Investing in cities of the future

Investing in cities of the future

by Warren Hewitt

The UN reports that 70% of people will be living in cities by 2050. This will have a direct impact on how cities are planned, built and managed. Cities will need to adapt to accommodate the needs of growing urban populations. Resources, infrastructure, mobility and economic opportunities will become even more important than they are today. With constrained opportunities for outward expansion and finite resources, cities will need to consider how they can be reimagined, and repurposed, rather than built from the ground up.   

To sustain itself as a thriving centre, the city of the future needs to provide sufficient infrastructure, connections and innovation that can sustain the increasing demands of the people who live and work there. Residents will need to live closer to their places of work. Employers will need to harness technology to offer more sustainable work practices.  

To reimagine today’s city into a vibrant urban hub requires a detailed analysis of what already exists and a sound strategy to support the vision of what could be their future. As an important node that feeds the transport and economic infrastructure of Cape Town, Bellville is no different. Bellville has all the ingredients for a successful urban transition that will secure its future for this and the next generation, and beyond.  

In its current form, the economic centre of Cape Town’s northern suburbs already has the infrastructure to able to do that. Each day, over 300 000 commuters pass through the Bellville transport interchange. Its business environment caters for micro-entrepreneurs, small and medium businesses and global corporates. Existing buildings with large floorplates are available for high-density employment operators such as the business process outsourcing sector. And students are able to find reasonably priced accommodation close to the ten educational institutions where they study.  

However, there is yet more to be done to transform Bellville into a thriving, prosperous and inclusive African city.  

 It starts with spatial planning and infrastructure. The City of Cape Town, which recently confirmed its funding for the GTP’s next three-year operational cycle, is continuing to develop its planned investments in the Public Transport Interchange. This includes the upgrade of the Blue Downs rail corridor, scheduled to happen over the next five to eight years. These are vital projects that will stimulate economic growth and strategic densification.  

Other privately funded developments are also leading the reinvention of the city centre. Projects like the R2bn upgrade of the Parow Centre, a transit-oriented development by a private developer, will bring an additional
95 000m2 of commercial and retail space, and 1 200 affordable housing units to the area. Similarly, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has earmarked millions of rands of investments in Bellville over the next three years. UWC’s new Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, which formally opened on 23 July, is the start of that wave.  

But these are long-term projects that need to be underpinned by shorter-term gains. Smaller developments, cultural programming, community activations and technology solutions have a role to play. Urban transitions are incremental. Each isolated idea serves and supports a matrix of steady adjustments that will ultimately form a sustainable platform to support a connected community living and working in a vibrant, inclusive and prosperous 24-hour city.   

The GTP’s role in Bellville is to facilitate these developments. This is a critical aspect of the work it does, because urban renewal cannot be delivered by one entity alone. Whether large or small, each project and innovation, delivered in collaboration with committed partners, will shape Bellville into an African city of the future.  

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