Upgrade on course

2017-07-25 06:01

A R40m project to upgrade the Strand Street concourse, built as an underground pedestrian walkway in the early 1970s, is expected to be completed by the end of next month.

The concourse, owned by the City of Cape Town, is part of a broader network of underground walkways that are a pedestrian link between Cape Town station and the St Georges Mall, Woolworths, Old Mutual and Golden Acre shopping centres. It is currently undergoing a major retrofit.

The concourse allows for protected pedestrian movement across the busy Strand and Adderley streets.

A foot count conducted before the upgrade began revealed that about 62 000 people used the concourse every day. A third of these people used the concourse during the morning peak from 07:00 to 09:00, and 43% in the afternoon peak from 16:00 to 18:00.

This makes the concourse an “an integral thoroughfare to the CBD”, says Stuart Diamond, Mayco member for assets and facilities management.

“One can comfortably deduce that pedestrians make use of the concourse to avoid the heavy car traffic. They are able to move quickly without being hindered by traffic lights to get across the busy intersection. In addition, the concourse offers protection from the weather.”

The management of the concourse became fragmented as its status gradually shifted to that of an informal shopping centre. This led to the original purpose as a pedestrian thoroughfare being replaced by shopping activities over time, Diamond explains.

“Eventually this caused an overall collapse of a cohesive management system for the concourse that ultimately led to a decay of the infrastructure and deterioration of the lease management of the commercial ­activities.

“The City’s property management department stepped into the fold in 2012 and decided to consolidate all management functions of the concourse under its own control. A specialist consultant was appointed to conduct a feasibility study on the business model of the concourse.”

The recommendations of this study, coupled with the shortage of office space in the civic centre, resulted in the concourse being earmarked for use as municipal offices instead of being used as a shopping centre once again, Diamond says.

On completion, public services will include two community courts, municipal pay points, a centre management office and offices to accommodate the City’s departments of social development, building development management and environmental management, says Diamond.

“Thousands of residents make their way to the city centre on a daily basis and many previously made use of the concourse as a thoroughfare.

“It therefore makes perfect sense to have municipal services available within easy reach by taking services closer to our ­residents.

“I am sure that once the revamp has been completed the pedestrians will be back in their numbers to make use of this public space again which will be a lot more comfortable than it was before,” adds Diamond.

Carola Koblitz, communications manager of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), says the CCID is very excited about the upgrade.

“While we do not patrol the Strand concourse at all (it falls outside of our jurisdiction, belonging in part to the City and in part to a private property owner), we are aware that the concourse has deteriorated over the years and we believe that safety has been an issue. Anything that enables a better environment in that space both in terms of commuter and general public engagement as well as the safe passage of pedestrians through the CBD is a wonderful addition to the central city area,” she says.

Pedestrian-friendly development is vital to a CBD, says Koblitz. “In any vibrant CBD throughout the world, if you want people to use, enjoy and populate your streets, you must be pedestrian-focused first and foremost. Over the past few years, since the 2010 Fifa World Cup when the focus was first turned onto pedestrians in the central city, we have seen a number of roads become pedestrian and bicycle-prioritised and the redevelopment of the Strand concourse fits right into the vision that the City and the CCID have for the traditional CBD.”

Ward councillor Dave Bryant adds: “The refit of the Strand Street concourse is yet another exciting chapter in the story of the revitalisation of the CBD. The upgrades serve as an important recognition of public transport users who travel from other parts of the city daily.”

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