An aerial view of the City of cape Town. Photo: Bruce Sutherland
An aerial view of the City of cape Town. Photo: Bruce Sutherland

Cape Town’s new waterfront

By Michael Morris Time of article published Dec 13, 2014

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Cape Town - Cape Town’s Foreshore is set for a major overhaul, with an ambitious Port Gateway Precinct plan on the cards which promises to restore the central city’s access to its seafront.

The project, which given its infancy is described as a “visioning” exercise, aims to forge a direct link between central Cape Town and Table Bay, opening up inaccessible land between the Convention Centre and the harbour to shops, housing, offices and hotels, with landscaped public spaces, pedestrian corridors and a new canal.

Plans for a new cruiseliner terminal at E berth is the initial focal point of a scheme which will reopen access to the seafront sealed off by the Foreshore reclamation of the 1940s.

The project is the product of high-level collaboration between the city, the Transnet National Port Authority, the V&A Waterfront and the provincial government.

The vision anticipates transforming an unsightly congested inaccessible precinct into one that is pleasant, people-friendly and attracts residents, businesses and visitors. It calls for a rethink of the Foreshore freeways, which function as a barrier, suggesting that the best long-term option would be to demolish them.

Conceptualised within a 50-year time-frame, the scheme dovetails with multibillion-rand port expansion plans, effectively doubling the city’s container-handling capacity to meet the demands of growing freight-based sectors of the regional economy.

In addition, the envisaged precinct abuts the site of the old grain mill, which is being transformed into the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.

Elements of the broader Port Gateway concept include:

* Moving the Royal Cape Yacht Club from its present site in Duncan Dock, subject to negotiation, possibly to wharfage in Victoria Basin, facing the Waterfront.

* Freeing up warehousing on either side of Southarm Road – again, subject to negotiation – for hotel, residential and commercial development.

* Extending the street grid of the downtown central city to the water’s edge at E berth, providing opportunities for mixed-use development, including social (affordable, rental) housing as well as high-end housing.

* Extending the existing Roggebaai Canal, which runs between the Waterfront and the Convention Centre, to Duncan Dock to provide an additional waterway link with the sea and to create a boundary between formal port functions and the new public precinct.

* Possibly in the long-term removing the freeways – or else building under and around them.

* Concentrating port activity within a more rationally defined area, with back-of-port functions likely being located on Transnet-owned land in Culemborg and Paarden Eiland.

The Port Gateway Precinct vision was the subject of a presentation at the recent port cities conference in Durban.

Brett Herron, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for transport, told Weekend Argus this week that one of the most significant aspects of the Port Gateway idea was that the “four major players” (the city, province, Waterfront and the port authority) agreed that “this is a good vision we can all buy into”.

He stressed, however, that it had not yet achieved the status of a plan. “It’s a vision, and it’s presented within a long-term time-frame.”

Much of the detail – including, for instance, the future of fishing industry facilities along Southarm Road, the fate of Customs House, and the future location of the Royal Cape Yacht Club (which has been given notice that its lease is to be terminated) – would be the subject of negotiation and detailed planning

over the next decade or so.

The catalyst for a more immediate refiguring of the precinct would be the creation of a new cruiseliner terminal at Duncan Dock’s E berth.

Herron said: “It is exciting, and all involved recognise that the outcome, the concept, is far bigger and more ambitious than was initially anticipated.

“The Waterfront, which has matured over the past 30 years, has proved a remarkable success, but there is still a sense that the Waterfront is not the port, and that though one can see port activities from there, for people the actual port areas are quite forbidding.

“So the question was, how could we connect the city to the seafront, make it more human-friendly, and enable an extension of commercial, retail and residential components, while at the same time consolidating port activities to enable this vital element of the regional economy to fulfil its functions?

“The vision indicates what we envisage happening over the next 50 years. The starting point is the proposed cruiseliner terminal.”

Herron noted that the essence of the concept was “not just development, but creating quality space that people can enjoy”.

City planner Liezel Kruger-Fountain, of the spatial planning and urban design department, noted in the presentation shown in Durban that the site “offers the potential to unblock the public transport, port, private vehicular and pedestrian congestion on Dock Road by providing alternatives to this oversubscribed route”.

Design principles in the visioning exercise underscore enhancing the heritage and neighbourhood character of the precinct, integrating development with “‘green areas, corridors and nodes”, with provision for informal trading, and promoting an urban rather than a suburban quality in part by using a “range of densities to ensure urban efficiency, vitality and livability”.

Mixed, “fine-grained” development should “contribute to a positive character and identity of place”.

On the future of the Foreshore freeway, the presentation suggests that the “appropriate” route to follow “would be to go the way of visionary and successful cities such as Portland, Paris and San Francisco that have demolished (freeways) and resisted further development of similar structures”.

Alternatively, it suggests “building between and below the freeways, essentially making the freeways disappear”.

The presentation also touches on infrastructure constraints, noting that “to unlock development within the central city and enable the levels of densification, new housing and investment envisaged at a policy level, sewerage and energy capacity constraints must be resolved”.

“The magnitude of potential development offers the potential to apply green technologies rather than conventional solutions so that sewerage can be transformed into energy within the central city, and provide water to irrigate new parks and landscaping.”

Weekend Argus

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