by Wendy Houwser

Mini City is a work in progress

Cape Town's new economic hub extends its urban edge further north

Cape Town's new economic hub extends its urban edge further north
Mini City is a work in progress

Six years in the planning, Wescape – Cape Town's biggest urban development project yet – is set to be built near Melkbosstrand on the city’s northwestern edge and will connect Atlantis to the city.

The project is the first mega-housing development since Mitchells Plain was established in the early 1970s.

The 3 100-hectare development is being driven by Cape Town-based private sector urban development company, communiTgrow, and will see 200 000 houses, 415 schools, 370 'public service facilities' such as libraries and clinics, and 15 sports complexes being built over the next 10 to 15 years.

Wescape is mainly focused on lower income groups – those earning between R4 000 and R6 000 a month. The population is expected to reach 800 000 by 2036.

The development has been discussed by the City of Cape Town and in January was sent to the provincial environment and planning department for zoning approval.

The drivers behind the R140-billion development include Bellandia, a property development company with a 46-year track record; ARG Design, the group of town planners and urban designers responsible for the integrated rapid transit system and new Cape Town Station; Ariya and Target Projects, the project management company behind the Cape Town International Convention City and the Cape Town International Airport upgrade; as well as Pact Developers.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said the new development would “unlock opportunities”, create jobs and connect Atlantis to the central business district.

“We’ve had a lot of discussion and robust debate about this development since the application came in,” she said.

“In November it was discussed by the council and sent to local government, environment and planning MEC Anton Bredell’s department for approval. That’s where the process is currently.”

De Lille said this was the city’s first major housing development and urban project since the establishment of Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.

“We are definitely very excited about the opportunities it will bring,” she said.

“The development will move the city’s urban edge further north. Currently, everything is squeezed between the ocean and the mountain in Cape Town. There is simply no space. I’m very glad that developing is being planned for that area.

“Along with this come jobs and a big injection for the city’s construction industry,” the mayor added.

CommuniTgrow chief executive Ruben Richards said construction would get under way as soon as the zoning was approved.

“We are in the hands of the local authorities. Once the zoning is approved, we can start with the bulk infrastructure and then the top structures,” he said.

CommuniTgrow has been working on the project for the past six years.

The development has been described as a 'mini city', which will be populated with clinics, schools, libraries and all necessary services.

The Wescape community development model incorporated industry, technology, food security, infrastructure, waste processing and energy reduction in a holistic way, Richards said.

“This is going to be something different and unique. People who move into houses at Wescape will also be able to work there. The aim is to create an economic hub there as well. It will also be a green village, safe and accessible.”

Richards said the project was born out of the necessity to develop affordable housing for lower income earners within proximity to work opportunities as well as social and educational precincts.

“By creating a community that has access to opportunities from work to community facilities, the social challenges often faced in long-established cities can be mitigated. Households having to travel long distances to work and the subsequent environmental impact is also further reduced,” he said.

“Inner city development is undoubtedly important and will continue to be part of the city’s development.

“However, the barrier to the success of inner-city housing to accommodate lower income earners is primarily the cost of land within the city parameters. Generally, the closer you are to work opportunities, the more you pay for property,” added Richards.

The project will be rolled out in phases once final approval is granted.

The environmental and planning approval process will take at least two years. An environmental impact assessment is under way.

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