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Major development node slated for Stranfontein

The neglected, derelict Strandfontein Pavilion has been earmarked to become a new mixed use development node featuring almost 1,200 residential units with retail and ecologically sensitive recreational facilities to banish the resort’s apartheid origins.

Currently isolated from Strandfontein’s urban edge, it is hoped the development will spur further private investment in the surrounding area, upgrading the under-used False Bay coastline between Muizenberg and Strand.

Although the pavilion, with its vast tidal pool, beach and picnic areas is currently run-down, under-utilised and unsafe, the authors of the City’s Conceptual Development Framework, which has been fast-tracked by Cape Town’s new mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, interviewed key stakeholders over three workshops, and note that it nonetheless holds a place in the memory of those in nearby neighbourhoods, from when it was a vibrant destination during the ‘80s and ‘90s.

The plan they have devised, is to keep the tidal pool and part of the existing pavilion, re-establish the adjacent canalised river, and make it a place where people want to live by building four and seven-storey residential blocks with courtyards that let the sun in.

The current entrance from Baden Powell Drive on to Strandfontein Road will remain, with a another, main entrance off Baden Powell to Leukannon Drive about 500m further on. While basement parking space for residents is included, the plan is to develop the precinct with a focus on pedestrian movement, with retail spaces on the ground floor of all the residential buildings, and a terraced picnic area on the slope up from the tidal pool on the west side. Further job opportunities can be created with the possibility of an aquaponics and container fish farm on the east of the adjacent river.

The authors from the City’s Urban Planning and Design Department have considered sea level rise, the prevailing southeasterly winds and shifting sand, incorporating “sponge” landscaping allocated to recreational use, with “sacrificial infrastructure” that is “sensitive to the ecological needs of its function as well as allowing people access to the beach and tidal pool. Infrastructure that can be dismantled and relocated if necessary, such as braai areas, pergolas, action courts, skate parks, and beach huts are included within the 100 year floodline, as well as space for short term structures such as concert stage scaffolding and weekend seaside market stalls. Dune grasses would have to be planted and irrigated to prevent shifting sand impacting the buildings above the flood line.

Of the 1,196 proposed residential units, 287 (15%) would be for first time home buyers earning between R3,500 and R22,000 a month qualifying for the Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP). These units would range from R135,000 to R185,000. The rest, going up to a proposed R3,6m, would be on the open market.

Convenience shops which accommodate swimming, surfing, fishing, and food-related activities are proposed across more than 15,000 square metres of retail space, with the planners also making accommodation for a 100-bed hotel to be built within the precinct at a later stage.

Their sustainability studies show that while the City would have to spend almost R340m to create an inviting prospect for private developers, the completed precinct would contribute more than R140m to City coffers per annum in the form of rates and service charges, with an annual maintenance expenditure of R56m, as facilities such as the tidal pool and pavilion would still have to be managed by the City.

Artist’s impression of the proposed development at Strandfontein Pavilion.

While the ambitious project hopes to spark development between neighbouring Pelican Park and Strandfontein at a later state, there is a caveat that a biodiversity corridor along the west of Strandfontein Road needs to be preserved as there is a species of butterfly there which are found nowhere else in the world. According to the study, there are only about 50 of them.

Deputy chair of the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents Association, Michael Jacobs, who is also a Strandfontein resident, said the development is welcomed. However, Jacobs said the City must look to developing the whole False Bay coastline up to Monwabisi so as to “unlock” tourism and infrastructure in the area.

“We want investment in the billions to come in so there can be work opportunities linked to skills development and not just a little development around the pavilion.”

He said the coastline from Strandfontein to Monwabisi should become a tourism hub able to compete with Muizenberg and Camps Bay.

He said Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha had “huge unemployement” and such development would stimulate the local economy.

The residential component of the Strandfontein development was welcomed as there is a pressing need for housing, but new schools, hotels, and other facilities where also needed.

While public participation had been satisfactory so far, he said the City needed to ensure they continued to engage with all stakeholders so further development could be “a win-win” for everyone.

Speaking generally, rather than specifically about the Strandfontein proposal, Development Action Group programme director Helen Rourke said mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis appeared to be pushing for the acceleration of land release for affordable housing generally, and entering into partnerships with non-profit organisations and private developments where the profit margins for private developments alone would not be sufficient.

She said the City was conducting land assessment and preparation work beforehand to develop a very clear idea of the development intention. “That’s been a postive,” said Rourke, “previously they would have just disposed of the land, now there’s a greater mix and they’re being more intentional when they are leveraging their own land into these transactions. I think it’s a good way to go.”

She said the biggest concern was the extent to which the public was engaging in the planning process, but the City “seems serious” about public participation, although the bureaucratic nature of the process meant their was always a danger of it becoming “a tick-box exercise”.

“It’s early days… we’re excited, but cautious.”

The comment period for the Conceptual Development Framework ends on 31 January, but a city planning official, speaking outside of formal media channels, said there would still be numerous opportunities for the public to comment as the plans would need to be presented to subcouncils, and further processes, such as Environmental Impact Assessment and rezoning applications, amongst others, would have to be adhered to. Jacobs urged all stakeholders to engage with further public participation processes.

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