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Creating a masterpiece

by CCID 5 Nov 2015

With a residential population of an estimated 6 000, and a rising nighttime economy, the Cape Town Central City has become South Africa’s most vibrant and successful CBD. This is the story of how the Central City Improvement District (CCID) and its partners helped revitalise an area once battling with urban decay.

Safe, clean, vibrant streets; restaurants and shops galore; almost 50 educational institutions; renowned museums and family-friendly public spaces: we have all the ingredients of a thriving downtown district. But this wasn’t always the case: the Cape Town Central City was a dreary place 15 years ago. An area known for its history and colourful tradition had become lawless and dirty, which is hard to imagine now given that the Mother City’s CBD is considered by many to be the safest and cleanest in South Africa.

The Cape Town CCID’s COO, Tasso Evangelinos, remembers: “In the late 1990s, images relating to the Cape Town Central City that appeared in the press were frequently filtered through a black and white lens. These dramatic photos of litter, graffiti and antisocial behaviour were a sign of those times, and an alliance of CBD stakeholders at the time used similar imagery in presenting its case for a city improvement district to be established in town.” Fast-forward 15 years and it’s a very different picture. The interventions the CCID put in place in its early days – a Safety & Security presence on the streets and an Urban Management team to maintain those streets – have paid tremendous dividends, both literally to Central City property owners and in terms of placemaking for the general public. Currently, the CCID deploys 230 public safety officers in the Central City 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sixty skilled cleaners are deployed via J&M Cleaning and a 300-strong semi-skilled cleaning and maintenance team is given daily work opportunities via the NGO Straatwerk.

The subsequent additions of a Social Development department (consisting of three fieldworkers) to assist the CBD’s street people and a fulltime Communications team to promote the CCID and its stakeholders have added to the appeal of the CCID as a trusted organisation that delivers top-up services to each and every person who spends any part of their day in the Cape Town CBD.

CCID chairperson Rob Kane, an arts enthusiast, says: “I liken the CBD’s resurgence to a collaborative watercolour taking shape over time. The initial brushstrokes were made by the CCID and its City and SAPS partners, catalysing investment and inspiring others to add their own colours. And if you create a masterpiece, people will come from far and wide to see it.”

The Central City is today one of the most popular areas for tourists to visit in Cape Town, and the overriding result has been steady reurbanisation: businesses have returned and the residential population has grown from 750 a decade ago to around 6 000 today. Because more people are spending more time here, our streets are becoming more active after hours, both at night and on weekends. Just look to the revitalisation of the entire length of Bree Street. The Foreshore is another area getting much needed TLC.

Pictured above: According to the latest Online residential Survey undertaken by the CCID, 26% of Central City residents have pets.

Currently under construction are the CTICC expansion and the new Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, both of which will contribute to increased footfall in an area once considered a windy wasteland. And the refurbishment of Foreshore landmarks – notably the Media24 Centre and The Towers – has transformed the skyline. By the end of 2017, when all currently planned CBD developments should be completed, the value of CBD property will stand at over R26bn – across a healthy mix of private and public investment in commercial, retail and residential properties. The CCID achieved success with the basics quickly and has spent the subsequent years streamlining its work. As we go into our next 15 years, we will ensure the Central City remains safe, clean, caring and open for business.

This article first appeared in the Oct-Nov 2015 issue of City Views. Read it online.