The Atlantis area has seen a marked increase in new industrial investment, and could soon shake off it’s dismal past as an apartheid-era human dump, writes Belinda Walker.
Atlantis was first developed in 1975 as an industrial backwater to which thousands of coloured people were relocated. The area stands out as a stark reminder of Cape Town’s apartheid spatial configuration which saw so many communities relegated to the margins of the city.
In 2012, the City of Cape Town commissioned consultants, NB Ideas and Associates, to undertake the Atlantis Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) study.
The study looked at economic trends at Atlantis to identify the opportunities and key levers for change within the Atlantis economy as well as specific interventions that could possibly turn the tide for the area.
What the study found is signs of decline and job loss in certain sectors in the manufacturing industry, but also evidence of economic dynamism, resilience and significant growth potential.
In general, the results of the survey were positive, with 84 percent of businesses planning on remaining in the area. However, the BRE study also found the manufacturing sector to be stagnating relative to the finance and service industries.
The BRE study recommended a few urgent turnaround interventions to achieve greater business retention and expansion within Atlantis, and the city has gone to great lengths to facilitate these interventions, in partnership with the business community.
As a result of these efforts, Atlantis has seen a marked increase in new industrial investment. The total value of this investment thus far is estimated at over R500 million, with the creation of about 500 new jobs.
The Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme led to the revitalisation of the residential and central business area through a “cleaning and greening” campaign. The cleanliness of the Wesfleur CBD today is quite striking.
The roll-out of the MyCiTi bus service has improved public transport infrastructure which now connects the community with more social and economic opportunities. Businesses have also called for the revitalisation of the rail service.
Efficient public and goods transport will assist in lowering business costs, facilitating supplier and market linkages, and attracting skilled labour to Atlantis.
A pilot incentive scheme has been set up in Atlantis to attract and retain businesses and includes reduced electricity tariffs and waived development charges.
The city has also undertaken to fast-track building and land-use applications and waive application fees.
Thirty companies have taken up incentives and the financial incentives have resulted in about R8m in savings for companies.
Businesses are calling for Atlantis to be rebranded and proactively marketed to project a more positive image. A marketing strategy has been developed to challenge the perception of remoteness and decline.
A one-stop business information, support and investment centre is needed in Atlantis to attract and help new businesses to set up in the area. This centre will open in the next two months in Atlantis Industria and a dedicated programme manager for Atlantis has been appointed.
Many are upbeat that Atlantis will be a boom town within the next three years. But the only way to make sure that this does happen is for business and the city to work together, to make progress possible and ensure that Atlantis is no longer the “forgotten town”.