. Getting more micro business is great for the city.'

  • Keith Mehner, co-founder of architect and interior design firm KM2K, has already planned the extension of the pedestrian precinct of Church Street up towards Long and Loop streets.

    'I think the idea is fantastic to have the CBD more pedestrian friendly. We have already made proposals to CCID and compiled sketches of what we think could be a great alternative to Church Street. This would allow people to get rid of their cars and ride more bicycles. We thought about closing the street and allowing people to rent the old parking bays to set up small shops.'

  • Although Alan Phillips, owner of Sturks Tobacconists in Shortmarket Street, is all in favour of city development, he is not keen on roads being closed.

    'I am all in favour of business upgrades, but not the closing of the streets. It's no problem to turn it into a fair European piazza jol, but where has it worked? Cape Town already has a parking problem and closing streets will reduce revenue. In theory it is a wonderful idea, but there is no proven model that it has worked. This is my bread and butter on the line.'

    Cape Argus

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