Historically, Cape Town has always been associated with the sea, thewaterfront and the harbour – until the building of the Foreshore divorced the city centre from the ocean. Well, that’s all changing back again.
Only from the air can you begin to understand why the locals are obsessed with Table Mountain, and how this imposing slab of rock impacts on everything from the history and urban design of the city to the weather and lifestyle.
While Cape Town has major issues concerning water, affordable housing, rejuvenation versus gentrification and general inclusivity, what it is getting right is creating mixed-use spaces for those with the financial means to enjoy them.
The CBD, V&A Waterfront, Mouille Point, Green Point and Sea Point make up a narrow ribbon of exceptional natural beauty confined by Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean.
In the late 1930s, when the city centre was the business and recreation hub of Cape Town, the area known as the Foreshore was reclaimed from Table Bay. Everyone lived and worked in or near the city, and weekends were leisure time; people walked daily for purpose and pleasure, shopped at local markets where they bought fresh seasonal produce, cooked it slowly, and ate everything in moderation. Sound appealing and vaguely familiar?
The circle of lifestyle
It was a good life, but change is inevitable, and each generation must leave its mark. Before we knew it, we were all happily chasing the god called money.
Being a workaholic became a badge of honour as we abandoned the city in favour of the suburbs. Commuting ate into our time, fast foods and faster cars became a necessity, and we frantically tried to keep up on the hamster wheel of conspicuous consumption and ‘more is more’. We invented computers and systems to make our lives easier, until screens took over our existence and we needed an app for just about everything to survive. Faster and faster spins the hamster wheel.
Burnout and stress became a thing, and normal started looking a little crazy and decidedly manic. We started falling off the wheel. Fortunately, sanity returned, and we decided not to get back on.
And so, we have come full circle, from fast food to slow living and a healthier
balance in lifestyle.
The road to change
Urban sprawl and the forced removals of the apartheid regime led to a slow decay of the city centre, resulting in its becoming an undesirable area after business hours. Sea Point was the playground of Cape Town until the
development of the world-class V&A Waterfront in the late 1980s. Locals took to the convenience, safety and novelty of the Waterfront in a big way, and Sea Point faded into a somewhat grubby obscurity.
Spatial planning for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ was a turning point for the CBD and the ethos of live-work-play neighbourhoods. The Fan Walk that linked the city centre to the new Cape Town Stadium and the V&A Waterfront,
coupled with outsourced cleansing of the CBD, the installation of security cameras, visible policing and more pedestrian areas brought the city back to life.
Eight years on, the city is innovating once again and reclaiming every available parcel of urban space to create a modern city that embraces our evolving lifestyle.
This area offers a well-developed and exciting array of coffee culture, artisanal food, gin, wine and beer; walkways and public space to run, cycle, walk and enjoy ocean-side views; food markets, gyms and parkruns, and of course the mountain, which plays an integral role in our leisure time with more and more people hiking, climbing Lion’s Head for sunrise, sunset, daytime and even full moon views, or exploring the many hiking trails accessed from just above the city.
Cape Town lifestyle today
Over the years the V&A has grown and evolved into the iconic Cape Town landmark and top attraction it is today. It is the benchmark for mixed-use space, and the elegant Marina Residential Estate, built around the canalised waterway that connects the CTICC and the Westin Cape Town with the One&Only Hotel, is possibly the most desirable address in town. The Silo District is a celebration of creative design, with the spectacularly transformed historic grain silos that now house award-winning green office spaces and – the latest tourist delight – the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa), which has 6,000 square metres of exhibition space.
The increase in the development of loft apartments and residential buildings in the city is an indication of the growing trend to reduce commuting and to live, work and play in the same place. The exciting R10 billion Harbour Arch project will change the face of the city, with pedestrian-friendly residential, retail and entertainment services designed to bring this area to life 24/7. www.marinaresidentialestate.co.za, www.harbourarch.co.za
Reclaiming the city
Residents and tourists alike are rediscovering the city through a variety of exciting initiatives that focus on bringing people together for urban recreation, and the area from the Waterfront to Sea Point is a paradise of great little artisanal eateries and food markets.
- First Thursdays is celebrated between 17:00 and 21:00 on the first Thursday of the month, and allows free access to art galleries, street theatre and exhibitions in the CBD. Food trucks, eateries, coffee houses and pubs provide sustenance for all choosing to stay in the city after work for supper and entertainment. www.first-thursdays.co.za
- Open Streets encourages engagement in urban spaces during off-peak times. Public roads are turned into walkways and used to cycle, skate, rollerblade and play. Street food, live music, static displays and interactive fun such as giant chess or scrabble, chalk art, dancing or just strolling bring the residents of Cape Town together to enjoy the outdoors. www.openstreets.org.za/what-we-do/calendar
- The parkrun movement is very active in Cape Town and the Green Point parkrun is closest to the city. www.parkrun.co.za/greenpoint
- For those who prefer a more informal approach, the Green Point Urban Park is a safe place to walk or run, and then continue past the lighthouse and on to Sea Point or Mouille Point via the Promenade. www.capetown.gov.za/capetownstadium/green-point-park
- There is a marked trail run at the V&A, and the Sea Point Promenade enables you to walk, run, cycle or skate from the Sea Point Pavilion all the way to the Waterfront right on the ocean’s edge. If you don’t own a bike, you can hire a funky orange one from Upcycles. www.upcycles.co.za
- For the very energetic a run up Signal Hill is a scenic option, and mountain lovers will be fighting for a terraced
apartment in 21 on Battery on its slopes.
- The Critical Mass cycle ride celebrates the full moon and riders meet at Green Point Circle at 20:00, then cycle together from Granger Bay Boulevard through Mouille Point and Three Anchor Bay, finishing in Long Street where there is plenty to do if you decide to stay and play.
- The Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF) Market Day is held every Saturday in Granger Bay in the V&A Waterfront, from 09:00 to 14:00. This is the place to shop for fresh seasonal produce, chat to the local growers and support small businesses. www.ozcf.co.za/market-day
- The V&A Food Market will supplement whatever you could not source at OZCF. This artisanal market is open seven days a week and is a foodie heaven. www.waterfront.co.za/markets/va-food-market
- In Sea Point The Mojo Market is just a step away from the Promenade, and you could easily get lost for a day in this delectable place. The recent refurbishment of the Ritz Hotel, complete with a revolving restaurant on the top floor, the upgrade of the Promenade, the increase in the number of restaurants, and new developments like One8 on Albany and The Estate on St Johns are an indication that Sea Point has reclaimed its place in the sun, and is an excellent location for those seeking a beachside cosmopolitan lifestyle.
This stretch of spectacularly beautiful ocean-side real estate has always been a place where people lived, strolled along the Promenade with or without dogs and children, popped in somewhere nice for coffee, and even walked to work in the city. But now it is turning into possibly the most truly mixed-use of South Africa’s mixed-use precincts.