Framework vision for Somerset Hospital Precinct points to a mixed-use future

The 10,5 ha Somerset Hospital precinct, which has been embroiled in oily controversy, after controversy, and has seen precinct plans for social housing, and bold new ideas for property regeneration, could see a another chapter be written into its history of under-, or in fact no development.

The site is located in the enviable position at the intersection of the V&A Waterfront and Green Point Common, is within walking distance of the City Centre and Green Point, is adjacent to Cape Town Stadium, and is also linked to both the Granger Bay and Stadium MyCiti stations. It is therefore arguably one of the most valuable land parcels in the metropolitan region.

Currently the site as a whole is underutilized and consists of a large complex of existing buildings including the Somerset Hospital, which also offered its rooftop to the BBC as a studio for the duration of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

According to the website of Cape Town based architecture firm, ARG,  they were approached by the Western Cape government in 2011 to prepare a development framework that would enable the government to realise optimum value from long-term leasing of the Somerset Hospital precinct.

The initial brief by the Western Cape government noted that there are a number of buildings with heritage value, in particular the old Somerset Hospital, that “would have to be sensitively integrated into future designs for the site”. Six significant heritage buildings were identified for preservation on the site and the remainder were approved for demolition by Heritage Western Cape

The brief also stressed the importance of visually and spatially integrating the site with the city, the V&A Waterfront and the Green Point area.”Sufficient linkages, both pedestrian and vehicular, have to be provided across the site to ensure integration with the Waterfront towards the north and east. Similarly visual linkages are to be taken into account with specific reference to the sea and the mountain”

In line with the vision to develop the site as a mixed use precinct, accommodating a range of publicly-oriented activities, ARG have identified a number of sub precincts that could be developed in different phases.. A bulk of ±250,000 square metres, is proposed for the site, assigned between the different precincts to take into account the existing land uses.

Key features of the development framework include a 36,000m2 new hospital in Precinct 3, next to the old Green Point race track, re-use of heritage buildings for different purposes, 50,000m2 of office space, 21,000m2 of retail space and 145,000m2 of residential space, including about 1,250 residential units of which 200 are social housing units.

However, one of the key elements of the brief, to consider the site edges and boundaries, in particular the creation of a suitable public interface with the Green Point Common, Granger Bay Boulevard and the stadium precinct, does not seem to be sufficiently addressed in the graphics made available at the ARG website. The stitching of the urban fabric across the site, and with the surrounding sites will be crucial to the success of the various developments, and its collective role as a mixed-used precinct in the city.

Other considerations would be the co-development of the opportunities made available by the logical rezoning of various aspects of Cape Town Stadium, and the development of the Granger Bay Boulevard edge of the Somerset Hospital site, potentially creating a High Street link to the V&A Waterfront.

Another chapter in the story of this site could be unfolding.

Image courtesy of DanieVDM at





There are 2 comments

  1. OSlOlSO

    This isn’t the only under-utilised property in Cape Town. Robben Island is currently being robben of so many potential (viable, sustainable and still conforming to UNESCO rules) uses. Again, there are many properties in Cape Town. The ideas and sustainable uses lie with the non-property developers and thinkers of our city.

  2. Brett Petzer

    This is an almost perfect site – it is going to require a masterstroke of planning in order to reach even the half of the potential it has. I think the 200 social housing units are a bit on the low side, if one imagines how much value and longevity could be added to a Granger Bay Boulevard High Street by three-storey walkups (especially for Waterfront workers and their families) but it’s a start. The terrible NIMBYs must be thwarted somehow, and the inevitable development of this site – were it to succeed, even modestly – would begin to weaken their case for keeping the Stadium as is.

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