In a low-growth economy and a city faced with major development challenges and high unemployment, continued investment and development in Cape Town is to be welcomed. But the impact of developments on historic parts of the city and buildings that date back to the 1700s and 1800s cannot be overlooked.
Across the city there is growing debate about what is seen as a “development at all costs” approach by the City of Cape Town, which does not seem to take sufficient cognisance of the views of communities worried about the negative impacts on existing character and quality of life.
The Bo-Kaap, which has been home to a working-class, largely Muslim community for several hundred years, is one such historic area. It attracts a large number of tourists who explore the cobbled streets, eat in the restaurants and visit the local museum. It remains a tightly knit community of locals, many of whose families have lived and worked in the area for generations.
Osman Shaboodien, chair of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, is leading a bitter fight to preserve the area from what the community regards as inappropriate high-rise developments that will overshadow the historic area.
Two large developments on the Signal Hill side of Buitengracht Street are in a strip of mixed light industrial and commercial properties. Construction is underway on the corner of Strand and Rose streets on a 17-storey development with 117 apartments, offices, a gym and space for retail.
However, the more controversial is a 19-storey development facing onto Riebeeck Square and also backing onto Rose Street, which has been approved by the City over the vociferous protests of the Bo-Kaap community. The development, worth over R1 billion, will see 250 apartments being built as part of a mixed-use development. The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, is considering what legal options that they to challenge the approval.
Other multi-storey developments in the pipeline include a 42-storey building opposite the station on the corner of Strand and Adderley streets and a hotel and retail on the open square fronting the Cape Town rail station.