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Monday Jan 22, 2018

Cape Town CBD residents like downtown buzz

The Cape Town CBD's multi-cultural population and combination of old and new buildings give the city centre its unique buzz, and have been listed by its residents as two of their favourite aspects of the place they call home.

Its central location, easy access to other areas, and safety, are also some of the CBD residents' favourite things, according to the results of the latest Cape Town Central City Online Residential Survey.

This survey has been conducted annually since 2013 by the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).

What would make the CBD even better though, was if there were more shops, childfriendly facilities, and perhaps even a farmer's market, residents say.

The dipstick survey invites residents to answer certain questions, which Carola Koblitz – CCID communication manager and editor of the organisation's annual investment guide The State of Cape Town Central City Report – says provide a broader scope of answer than "just ticking the boxes".

"We've been really overwhelmed this year by how passionately respondents responded to certain questions, adding additional comments particularly to questions regarding what they liked and disliked about the central city. And what they wanted more or less of…

"These individual voices are vital for the way in which we, as a city improvement district, operate in order to meet the demands of an ever-growing residential population, while at the same time ensuring that we also keep businesses and other stakeholders that have been here for decades, happy with their decision to continue to be based here."

In terms of their favourite things, Koblitz says many residents were positive about the CBD's "multi-cultural population mix".

The mix of heritage and contemporary architecture also came out tops, as did the CBD's walkability and easy access to other areas.

"An overall feeling of safety and security was also repeatedly mentioned by many of the respondents."

Koblitz says that over the years, the survey has revealed a number of opportunities that could be taken up by entrepreneurs looking at the residential market.

"We always get a great deal of comment from residents asking for retailers and other venues to be open after hours and specifically on a Saturday afternoon and Sunday."

The top requests are for grocery, book and hardware stores and venues like coffee shops, as well as more open-air markets, Koblitz says.

"A number of respondents requested a weekly Saturday farmer's market, preferably in a place like St George's Mall."

Other strong requests were for more facilities and retail offerings catering for pets, as well as child-friendly venues and outdoor play areas.

"Many also asked for outdoor sporting activities such as gym and yoga classes in public spaces. And most homes that have pets said they had two cats, although there are even a few large dogs such as German Shepherds living with their owners in town."

But Koblitz says the challenges are also "clearly evident" in certain comments. Homelessness, begging and crimes such as muggings – particularly of tourists – were among residents' top concerns, as well as the lack of public facilities such as toilets, and noise from night-time establishments in certain areas.

A shortage of parking and too many cars were also among the top challenges, but, notes Koblitz: "This is always interesting as there are just as many requests for fewer cars, less congestion and more pedestrianisation and bicycling opportunities in the CBD."

Residential affordability was a key concern, with many respondents worried that the CBD was becoming unaffordable for locals to live in, noting increasing rentals and the prices of residential units.

This, she says, is also a concern for the CCID as it is "absolutely vital for a downtown to be lived in by full-time residents if it is to be vibrant".

"It's pointless for any downtown to be a place where there is a large number of highpriced residential units on the market and standing empty when those that are reasonably priced are being snapped up in a heartbeat, but are hard to come by. We want to avoid this happening to the central city.

"We therefore really want to encourage developers to begin to see where the real opportunities lie, not just in the short term but as a long-term vision for the central city.

"People make a place, and it is absolutely essential that we have a diverse economic mix of residents in the CBD," Koblitz says.

Weekend Argus

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