Friends of the Bellville Library have accused the City of Cape Town of wasting millions of rand on an “impractical” plan to upgrade Elizabeth Park and surrounds.
The group says the project’s R17 million price tag is a waste of money.
The project – to upgrade the park, build a nearby plaza and establish a coffee shop in the library – started in September last year and is due for completion next month (“Grand upgrade for Elizabeth Park,” Northern News, March 15).
The park has become rundown in recent years and home to drug dealing, public drinking, vagrancy, prostitution, theft and other ills, but Kristy Hansen, chairman of the Friends group, believes the City’s plan to fix the problems there is flawed.
“The Friends of the Library are of the opinion that the proposed upgrading of Elizabeth Park as an urban public space is idealistic and impractical, and that the proposed restaurant is not a viable business enterprise,” he said.
“There are no families living in the surrounding area… who would use the park over weekends. Have the compilers of the report done observations in the park and in the area over weekends? The current strong public perception that the park is a dangerous area will not be easily dispelled.”
The plan to build a new restaurant during the project was a huge expense to ratepayers and the city as a there was already a coffee shop in the library centre, he said.
But the City says the project is part of wider improvements to the Voortrekker Road corridor and is near a key transport hub. It also argues that it will boost visitor numbers to the library. These dropped by 30 000 from 2015 to 2016.
JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security and social services, said security was a priority and the project would make the area much safer.
“The upgrades include new pathways and lighting, river rehabilitation and the installation of CCTV cameras. A coffee shop will be set up in the library and a plaza will be built nearby,” he said.
Mr Hansen said there was a lack of parking in the area and the “dysfunctional” park could be better used as an “environmentally friendly parking area”.
But Mr Smith said the project would deal with the parking shortage.
“Efforts have been made to address some of the challenges pointed out with parking, such as the library staff parking being upgraded under this contract,” he said.