Plans for the R8bn development of Cape Town’s Foreshore have been slammed by experts, who say they violate the City’s own transport policy.
The qualifying bidder for the development of the Foreshore freeway precinct, Mitchell Du Plessis and Associates (MDA), plans to finish the freeway, elevate it above the height of Nelson Mandela Boulevard, and build 11 tower blocks between the sections of the boulevard for housing at market-related prices, and 10 more buildings on the northern edge closest to the harbour, for affordable housing, says a GroundUp report.
In all, 3 650 residential units are proposed, 450 of them for affordable housing. Most of these appear to be situated below the elevated freeways.
Honorary research associate at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Transport Studies, Dr Lisa Kane, said the proposal went counter to the City’s Draft Comprehensive Integrated Transport Plan 2017 – 2022.
The City’s plan was to promote public transport over private vehicles, yet MDA’s proposal appeared to favour private cars, she said.
Kane said there seemed to be no policy justification for MDA’s proposal, which in her view was “the least innovative or creative of the bids submitted”.
“It simply continues the vision of the 1960s highway designers for a car-oriented Foreshore at great cost to the possibilities of a developing a truly iconic area as an asset for the city in the long term,” she said.
Along with concerns about the lack of transparency and allegations of mismanagement of the bid, she said the proposed new freeway offered “a bleak prospect for anyone on foot in the area”.
The proposed freeway was “twice the height of the existing roads and will block the sky from pedestrians at ground level”.
Kane questioned how the R8.3bn scheme would be funded and whether the contribution required from the City for the provision of 450 affordable housing units could not be better used.
“Could the City contribution needed actually build more affordable housing units for the same cost to the City? How much ‘subsidy’ for this scheme will the developer require?” she asked.
The bird’s eye view provided by the developers was misleading, she said, and ground level visuals were needed to assess the impact of a proposed development that “turns its back on the sea and effectively removes any longer term future possibilities of linkages between the CBD and the sea”.
What the City asked for
The original prospectus allowed bidders to complete or demolish the unfinished freeways as they chose, but emphasised the proposed development must:
- be “attuned to the social and cultural realities of the city”;
- “unlock connectivity” within the city centre;
- address congestion challenges;
- be “iconic and clearly able to build the international brand and identity of Cape Town”; and
- deliver “tangible and affordable housing solutions integrated with the other land uses”.
The prospectus said there should be mixed use of the land, including transport, affordable housing, the creation of social and economic opportunities, and the provision of open space.
Blocking off the sea
It’s a surprise this bid was chosen,” said Professor Vanessa Watson at the UCT School of Architecture, Planning, and Geomatics. “It violates just about every criteria the City set up at the beginning for what the achievement of the project should be.”
Watson said the provision of 450 affordable housing units was “miniscule” and would make no impact on the spatial segregation of the city. She said another bid offered 4 000 affordable housing units.
MDA’s proposal would supply more high-end apartments which would worsen spatial segregation, she said.
Bidders had been asked to preserve the historical uniqueness of Cape Town and enhance the character of the city, yet the proposal “looks like a copy of Shanghai or Singapore”.
“It is a wall of towers between the city and the sea,” she said.
Watson said building more roads encouraged the use of private vehicles, resulting in worse congestion. As a result, Cape Town was “probably the only city in the world completing its elevated freeways rather than taking them down”.
The qualifying bid also did not provide public facilities and amenities or any mixed-use environment beyond residential and retail.
Following the announcement of the qualifying bid, Mayco Member for Transport and Urban Development Brett Herron stated that the proposed development “will provide residential units to a diverse cross-section of income groups, inclusive of affordable housing opportunities”.
A press release from the City media office states that the core development will cost R8.3bn, “largely funded” by the developer. “MDA proposes to complete the unfinished highways, and to finance or cross-subsidise the new roads and affordable residential units through the development of upmarket and mid-market residential units.”
With 3 200 market-related units, each will have to sell for an average of R2.6m to break even, assuming costs do not escalate.
According to the chair of the bid evaluation committee, Paul Vink, affordable housing “refers to unsubsidised rental housing for those with a monthly income of between R7 500 and R15 000”.
Thus on the face of it, the Foreshore precinct will consist of retail outlets and upmarket housing units commanding views of the city and harbour, with some affordable units clustered below the level of the freeway at the northern end of the docks.
We asked the City to respond to the criticisms described in this article. Paul Vink (chair of the Bid Evaluation Committee) replied:
“The announcement of a qualifying bidder has been made in respect of the outcome of the Stage 1 bid evaluation process.
“The identification of the qualifying bid bidder was carried out by a multi-disciplinary Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) comprised of senior officials with expertise in the fields of Urban Integration, Urban Development Investment, Integrated Transport, Human Settlements, Property Management, Finance and Supply Chain Management. The BEC scored a matrix of 18 scoring elements grouped into four separate returnables (evaluation criteria) for each of the bids under consideration. In the final analysis, the qualifying bidder submitted the only bid that was responsive to all of the returnables under consideration.
“However, this announcement does not conclude the process.
“After expiry of the period provided for bidders to lodge any disputes, objections, complaints and queries, Stage 2 of the evaluation process will commence. MDA will have to finalise an investment plan and secure the financing for the project, determine the phasing and dependencies, and refine their technical parameters, among others.
“The Stage 2 process will also inform the statutory and other approval processes, as well as formal public consultation processes, that will take place in accordance with all applicable legislation and City policies.
“The public, interested and affected parties, will therefore have opportunities to comment in terms of the processes still to follow.”