An aerial view of The River Club. Observatory residents fear a proposed R4 billion redevelopment of the club will mean the loss of public open space along the Liesbeek River. File picture: Andrew Ingram

Cape Town - The River Club in Observatory is set to undergo a R4 billion re-development over four years, that will include residential, retail and commercial components including a hotel, gym, shopping centre, offices, conference centre and even schools.

These components will take up about five hectares of the site, while the remaining 10 hectares will be landscaped and rehabilitated for recreational use including a park, walking and cycling paths and an amphitheatre.

Residential units will consist of studio, one- and two-bedroom units with a maximum floor area of 77m2.

A 200-room hotel is being considered that will serve business and leisure travellers.

The developments are expected to take place in three phases, starting in June 2018 and to be completed by September 2021.

According to a draft scoping report on the proposed re-development which is in circulation for public comment, the Liesbeek canal would be unaffected and may be partially rehabilitated to mimic a natural watercourse.

The River Club, which is owned and operated by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust, is located within the City of Cape Town's Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP) which is also being considered for mixed-use development.

This year, the council agreed to enter into a memorandum of co-operation with the Netherlands to create a "live, work, play" community on 120ha of land at the convergence of the Black and Liesbeek Rivers.

The TRUP proposals mainly focuses on the Oude Molen and Alexandra precincts, with the River Club area assumed to remain as is.

The River Club is used predominantly as a commercial recreational enterprise comprising a golf driving range with a "mashie" 9-hole golf course, conference and function venue, restaurant and bar.

Beyond the golf course is vacant land owned by Prasa.

According to the draft scoping report, existing buildings would be demolished to make way for the new developments.

Prone to flooding during periods of high rainfall, the report notes the reason the River Club currently accommodates little urban development is because of its position in the floodplain.

A new study last year however suggested that raising the ground surface to an elevation slightly above the 100-year flood elevation would not have detrimental effects on neighbouring properties.

As part of the landscaping and rehabilitation activities, regulated water flow would be restored to the original course of the Liesbeek River west of the site.

Canalisation of the river in the 1960s has led to low natural flow levels entering the original course of the river which is mostly supplied by backwaters of the Black River.

While the sustainability of the site will only be assessed during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) phase, the draft scoping report does identify changes to surface water dynamics, freshwater features, the heritage and aesthetic value of the site, and increased traffic volumes, as possible negative environmental impacts.

Potential benefits include increased investment, employment opportunities and municipal income.

During the four years of construction, 2 300 jobs worth R1bn would be created.

Tenants are expected to create at least 150 jobs worth R72 million over the three construction phases.

A separate economic desirability study of the proposed development is being undertaken.

Indigo Properties, which has been involved in the regeneration of the Old Biscuit Mill in Salt River, the Woodstock Exchange and the Daddy Hotels, and Zenprop, which would fund the development, are the main drivers of the project.

"The company has always sought to involve local talent, businesses and communities and create urban space where people of all cultures come together. The LLPT aim to embrace this ethos by creating a diverse mixed-use precinct that is an asset for the people of Cape Town," said the draft scoping report.

"Open spaces and recreational facilities will be utilised by tenants of the site and their guests or customers. Public access to the development will also be permitted but subject to surveillance and management to ensure safety and security."

The public has until September 5 to submit comments on the draft scoping report.

The final scoping report will be released for another 30-day comment period before submission to the Department of Environmental Affairs. Once specialist studies have been completed, the results will be collated into an EIA report and Environmental Management Plan which will also be released for public comment.

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Cape Argus