At the end of last year, the Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) was formed. Basically, Voortrekker Road needs improvement. The GTP aims to catapult the Goodwood-Parow-Bellville corridor from potential to prosperity. They aim to emulate the Cape Town Partnership’s success in the Cape Town CBD: make it safer, improve urban management, attract investment and create jobs. The GTP plans to change Voortrekker Road’s reputation, turning it into a ‘boomburb’ and commercial node of the Cape Town metropolitan area by 2040.
A boomburb, or edge city, is a burgeoning business, shopping and entertainment precinct, outside the traditional CBD; often in a city with a decentralised, low-density character. Simply put, a boomburb has many more jobs than beds, becoming a bona fide commercial hub.
Could it work? Will it become Cape Town’s next improvement district success story, or are there too many challenges? We’ve put together five reasons why this plan has the potential to succeed and five weaknesses that might prevent it.
#1 More affordable property values
Property in Cape Town’s CBD is becoming increasingly pricey. In Bellville, property is still relatively inexpensive. It could act as more accessible alternative to up-and-coming businesses and the young working class.
#2 Fewer heritage and geographical concerns
Cape Town can be restrictive. It is bounded by the ocean and mountains, plus the architectural heritage of the historic CBD has to be conserved. Bellville has fewer restrictions, as sightlines, wind-tunneling effects and historic buildings pose less of an obstacle to development.
#3 Access to transport corridors
Bellville is well positioned along the Northern Line of Metrorail as well as the N1 to markets north- and eastwards. It is a more accessible node to external markets than Claremont, for example. At the edge of the metro, external access to the Bellville node requires little travel into the congested Cape Town freeway network.
#4 Access to human capital
Educated people are a key factor in the growth of cities. Voortrekker Road is sandwiched between the University of the Western Cape and the largely skilled labour force of the northern suburbs, ideally located where human capital already resides.
#5 Decentralisation of economic opportunity
Bellville can provide additional opportunities for economic inclusion, to people in the area, that work outside the formal economy. It brings formal economic activity closer to those who are excluded by the legacy of Apartheid spatial planning. The Bellville CBD and Voortrekker corridor can bridge the divide between the previously-advantaged-north and previously-disadvantaged-south.
#6 Urban blight and crime
The Voortrekker corridor, including the traditional Bellville CBD, has been neglected for decades. Urban decay has set in and capital has fled north of the N1 to the Tygervalley Durban Road corridor. Government, law enforcement and the private sector will need to work together to make the area safer and cleaner.
#7 Lack of diversity and cultural capital
Compared to the Cape Town CBD, Bellville can seem stagnant and boringly monocultural. It’s associated with poor aesthetics and many parts seem to be trapped in another decade. Cultural diversity has proven economic value, which means Bellville has to change its image and become more cosmopolitan.
#8 Transport capacity constraints
Although Metrorail and the N1 serve this corridor, there are capacity constraints to its growth. Metrorail still requires significant service improvements, MyCiti BRT investment is still a number of years off and the N1 has reached its carrying capacity. There is a lack of north-south transit routes, and the vital Durban Rd Interchange (exit 23) is poorly designed and becoming a choke-point. The R300 does not link the node to the investment potential or external markets northwards, such as the Saldanha Industrial Development Zone. Completing this missing link could give Bellville a logistical edge over Cape Town’s CBD.
#9 Demographic disincentive
Cities need entrepreneurs to grow; central Bellville has an abundance of them. The burgeoning Somali community has established a busy area of small business at the bottom of Durban Road. They may ultimately help Bellville become more multicultural, if appropriately integrated into the economy, especially in a country that struggles with xenophobia. A refugee community needs to be properly incorporated to prevent societal issues. If allowed to ferment, it could become a disincentive to potential investment.
#10 Capital flight
Luring investment back to Voortrekker Road might be difficult. Most of the affluent businesses, that were previously located here, have already firmly established themselves in other business nodes, like Tygervalley, Century City and even the Cape Town CBD. A new strategy to market the corridor to business pioneers, start-ups, empowerment enterprises and SMME’s will be required.