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Thursday Feb 05, 2015

'Game-changer' Two Rivers project meets community resistance

With a 20- year plan to transform 215 hectares of land between Cape Town's Black and Liesbeeck rivers into a mega mixed-use project, the City of Cape Town says it will have to overcome significant community resistance to get past the conceptual phase.

A mixed-use project between the Black and Liesbeek rivers faces a number of challenges, says the city.

In a presentation to the city's energy, environmental and spatial planning portfolio committee yesterday, Kendall Keveney of the city's infrastructure development listed some of the challenges facing the second phase of the ambitious Two Rivers Urban Park project, which has been more than 10 years in the planning.

He said the project was comparable to Century City in terms of scale or the Waterfront in terms of impact, but that it would have more linkages with other city and provincial structures than any other project.

The project has been identified as a "game-changer" by the provincial government and the Premier's Office. "It's going to be a sleep, work, eat and play model and the idea is to be able to replicate it elsewhere," said Keveney.

According to a proposal document that has been released by the Western Cape government, the mega project will include mixed-use live and work environments with 6 400 homes, an urban park, and mixed-use activity corridors.

Keveney told the committee that the city had a six-month plan to work with communities and non-governmental organisations who are opposed to the mega project. "This will be the most difficult." He said the city was "letting" the provincial government deal with the anchor tenants such as National Health Laboratories, the Square Kilometre Array ( Ska), Valkenberg and Alexander Hospital, while the city would focus on feasibility studies.

But Hudson McComb of the Oude Molen Eco-Village Tenants' Association said yesterday the association was against the "topdown" approach of the provincial government to a project that would include a private corporate medical park.

"The proposed excessive building footprint undermines the tenant community's constructive role over the past 17 years and joint custodianship of public assets to benefit local communities and the region as a whole."

He said the tenants had come up with a future development proposal that focused on micro-enterprises, and would bring in R200 million in revenue to the province over the next 50 years.

"It is a win-win financially sustainable solution emphasising a holistic development approach that optimises the historical legacy, strategic location, scenic views and unique social, economic and recreational opportunities the Oude Molen Eco Village property has to offer the region."

Keveney said several meetings had taken place last year and plans, such as the R1 billion upgrade of Valkenberg, were on track.

Conradie Hospital was "up for grabs" and the future of the Alexandra Hospital site was still "up in the air", he said.

The Oude Molen Eco-Village has recommended that the Conradie Hospital site on the border of Pinelands should be used for the National Health Laboratories, Biovac Institute and Ska.

But Keveney said the hospital site fell within the 50- and 100-year-flood lines and did not fit in with the Two Rivers Urban Park philosophy

Project constraints included the "serious" pollution of the Black River, and the second phase of the project would focus on improving the water quality of both rivers and tributaries in the area.

Keveney said the Two Rivers Urban Park project required skills that were lacking within the municipality. There was also concern about the surge in developers' appetite. He said he had already been in more meetings with developers and mayor Patricia de Lille this year than the whole of last year and "it is only February".

He said the plans of the neighbouring River Club, "which is doing things we don't particularly like", had to be better controlled.

The River Club had employed a project manager, and "lots of changes" were being made to the venue's future plans. These included doing away with the golf course.

Negotiations would continue with various associations, including boating and birding, to ensure that the Two Rivers park became a recreational hub.

But portfolio committee members said the presentation lacked substance, and they asked Keveney to return with a more detailed outline. Keveney said a reference group, comprising academics, would look at feasibility issues, and a stakeholder group would concentrate on the interests of various parties, including the Oude Molen EcoVillage and communities in Langa and Athlone over the next six months.

Cape Argus


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