On November 12th, the Future Cape Town team attended the first of three “Design the City” seminars. This is the 3rd phase of the “Future Tyger” engagement process launched by the Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) – supported by the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme). Stakeholders were invited to discuss the future of the Voortrekker Road Corridor that stretches from the Salt River Circle to Stikland Bridge and includes the Bellville Central Area and the UWC/CPUT campus area.
This first seminar concentrated on the Western Area of the Corridor which includes Maitland, Kensington and Wingfield, and was an open and interactive brainstorm session and debate, which included the use of mapping, and 3D models.
The main challenge that the Western area of the Voortrekker Road Corridor faces is the disconnection between different communities and between different modes of transport, with one example being Century City station and Kensington. In general, the broader urban fabric is fragmented and divided by higher order highways, and streets, which impacts on the public realm and mobility networks.
This is an ongoing apartheid legacy, that the session and design proposals would seek to overcome. Moreover, the specificity of the areas around the intersection of the M5, Voortrekker Road Corridor, and surrounding communities is that it constitutes a hub of connections: main traffic arteries cross there as do the Liesbeek and Black River. In this sense, this part of Maitland should be the centre of mobility of Cape Town; a key area of transit between the CBD, the east, the north and the south. This could make the area a key element in the regeneration process of the area and as such, the main themes discussed during the seminar revolved around mobility, accessibility and connectability. Indeed, as Matthew Gray (urban designer and facilitator of the session) put it, regeneration is not only about urban planning; economic growth or the renewal of the institutions, but it is all these elements at the same time.
One of the focal points was the concept of urban acupuncture. This idea comes from Baron Haussmann and his plans for Paris in the 19th century: putting the accent on important nodes of roads to make the area legible, even though one is unfamiliar with it. This means creating a visible hierarchy between main and smaller roads and spaces, and by indicating important axes with monuments or other visual elements in the cityscape.
1. Park to station: Maitland Transport Interchange
In the modelling session, the focus was on Maitland train station that is disconnected from the Voortrekker Road Corridor, even though it lays next to it. The aim is to create a mixed-use high space around it that is to function as a kind of Maitland-CBD. By integrating this central area to further up the corridor, the public will experience the area more as a system.
The discussion about how to reconnect the station to the corridor focussed on the park area that is located in front of the station. There was a consensus about the fact that the recreational park should be a public space and that it has to be observed in that way. This means that the blank walls surrounding it must be activated (by informal trade in the short term for example). For the long run one idea would be to build a 5-story building to add eyes looking onto and over the space, and to direct the eye from the Corridor to the building, the station and back again.
Then the discussion revolved around the taxi rank. Taxi drivers now use the Voortrekker Road, but it should rather be in front or next to the station to increase mobility and taxi-use. Matthew Gray suggested to move the taxi rank to the side of the station and to use the space behind the rank to add shops and thus create activity. This way the rank is close to the station spatially, but not formally in front of it (that would disconnect the communication of the station with the open space in front of it).
2. River as a place: Black River Parkway
Another important element that was highlighted is that natural assets are always helpful if well used in regeneration programmes. This is why the Black River Parkway must be used in reconnecting communities and transport facilities with each other. It is important to develop walkable ways between train stations in this area, because people actually use them. Only if all the roads, walkways and train stations are linked to the corridor, the area will be opened up and congestion diminished.
This can be done by creating a “Salt rivièra” : the development of a leisure place on-site along the Black river. This idea stems from the observation that even though there is no formal infrastructure there, people go have lunch at the river side. The creation of an urban park-way with footpaths and leisure areas will draw people to the river as a destination itself. Thus the river can be used as a connection between these stations, as an alternative way to connect all the transport hubs to the Voortrekker Road Corridor.
3. Suburb to city: Century City Train Station
Urban acupuncture facilitates entries between communities, so that is where investment should go to. As stated in the introduction, the Century City train station is not recognized yet because it is not connected to the area behind it such as Maitland and Kensington. In order to reach the station from Century City, people have to pass through a very small, almost informal-looking crossway, which does not enhance its use. Moreover, on the other side the station is disconnected from the urban fabric of Kensington and Factreton, which isolates the latter two areas.
Century City currently has the second biggest office space outside of the Cape Town CBD, so it is a key area to connect (both to the city and to the backland) because of the high growth opportunities. This is also a reason why it is important to connect the N1 and Century City to the Voortrekker Road Corridor, in order to facilitate mobility (now people have to make detours) and thus enhance employment from these areas.