V&A Waterfront launches Clocktower Building revamp

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mooi_kiekies/

According to the V&A Waterfront website, the Clocktower Precinct is set to undergo “exciting change” which will see the precinct “evolve into a vibrant hub of activity, fusing heritage, shopping, restaurants, arts, culture and business in a spectacular harbour environment.”

A rethink, or reimagination of the Clocktower building, but more importantly, the broader Clocktower Precinct has been long overdue, in terms of the connection to both the V&A Waterfront via a pedestrian bridge, and its imminent role as a vital link to the Central City. More recent plans suggest an IRT station near or at the existing Silos Building, while plans dating back to the unsuccessful 2004 Olympic bid included a light rail station at the Silos Building.

Key to the evolution and redevelopment success of the precinct will be to create a vibrant, exciting, cultural, entertainment and buisiness hub, which gives meaning to the precinct as a new Gateway into the V&A Waterfront.

In its current state, the Clocktower Precinct can be be described as “quiet” and disconnected from the remainder of the V&A Waterfront This is to some extent, due to the lack of activity in and around the site and building, and the post 5pm departure of the major corporates based in the area. (Recently confirmed by my attendance at the Tourism Destination Conference at the Atlantico Imbizo conference venue)

The office component is described as “prestigious” and a “rare opportunity” boasting “majestic views from large balconies and terraces”. The above description is perhaps generic when compared to the authenticity and uniqueness of the site, which is best described in the brochure;

The harbour continues to function as a full service port, imbuing the area with an authentic, vibrant atmosphere.

The description continues, highlighting some of the qualities or features of the offices, including the following below, which I will specifically consider.

· Close proximity to public transport hubs and freeways.
· Centrally located between the city centre adn the main hub of the Waterfront.
· Walking distance from Cape Town’s premier hotels

It is perhaps wishful to describe the site as “close to public transport”, when the nearest public transport is as far a the Table Bay Hotel, with no firm plans yet to introduce an IRT station near or at the Silos building. While access to freeways from the site via the Dock Road gateway, is a strength, serious consideration will need to be given to the potential extra traffic in and around the site, and the impact on connecting pedestrians to this precinct within the V&A waterfront. Existing peak traffic conditions already result in congestion at the traffic circle on Dock Road towards the City.

Its central location while a strength can only be fully exploited through a well planned strategy to reconnect the site to the City, requiring partnerhips from all levels of governments and in particular Port and Harbour authorities, which itself may be a nightmare. The ability to easily walk from the Clocktower Precinct to nearby Waterfront hotels is true to some extent but further work will be needed to ensure that pedestrian movements towards the city are planned and well though-out, further highlighting the need for a full “reconnection” plan to the City Centre, and surrounds.

Perhaps the revamp of this existing building, is just the start of a much needed, and long awaited Clocktower Precint regeneration. One can hope.