10 reasons why Bellville could boom or bust

By Rossouw Nel and Andres de Wet

Render of future Bellville CBD

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

Aerial view of Voortrekker Road

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

Section from Illustrated Map of Heritage Landmarks in Cape Town

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

Map showing Bellville as transport hub

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

Cropped photo of University of the Western Cape

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

Informal trading

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

Clean up in Bellville

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

Photo of Vootrekker Road

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

Metrorail train leaving Bellville

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

Somali traders in Bellville

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

Santam office in Tygervalley

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.


There are 10 comments

  1. Roger Freeman

    I believe that it has a very positive future
    ahead of it. with proper planning, development does not only have to be restricted
    to the Voortrekker but also in the direction of the students
    at UWC and CPUT. The integration of
    communities, Foreigners, locals and students is vital. Business will
    strive if the market returns. The first step is to clean up the CBD, take
    advantage of the massive public transport exchange and breathe life into the
    currently choking abyss

  2. Gareth Pearson

    I think it certainly has potential, but aiming for “more jobs than beds” would be silly. More jobs AND more beds would be a better move. Mixed-use transit oriented development along Voortrekker Road has so much promise. This was highlighted in the Spatial Development Framework (attached). Looking at Cape Town’s CBD and the CTP for inspiration is great, but Cape Town’s CDB is still very much a day-time office park. It dies at night, and that is something that is now being emphasised by the CTP (or at least at the resent iZimvo zase Kasi event). Let there be commercial activity in the day, and with residents there at night. There’ll be more jobs, the area will be more attractive, and it will certainly stand a better chance of working. The minds amongst the sprawl may not be in the right place to consider this yet, but they should. Who knows, maybe they are. Either way, first steps, like in Cape Town, would be to clean it up and make it safe.

    1. OSlOlSO

      I agree with you on the more jobs and more beds statement. Jobs > beds just leads to another shopping mall city centre.

  3. Jean Meyer

    Bellville needs to be made into an independent metro again. So that it has an executive council committed to making it a thriving city again. Cape Town may be the best metro in the country, but they need to focus on the suburbs and not just the CBD. They should have rolled out the MyCiti service to the northern suburbs ages ago. Most of the people that live in these suburbs work in the city CBD. But this definitely has potential to make a positive change.

  4. Derek Bock

    This is one of the reasons why the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District (VRCID) came into being in July 2012. Like all other City Improvement Districts (CID’s) in Cape Town, we concentrate on the “clean and safe” aspect. Might I be so bold as to say that change is noticeable in terms of “crime and grime”? Together with the Greater Tygerberg Partnership, we will turn this area around for the good. Think what the Cape Town Partnership and Central City CID did in the CBD of Cape Town; we need to emulate that here as well. It is for this reason that the GTP and VRCID share the same offices and will, as soon as a CEO has been appointed, work even more closely together. The one cannot succeed without the other.

  5. Schalk Burger

    Talk is cheap: It’s money that buys the whiskey.
    Everyone is making plans and planning holistically. Everyone shouts:”Ra Ra” on the band wagon. Few go as far to even pick the dirt from under their fingernails.
    This is a very good and very positive development, but the constraints to development must be clearly identified and honestly addressed>
    Stand up, Bureaucracy, and be counted.

  6. VryeDenker

    Yes, what bellville needs is more foreigners selling baubles by day and drugs by night.

      1. MavusiKenpachi

        Enough of them do that it is a very real problem. And inviting more of them into Bellville will make the problem worse.

  7. Head in hands

    It’s a shame that two year on since this article; the situation has only got worst in
    Bellville! It’s impossible to sell property in the area because the banks don’t grant bonds to people who want to buy in the area. It’s a vicious circle –
    people are unable to move away from the area and people who are willing to buy
    in the area can’t either – so what did we end up with? Gangs and criminals have moved in and are taking control of gated communities and neighbourhoods.
    This leaves property owners unable to even let their property because poor rent payments and property vandalism is a regular occurrence.

    How are we supposed to empower previously disadvantage people if the banks don’t want to lend them the money to get on the property ladder?

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