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Unfinished freeway gives way to Foreshore development

Development of Cape Town’s Gateway Precinct linking the Foreshore to Bo-Kaap, De Waterkant and the V&A Waterfront, which includes new housing, can now begin as land along lower Buitengracht Street has been released to the City by the provincial government.

After being held back for more than 40 years due to a road reserve along Buitengracht Street being kept by the provincial government for the unfinished Foreshore freeway, the 11,254 square metres of land was released to the City of Cape Town on 20 January. The City announced the release of the land on 14 February.

The land is made of vacant plots and parking lots along Buitengracht Street, held in line with a 1970s plan to create a ring road linking the Foreshore freeway – nicknamed “Solly’s Folly” for the plan proposed by city engineer Solly Morris – to Buitengracht Street between Walter Sisulu Avenue and Wale Street.

The release of the land comes after the City made the application to the province in May 2020 as the road reserve was “outdated and sterilised significant portions of developable land in this part of the central business district”, according to the City’s media statement.

The City media office stated the Urban Catalytic Investment branch of the City was now in the process of applying to the Development Management Department to rezone the land “to maximise the full development potential of these land parcels, among which for retail, commercial, and residential opportunities”.

The vacant land was identified in a proposal for well-located affordable housing published by housing activist organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi in 2019. The organisation identified 13,700 square metres of City-owned land along lower Buitengracht Street which could be developed to provide between 719 and 1,079 affordable housing units in eight to 12-storey mixed-use, mixed-income buildings. Ndifuna Ukwazi did not seem to be aware that most of the land they identified was being held in check by the provincial government at the time.

Researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, Nick Budlender, said the organisation would continue to push for affordable housing to be developed along the Buitengracht corridor.

Budlender said Ndifuna Ukwazi welcomed the release of the land, adding that it was “both desirable and possible” to use it to build a mixture of affordable and market rate housing.

He said the organisation stood by its 2019 proposals, but the number of units they proposed would need to be re-evaluated to come in line with current pricing models.

“The City needs to consult with social housing institutions and companies,” he said.

“Nothing has been decided as yet,” stated deputy mayor and mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Eddie Andrews

Andrews said the Buitengracht land was part of the Gateway Precinct long-term vision for phased implementation of projects for the western edge of the CBD, parts of the Bo-Kaap, and De Waterkant. This included “significant public realm improvements” along with “possible land disposals in line with the relevant and applicable planning policies”.

 He said opportunities for future development included the Strand Street Quarry as a possible community sports and recreation facility with infrastructure supporting tourism and employment; development of new pedestrian corridors and public parks linking Bo-Kaap, De Waterkant, V&A Waterfront, and the CBD. This vision included “a collection of new public squares linking Battery Park to Green Market Square. He invited the submissions of ideas and proposals for the land and stated he would announce when the public participation process was opened.  

The question of whether the Foreshore freeway will ever be completed remains open.

Mayco member for urban mobility, Rob Quintas, said the directorate was working on several proposals for the unfinished freeway.

“The work is still at a very early stage, as such, there is no further information available at this point in time,” stated Quintas.

In the five year integrated development plan 2022 – 2027, the City states it will “pursue the completion of the Foreshore freeway” as part of a Targeted Road Capacity Enhancement Project, and the Foreshore freeway remains listed under ‘Planned Roads and Streets’ in the Table Bay District Plan, while the development of the ‘Foreshore Freeway Precinct’ is listed as an opportunity.

The Cape Town State of Energy and Carbon 2021 report also states “a solution will be pursued” for the unfinished freeway, including the viability of completing the inner viaducts. The report also states public land in the Foreshore precinct can be used for housing provision in the inner city.

The one building that is situated on the former road reserve is the popular Fireman’s Arms pub, which was established in 1864.

Owner Kevin Phelan said upon hearing of the release of the land he wrote a letter to the City stating he’d like to buy the land on which the pub is situated to secure its future.

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