Design the City: Making the case for Bellville Central Area

The Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) closed the Design the City series of seminars on Friday 15 November with a final session dedicated to “Institutions: Learning & Health and Government Planning, Transport & Housing”. This session mostly focused on the Eastern and Southern area, that is; Bellville central and the UWC/ CPUT “Mega-campus”. Read Future Cape Town’s report on a similar session on the “Western Focus Area” here.


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A series of local district networks were identified which is understood as 400m walkability radius with mixed-use development such as public transport stations, ground floor retail, social and cultural amenties, and other services. This is all within 5-10 minute walk. Paul Wijgers, an urban designer at City Think Space, presented the general ambitions and therefore the potential evolution of designing cities. GTP appointed the services of City Think Space to facilitate discussion.

Five principles  identified as key considerations for a well designed city

  • Making Connections: Creating connection between the bigger part of the city, the different node of activities, especially in term of transit oriented development, we have to think about new ways to doing without cars. New options such as the MyCiTi bus system, cycle and pedestrian passages become more important.

  • The Grid: Street accessibility is a key factor to make the daily life easier. In the Voortrekker Road corridor, the grid is not functional and it raises safety and security issues. Great city streets such as London’s Oxford Street are great examples of how different uses come together.

  • The Street: Street design provides many opportunities and we have to re-think how corners are defined and how buildings face onto the street. When we have integrated and mixed use streets, ground floor level will promote an attractive and exciting new possibilities for retail, restaurants, cafes, and so forth.

  • Mixing it up: A new way of thinking about streets is to look through the eyes of the pedestrian. Accessing services and facilities in health care, education, culture, public transport or shops could fit into the 400m, or 5 minute walk, radius, but only if we can densify our cities and streets. Mixed use means more options and possibilities.

  • Space for all: In other great cities we are seeing how abondond infrastructure has become great public spaces. In New York, the High Line Park was transformed from a disused railtrack to a green and public space corridor. There are now talks of transforming abondonded underground tunnels too.

Local District Networks

Marking and identifying the interactions of a series of local district networks at 400m radiuses was a key characteristic of this “Design the City” session. Participants in the group considered what the impact would be of such a new look at the Voortrekker Road corridor. Local needs and aspirations have often been second to car-based development. But with this new perspective, we could potentially better plan and provide services to the greater community. In those higher dense residential areas without retail or supermarkets, development of opportunities are very strong.

After the presentations, the participants considered two sites in particular:

  1. Abrahams Street Park, If on the face this area seems deserted, it is in fact lodge a hidden grocery shop below the parking. This parking, located in a middle of a quite high density area, is one of the first area to renovate in the Future Tyger Project and it also currently being worked on as a World Design Capital park Project.
  2. The Intersection of Giel Basson and Voortrekker Road:This major intersection is now entirely dominated by cars and does not focussed on creating a sense of place. This route offers a great continuity from north to south. The intersection with Voortrekker Road should receive an iconic development to charaterise its unique qualities. This route is and should continue to be promoted as a priority mobility route with restricted development. Since traffic flows through here are significant, support for line haul public transport should be encouraged.

10 key ideas for the transformation of the Bellville Central Area

Shahid Solomon, the Executive Programme Director of the Greater Tygerberg Partnership, presented ten key ideas on Bellville as “Cape Town‘s second Metropolitan node. This node involves intensive innovation. The concentration of available land, universities, industries and a thriving community are core drivers to develop this as one of the most important hubs for the entire city-region.


The initial spatial argument was to identificate pockets and suitlands for redevelopment. Thereof, emerged about ten key ideas that has to be considerate.

  1. Manufacturing and Logistics Hub: Within 5 kilometers from Bellville CBD, the connection between the road (N1, N2 and R300), freight (back-of-port Marshalling Yard at Belcon), Air (Cape Town International Airport) and rail (Bellville station as the second busiest interchange) should be coordinated to advance an advanced manufacturing and logistics hub. There are huge regional implications.

  2. Aerotropolis: Cape Town International Airport is within 5km from Bellville CBD. From the perspective of industrial development and global manufacturing, it is definitely one of the best place of the continent because of the proximity with the airport. The idea is of the implementation of one big corridor between the airport and Bellville and thinking about an aerotropolis concept.

  3. Where fast rail connects. If South Africa will invest in fast rail trains, the Cape Town station will most definitely be Bellville, because of its regional location. This will enhance the areas competitiveness.

  4. Education and Innovation: There are four universities in the area (University of the Western Cape, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Stellenbosch University and University of South Africa). Between these universities, and smaller technical colleges, about 100 000 students are registered. Improving student quality of life and accessibility to knowledge is the best way to create an educative hub and therefore to create opportunities.

  5. Transport: 160,000 passengers move through daily in Bellville public transport interchange each day, compared to the 250,000 in the Cape Town CBD. There is a lot of potential missed because of low dense development.

  6. Retail Area: Current estimates show that about 40 000m square meters is retail floor space, and hence the area serves thousands of consumers each day.

  7. Public space: There is massive potential for investment in a series of public spaces and underutilised sites. Kerkplein is a great example with its rich potential as it connects to transport and surrounding residential areas.

  8. Green and open space: The surroundings of the river must be transformed in a green corridor, the open space perspectives are very promising. We can start with the Elsies River basin.

  9. Housing: Social housing opportunities, especially due to potential available land, have been mentioned as a potential perspective.

  10. Tyger Hospital Site Redevelopment and Revitalisation: Provincial Government is looking to redevelopment Tygerberg Hospital and the vast open spaces need to be integrated with the rest of the city.


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