Cape Town stakeholders beautify their CBD

Cape Town, 24/02/2014: Businesses and property owners in the Cape Town Central City are taking up the opportunity to “green” the CBD environment by planting trees and beautifying the areas outside their premises, reports the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).

According to Tasso Evangelinos, Chief Operating Officer of the CCID: “It is wonderful to see the extent of the private beautification projects which are starting to happen in the CBD and as the CCID not only do we strongly encourage it, but our Urban Management team is always available to advise businesses on how to take advantage of the opportunities available. Not only does it make a business premise more inviting for customers but it is it aesthetically pleasing for users of public spaces in the CBD as well, creating a win-win situation all around. Even a coat of paint or some hanging baskets can make a huge difference to a façade.”

Most recently, a greening project was undertaken in Martin Hammerschlag Way by property investment fund, Vunani in front of the company’s Forestrust building, in order to soften the street and provide a backdrop of foliage and shade for surrounding businesses. This project included planting 16 Fever trees, four metres in height, along the street.

Says Sandra Rippon of Balance Design, a consultant in sustainable built environments and the person behind the project: “The external greening in front of an existing building has addressed more than just the façade of the structure but also the entire street, and is a good example of a greening retrofit that can immeasurably improve an urban cityscape.”

Beautifying one’s environment doesn’t mean drastic refurbishments or complex landscaping either. Says Rippon: “One or two trees can enhance the image and reputation of your company and they help to attract customers and quality staff.”

Cape Town also possesses around 30 laneways and alleys intended to provide pedestrians with a link to larger roads and various precincts. But more often than not, these areas are no-go zones for ordinary citizens due to gated barriers and the use of the lane as overflow parking. However, two laneways, in the Central City have undergone radical makeovers: Venken Lane, which links Long Street with Keerom Street and across town, Barrack Lane.

Barrack Lane was the Design Indaba winning proposal in the Your Street Live competition, where the intention was to create a space where people could interact with each other and small business owners could sell their wares. The lane has been transformed on a number of occasions from a dreary passageway to a yoga studio and even an outdoor movie theatre. (View the winning design video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv_aYRK9N34)

“It’s a space for beautification that is not just superficial and aesthetic, but acts as an enabling environment for citizens to take ownership of the space,” said Alexandra Jongens, one of the innovators behind Barrack Lane and who describes herself as a public space activist. “The City of Cape Town and CCID are both very supportive of the project.”

Two years’ ago on the other side of town, advocate and awardwinning author Andrew Brown and his partner Advocate Norman Arendse purchased premises in 10 Venken Lane and at their own cost beautified the lane, which  is in a prime position, linking the legal precinct with the High Court in Keerom Street to cosmopolitan Long Street.

Says Brown: “We’ve put in signage, which now mirrors the signage of the silversmith opposite us. This, together with cobblestones and enormous flower pots now all work together to give the lane a quaint and ‘lived in’ feel. Lots of people have commented on how pleasant it is to walk down the lane and far more people now use it as the pedestrian way it was meant to be.

“It was important to us that the lane should be safe to use, clean and aesthetically pleasing, not only for us to work here, but also as part of the city’s heritage. We wanted to make sure that it retained an urban-friendly character. The lane goes back to the days when Keerom Street and Venken Lane formed the red-light district of Cape Town. Now,” smiles Brown, “it‘s the legal precinct!”

Besides improving the look and feel of a space, attracting businesses, visitors and homebuyers, beautification efforts in the Central City also provide employment opportunities.

Explains Evangelinos: “Business owners can make use of Straatwerk Ophelp Projekte an organisation that partners with the CCID to provide some or all of the labour requirements for a pavement beautification exercise.

“Notable instances of this partnership are the remarkable improvement of the centre island in Spin Street and the greening improvements in Jetty Street. All of which were done and are maintained by Straatwerk’s team. These opportunities, managed through OPHELP, the CCID and many other partners are currently giving more than 200 people work in beautification as well as other projects such as road maintenance and cleaning” says Evangelinos.

Depending on the scale of the work to be done, certain permissions may need to be obtained from the City of Cape Town. “For example, says Evangelinos, “the improvement may require permits from the City Roads & Stormwater Department, the Electricity Department of even Telkom. However the CCID can always be contacted for advice on which permissions may be required.  Our Urban Management team have this information available.

“Urban parks, greenwalls, beautiful pavements and green streets will contribute to making Cape Town’s Central City into an inviting, livable, sustainable place and we urge businesses and property owners to work with the City of Cape Town to make a difference to their properties.”

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