Turning Cape Town's freeways into livable cityscapes

2017-03-19 06:01

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Since 1977, three infamous highways in Cape Town – on the western, central and eastern side of the foreshore precinct – have been standing incomplete because the project ran out of money. That’s four decades ago.

But after years of promises to upgrade the rapidly deteriorating area surrounding the highways, the City of Cape Town is considering six private sector proposals for what the city is calling the Foreshore Freeway Precinct.

The incomplete highways have been used in various guises: as a political tool by the DA, which, in election campaign posters, famously promised to complete them; as props in various movies, fashion shoots and adverts; and as a landmark for residents and tourists in the city’s foreshore area.

As City of Cape Town urban planner Brett Herron recently said, they are almost as famous as Table Mountain itself. So, what to do with one of the city’s most iconic mistakes?

“Knock them down!” says Proposal A – one of six plans that are on exhibition until the end of the month at Cape Town’s Civic Centre, where the public are invited to view, comment on, and vote for their favourite option.

The six anonymous proposals, which the city has kept unbranded “because we need to protect the integrity of the public commenting process”, cross the gamut of what the six-hectare, 140m-wide area could be used for in two years’ time – when the project is scheduled to be completed.

Continuing development and “the need for affordable housing in this very desirable part of the city”, as the City of Cape Town puts it, are two of the main reasons behind the renewed interest in the project, for which the public were invited to submit proposals in June.

Reversing apartheid’s spatial legacy, helping to grow the local economy by linking transport and development, building a more inclusive city through better land use and relieving traffic congestion are other reasons for the R1.2 billion upgrade.

The Foreshore Freeway Precinct is also one of mayor Patricia de Lille’s “legacy” projects.

At the opening of the exhibition on March 6, De Lille said: “No mayor has ever attempted to deal with the unfinished bridges, and I would like it to be part of my legacy.”

She added that the precinct was one of the city’s five transit-oriented development projects that would stimulate development closer to the city’s new transport corridors.

The exhibition comes amid weeks of protests at the stalling of the Langa N2 Gateway housing project, a joint initiative between national, provincial and local government in which 700 homes were promised to residents, but now stand derelict.

Other hot topics in the city include the rapid gentrification of previously low-income areas such as Woodstock, and the city’s approval of a major new shopping mall in historic Bo-Kaap, which has raised the ire of global heritage organisations.

The lack of affordable housing in Cape Town has made the city unlivable for many.

Today, the city’s MyCiTi bus service will be free, which will enable the public to visit the exhibition, which is on the second floor of the Civic Centre. It is open from 8.30am to 4pm.

Proposal A

Removes the highways to make way for 4 000 affordable residential homes, eight green spaces, nine urban squares, three community halls and centres, 17 new leisure and sports fields, new MyCiTi stations, a school, a medical centre, a clinic, a counselling centre and a “world-class public urban park”.

Designers add that the freeways’ demolition will reduce peak-time traffic congestion by 60% – a big plus after a recent survey found Cape Town was the most congested city in the country – worse even than Johannesburg.

Proposal B

Continues the freeways into a continuous, sculptural loop, which the designers call an “iconic gateway”. It includes tunnels for the foreshore freeways, an iconic tower, 158 000m² of public open space and 400 000m² of residential space consisting of 4 400 homes, 1 000 of which are for the affordable rental market.

Also included in this proposal are 95 000m² of commercial space; 20 000m² of retail, educational and social facilities; a public art programme; and 12 000 parking bays.

Proposal C

Puts traffic at the centre of its vision, where it will finally complete the unfinished freeways, including a parking hub, dedicated lanes for MyCiTi buses, shared city bikes, electric cars, more water taxis and what the designers call an “iconic public space”.

Also included are 4 500 new apartments, a third of which are affordable. All in all, it intends to reduce traffic by 80% and the city’s fuel consumption by 25%.

Proposal D

Creates something similar to New York’s iconic High Line park, which is elevated above the street, by constructing five new city blocks that include international hotels, high-income flats, schools, mixed-income housing and an energy centre in the Foreshore Park, which raises the public space to create unobstructed views of the harbour.

The project also proposes a Harbour Walk alongside Nelson Mandela Freeway, which will extend cycle lanes and pedestrian use, and introduce trees to the freeway.

Proposal E

Called City Lift, this proposal drops the freeway to the ground, but elevates the city 10m above its current level, creating an immense park that extends to the harbour. The designers’ aim is “to reconnect the city to the sea”.

The proposal also creates 1 million square metres of residential development, nearly half of which will be affordable and includes social housing for professionals such as nurses and teachers.

Proposal F

This proposal completes the freeways and develops them, reportedly cutting current traffic volumes by two thirds.

Most importantly, it introduces a number of 49-storey, 143m-high apartment towers along the freeway, which will create 3 200 midmarket homes and 3 500 developer-subsidised units.

Read more on:    patricia de lille  |  cape town

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