Excitement about Portside turns to suspicion

Statement prepared by Andres de Wet (Founder, Breede Valley Partnership) and Issued by Andres de Wet and Rashiq Fataar (Editor, Future Cape Town)

The City of Cape Town is currently drafting the much debated and anticipated Tall-Buildings Policy. In a city, where anything new is met with skepticism and where NIMBYs often charge developmental issues with emotion, we should be doing our utmost to win over the average, skeptical Capetonian. I stated in my Tall-Buildings Policy submission (Part 1 and Part 2) that we have to cultivate a city that embraces progress. We must educate the average city-citizen that we need, not only a natural location that amazes, but an urban structure that amazes.

The initial excitement I held for the development of Portside has changed to suspicion. This is indeed a milestone for our inner-city development, a coup for the Cape Town Partnership’s efforts and one that could propel our skyline to new heights, figuratively and literally. Whilst we’re attempting to draft a Tall-Buildings Policy that is based on transparency, excellence-in-design and one that enhances the urban fabric, we have our tallest building going up in secrecy. The rendering posted on the construction site and website actually looks nothing like the interim releases. I would even gander a guess, the building looks like a completely different project altogether.

How can we gain the public’s confidence in a “tall” future for Cape Town, if our developers act in a clandestine manner. Where are the final renderings? Where is the public consideration in erecting a structure that will alter Cape Town’s foreshore for the foreseeable future? Judging by recent, interim renders, the building has certainly been value-engineered to the point of being nothing more than a shorter copy of the Heron Tower in London or the World Tower in Sydney. I hope I’m proved wrong by the final renders, but something that resembles the interim renders would definitely not pass the test of being worthy of World Design Capital 2014 praise. It may not even pass the approval process of a proposed Tall-Buildings Committee. I’m hoping the constant delay in releasing renders is not an ominous sign that developers are embarrassed by what will be released or are afraid of a public backlash.

Is this delay in the releasing renders going to set a precedent for our Tall-Buildings Policy? Are we not going to demand final renders before construction commences? Are we going to approve buildings blindly, or allow developers as many revisions as they wish, till the actual project no longer resembles the approved renders? If we hope to gain public trust, we need to nip this in the bud and now, before one project sways public opinion and stifles future development.

For us to effectively plan the Cape Town of tomorrow, we must see final renders prior to construction commencing; one must see what we’re approving or building before we can intelligently and pragmatically make decisions that will enhance our city’s skyline and urban fabric.  For us to effectively sway the ever development-wary Capetonian that “tall” is the way to go, we must be able to paint a clear picture of the CBD’s future in a transparent manner. For us to be a city worthy of global design praise, we need to design cost-effectively, but also intelligently and sensitively. Value-engineering future icons, to a point where all architectural merits are killed by developers needs to maximize profit, is not only going erode public trust, exacerbating the NIMBYism epidemic, but is going keep our city a global design and business investment backwater.

I hope Capetonians will be given the opportunity to see their future and see it soonest.

Media Enquiries:

Media Office, Future Cape Town