Cape Town’s central city area has been recognised as ‘downtown of the month’ by the International Downtown Association.
The recognition by the organisation, which comprises more than 650 member organisations on four continents, is particularly impressive given that the area was in decline 10 years ago. High Street shopping had almost entirely gone underground (or moved to the malls), streets were quiet after dark, parking was in short supply and ‘overseen’ by self-appointed car guards, and historic public spaces, such as Church Square and the Grand Parade, had become parking lots. Capital was moving to the suburbs, and buildings were losing value. Few people actually ‘lived’ in the central city, mainly due to the forced removal of nearly 60 000 people from District Six in the 1960s and 70s.
Today, 5 000 people live in the CBD and 55 000 in the broader central city area. There are outdoor eateries, designer shops, refurbished residences, and revamped offices, thanks to years of renovation and rejuvenation. More than R1.4 billion worth of development projects were completed in 2008 alone. There are also moves afoot to create more than 1 500 student/affordable ‘beds’ in the inner city.
‘The areas is part of our collective city psyche,’ says Andrew Boraine, historian and CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, the organisation founded in July 1999 to manage, promote and develop the Cape Town central city (in partnership with the City of Cape Town, the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and industry and other stakeholders).
The Central City Improvement District (CCID) was established in 2000 to tackle the immediate problems of grime and crime that plagued the area. The CCID’s operations are financed by levies from property owners, which to date have totalled approximately R250 million.
Since then, the area has seen a 90% reduction in serious crime; attracted investment attraction of between R14-18 billion, with a further R20 billion in the pipeline; re-developed more than 170 buildings, revitalised public spaces and pedestrian environments; and established innovative creative industries and energy efficiency programmes.
“A healthy central city is a healthy city,’ says Boraine, ‘and our central city engenders a strong sense of identity among almost all residents.’ He notes the enormous numbers of people who travel from all corners of the city to watch the switching on of the festive season lights, to attend the jazz festivals, the numerous cultural festivals. ‘Because of our history of divisions, people don’t generally go into “other people’s” areas, but they all come here!’
‘Everyone and anyone can come into town – and they’ve been doing so for hundreds of years.’
The International Downtown Association is Washington DC based organisation that works with cities to achieve vital and liveable urban centres.
Some central city statistics…
- Approximately 200 000 people work in or visit the central city every day
- 5 000 people live in the CBD and 55 000 in the broader central city area
- More than R1.4 billion worth of development projects were completed in the central city in 2008
- R440 million is being spent on the upgrade of the Cape Town Station
- 200 CCID security officers with closely with the South African Police Force (SAPS), Metro Police and the CCTV system
- 63 CCID cleaners, in partnership with City Cleansing, keep the central city streets clean every day
- 50 cigarette bins have been placed around the Central city by the CCID
- 823 graffiti removals per year make the Central city graffiti-free
- 300 000 to 500 000 people are expected to visit the City during the 2010 Fifa World Cup
- Eight public spaces have been upgraded by the City of Cape Town
- Over 1 000 creative industries are based in the Central city
- The Cape Town International Convention Centre hosts 50% of all international meetings in Africa and two-thirds of international meetings in South Africa
- One new stadium, situated alongside a new urban park on the historic Green Point Common
- South Africa’s most visited destination – the V&A Waterfront
- One International Book Fair
- One International Jazz Festival, ranked fourth in the world
- Numerous cultural festivals and sporting events