Bellville has the potential to become the next big economic hub in Cape Town. That’s the word from business leaders and government representatives who attended the Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) conference, last week.
More than 160 people attended the one-day event, now in its sixth year, at Century City. The annual conference brings together industry stakeholders, government and organisations to discuss development in Bellville.
This year’s conference took place under the theme, “Why Bellville?”, prompting participants to explain why they see Bellville as an opportunity hot spot.
GTP chief executive officer Warren Hewitt said Bellville had great potential as the second economic node to Cape Town.
“We have to work collectively to define the planning process. To this end, we are calling on partners from the area and beyond who can assist us in nurturing new ideas and change-making projects. Bellville is an exciting space to be in so let’s talk,” said Mr Hewitt.
Bellville is Cape Town’s second central business district, home to university campuses, hospitals and a large number of financial and corporate institutions.
Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said the area was in urgent need of urban renewal.
“Businesses should also reflect the diversity of the area and its people – ranging from small businesses and informal traders working near to transport routes, to coffee shops and restaurants, retail and services that would reflect that Bellville is, in fact, a second CBD.
“With all of this in place, there is excellent potential to improve the economy of the area, create a large number of jobs and contribute to easing congestion on Cape Town roads,” he said.
Like any area with a thriving business district, Bellville comes with challenges. Hennie Koekemoer, chairman of the Bellville Community Policing Forum, said residents welcomed plans to develop the region, hoping they would improve safety.
“There are thousands of people moving through Bellville daily, there’s a massive taxi rank with its own problems, street lighting is poor in the area and like any CBD, crime is a huge concern. So with this upgrade, we’re hoping that those issues are looked at to ensure business thrives,” said Mr Koekemoer.
The City of Cape Town said it had identified key areas to focus on to achieve its goals for Bellville.
“Key transport projects that lie ahead include the coordination of the public transport interchange in Bellville and Parow and an upgrade for the Blue Downs rail corridor, a project that has already received investment from national government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, and is projected to happen over the next five to eight years,” said Gershwin Fortune, acting commissioner of the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority.
The City also called for investment in Bellville’s economy and suggested there was an opportunity to do that with more affordable housing, especially student accommodation.
University of the Western Cape’s director of institutional planning, Lois Dippenaar, said the university planned to invest more than R420 million on infrastructure in Bellville over the next three years.
Small-business owners welcomed the plans but raised a few issues.
Ifaan Mohamed, who runs a store in Church Street, said the centre of Bellville was becoming too congested.
“We need the City to open up new space for people to trade. There are informal traders sometimes in front of our business, and that is not good, that needs to change.”
Hilda Masibanda, an informal trader who sells clothing, complained about the crime in the area.
“They rob us here when it gets dark. There’s little security, and police are no help because we’re foreigners,” she said.
The City said it was also working on plans to invest in public spaces, install wi-fi and improve security in Bellville.