Highway to heaven or ... ?

2018-02-20 06:00

New freeways, residential units and affordable housing are all part of the proposal by a qualifying bidder to transform the Foreshore.

The City of Cape Town has announced a qualifying bidder for Foreshore Freeway Precinct development.

Seven proposals were received from the private sector by the submission date of 9 February last year.

After an initial screening, six proposals were exhibited for public participation.

Mitchell Du Plessis Associates (MDA) is the qualifying bidder for the development of the Foreshore Freeway Precinct.

MDA’s proposal entails the completion of the unfinished sections of the freeways and proposes a combination of approximately 3200 market-related residential units and a minimum of 450 affordable residential units.

Room for improvement

However, Dr Lisa Kane, an honorary research associate at UCT’s Centre for Transport Studies, says while the proposal has its merits, there are still a number of areas that could be improved.

Kane says the scheme would alleviate a bottleneck at Buitengracht for a short time, but “any informed transport planner knows that road schemes are not a solution to urban road congestion”.

“Roads can and do alleviate local bottlenecks in the short term, but bottlenecks then become relocated elsewhere in the network. Road schemes also release pent up demand for car travel and this in turn increases overall road network congestion.

“Urban congestion cannot be solved but only managed. The only means of significantly reducing road congestion is through pricing of road use or rationing of cars on the road,” she explains.

It is proposed that the market-related residential units be located in 11 new tower blocks, between 63 m and 143 m tall.

The towers will extend across four precincts within the Foreshore area on the strip of land between the new freeways.

According to the proposal, the different heights and location of the towers will ensure the views of Table Mountain and the sea are retained.

The tower blocks will rest on podiums which will also partially support the new freeway viaducts.

The new viaducts or fly-overs will be higher than the existing freeways.

The proposed podiums beneath the highways will accommodate the bulk of the affordable residential units, parking bays, convenience and speciality shops, retail space, and community facilities.

Scale mattersThe scheme could potentially increase the number of residents in the CBD but the scale of the investment concerns Kane.

“What will be the cost of these apartments? Could they become a target for speculative property investors, thus creating dead space at great cost to the City?

“The proposal for 450 low cost units in the CBD is welcome but the question is whether the contribution needed from the City for this project could be used better.

“Could the City contribution needed actually build more affordable housing units for the same cost to the City? How much ‘subsidy’ for this scheme will the developer require­?”

The core development area is around 6ha of City-owned land under and between the unfinished freeways on the Foreshore.

The other potential development sites the Ebenezer road maintenance depot; the MyCiTi Prestwich bus depot; the Gallows Hill traffic centre; and the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) parking garage. All of these properties are owned by the City.

According to a statement by the City, the qualifying bidder’s proposal is “ecologically sensitive and addresses the impact of the development on the environment with water, energy, and lighting design solutions”.

Urban impactKane has also raised concerns about the impact the proposal will have on the urban space.

“The proposed new freeways along the foreshore are twice the height of the existing roads and will block the sky from pedestrians at ground level in that area.

“ This proposal, unlike many of the others, offers a bleak prospect for anyone on foot in the area,” she says.

The proposal “effectively turns its back on the sea” and could remove possible linkages between the CBD and the sea, she says.

“In my view the design is the least innovative or creative of the bids submitted. It simply continues the vision of the 1960s highway designers for a car-oriented foreshore at great cost to the possibilities of a developing a truly iconic area as an asset for the city in the long term.”

The build costs of the core development are estimated at R8.3 bn. It is anticipated that the building work could commence in 2020.

In the next step, negotiations to conclude an agreement between MDA and the City will commence as soon as practically feasible after expiry of the period provided for bidders to lodge any disputes. Following this, MDA will have to finalise an investment plan and secure the financing for the project.

The final award to MDA will be subject to the successful conclusion of this process.

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