This is an opportunity to do something a damn sight more clever than yet another shopping mall, says Mike Wills.
Cape Town - Is Maiden’s Cove about to lose its virginity? The city has big plans for the only undeveloped coastal space between Bakoven and the Sea Point promenade.
Mayor Patricia de Lille, described in some reports as driving this personally as a priority project, says the aim is to increase income from potentially highly rateable land, which is an idiosyncratic, unprofitable jumble of a bowling club, tennis courts, a cricket ground (which has had the misfortune of witnessing my very off spin), a bar/restaurant, some old garages and a scrappy parking lot.
The reported proposal on the table involves 34 new houses, underground parking for 700 cars and what is described in planning-speak as “a lifestyle centre” which is actually a strip mall of the kind we already have a stack of – usually Woollies food store, coffee shop, upmarket restaurant and bijou speciality outlets.
Before I go off pop on this subject, there are some important caveats.
I appreciate that we need development in Cape Town, even in coastal areas we cannot preserve forever in aspic.
I understand that every new development is vociferously opposed by someone and it takes determination to push necessary projects through, and there’s never enough “consultation” unless the outcome is what the aggrieved party desires.
I get the money argument – there’s useful revenue just waiting to be tapped – and, until proven otherwise, I’ll park the reported rumblings about relationships between the mayor and potential developers as flimsy and unsubstantiated.
With all that said, I believe this scheme is off the mark.
The last thing that a confined and crowded area needs is 700 more parking spaces.
That will not alleviate the summer traffic issues – it will compound them. Transport planners know that you cannot satiate peak vehicle demand as you will simply increase the pressure on roads in the area.
There’s actually a stronger case for less parking on that strip and enforcing the use of a MyCiTi shuttle, bikes or pedestrian paths.
This is a unique location, in a public space, with the opportunity to do something a damn sight more clever than yet another shopping mall.
Where’s the boldness, the vision?
Surely we can keep this as primarily a public access and recreational space, with something magical added like an array of outdoor sculptures, a walkway similar to the Kirstenbosch Boomslang, a replica of the brilliant Green Point Park or a giant zipline from Lion’s Head.
Raise bucks to pay for it by creating some garages for local residents and a few pricey new bungalows around the fringes, but the priority should be to use a special space in a special way that adds value to the entire city.
Easier said than done, I realise, but it must be worth a try.
* Mike Wills’ column Open Mike appears in the Cape Argus every Wednesday.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.