Cape Town’s CBD is now the most economically sound and successful inner-city precinct in the country, attracting millions of pounds in investment each year
The continued success of Cape Town as a destination of choice for global investors and travellers is no accident.
Even with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the South African city, known for its world-renowned coastlines, Table Mountain National Park and an abundance of orchards and vineyards, has remained a beacon of resilience on the African continent thanks to effective governance, initiatives and innovations to keep the local economy ticking over during the country’s lockdown.
An example of this fortitude is that in the third quarter of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the province of the Western Cape, in which Cape Town is located, accounted for £20 billion out of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) of £146 billion. Cape Town typically contributes 72 % to provincial GDP annually.
Recent property broker surveys assessed by South Africa’s First National Bank have established Cape Town as the country’s top-rated region in the office market, an indication that it may surpass Johannesburg as the country’s business hub, while the property market has boomed due to the semigration and work-from-home trend and the retail and industrial sectors believing the city to be a lucrative and safe environment in which to do business.
Cape Town also remains a global tourism drawcard, and in 2021 brought home a host of awards at the 28th annual World Travel Awards, including Africa’s Leading City Destination and the World’s Leading Festival and Event Destination. In addition, Cape Town International Airport has repeatedly been voted Africa’s Leading Airport in the travel awards, while the University of Cape Town was ranked as the Top University on the continent in the World University Rankings.
A large part of Cape Town’s success can be attributed to the work of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), which for the past 21 years has ensured that the central business district (CBD) has been the most economically sound and successful inner city precinct in South Africa.
The CCID is a public-private partnership and non-profit organisation mandated to manage a designated 1.6 km2 area, providing safety, urban management and social development services in addition to those rendered by the City of Cape Town and the South African Police Service.
It seeks to fulfil an “open for business” mandate by attracting local, national and international investment to the precinct so that it remains South Africa’s leading downtown district.
The entity, which grew out of a commitment by prominent business owners and property owners to turn around a disinvestment trend in the CBD at the turn of the millennium, took its lead from how New York transformed Times Square from a no-go zone into one of the most prominent pieces of real estate in the world.
Within months of its launch in 2000, projects valued at £123 million were under construction in the central city, and by 2003, new investments worth more than £403 million had been implemented. Two decades on, the value of inner city property has increased to more than £2 billion.
The renewal of Cape Town’s inner city is evident not only in the increased footfall into the
city centre but in the investment in upmarket apartments, shops, restaurants, the construction of new mixed-use developments, renovation of older buildings and the presence of large and small corporates that have made the CBD their home.
“Through the initiatives of our various departments, we created a platform for investment by halting the “Broken Window” theory and dealing head-on with problem areas,” says CCID CEO Tasso Evangelinos.
“Through our Safety & Security department, we introduced the “Bobby-on-the beat” concept (with security officers wearing body-worn cameras) in the CBD’s streets, and through our sweeping, road maintenance and graffiti teams in our Urban Management department, we preserved the city centre’s infrastructure.
“Our partnerships forged with our NGO partners have allowed us to find creative ways of addressing pressing and challenging social issues, such as homelessness in the CBD. Our Communications Department has also excelled by producing publications like our State of Cape Town Central City Report, which not only promotes our own work in the CBD, but investment opportunities for investors.”
Alan Winde, premier of the Western Cape provincial government, says the CCID has played a pivotal role in promoting safety, culture, service delivery and the local economy to ensure locals and international visitors are able to enjoy world-class dining, a vibrant coffee culture, a dynamic art scene and bustling night life without ever having to feel their safety is being compromised.
Evangelinos, who has been at the helm of the CCID since 2007, says the entity has certainly had to negotiate its fair share of challenges over the years, none greater than the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here again, however, the CCID rose to the occasion.
While an estimated 111 retail businesses closed their doors in downtown Cape Town by the end of 2020, 37 new businesses had begun trading in the CCID’s 1.6 km² footprint in 2021.
And according to the CCID’s latest Retail Confidence Index, released in May, almost 68 % of CBD retailers surveyed during the second quarter of 2022 are satisfied with current business conditions – the third consecutive quarter in which retail confidence moved into positive territory since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
The CCID was proactive during South Africa’s lockdown, setting in motion a strategy to sanitise all public-use spaces in the CBD, from door handles to balustrades and traffic light buttons.
These operations created a safe environment that allowed it to embark on a series of beautification projects, including repainting post boxes, lampposts, bollards, poles and other infrastructure, and wrapping trees with colourful fabric in the CBD to create a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere.
The entity also recognised that retailers, property owners and residents would be concerned about their assets as they worked from home. To reassure them, the CCID workforce, 98% of which remained on the ground during the lockdown, went about securing all windows and doors, advising retailers to remove display goods from windows, checking alarms and providing escorts for business owners to move around safely.
“We kept reinforcing the message that people’s properties were in good hands, that nothing was going to happen to their buildings or shops. Our Communications team, who took countless videos and photographs, were fantastic, conveying this information to all our stakeholders,” Evangelinos says.
“Our structures and partnerships were tested to the limit by Covid-19 and the government’s subsequent regulations to stem its tide. But we not only survived but succeeded in maintaining a safe and secure CBD for our stakeholders, ensuring that the central city was open for business, encouraging office workers and visitors to come back to town.”
As an indicator of the CCID’s efforts, chairman Rob Kane points out that in 2021/21, the CBD still managed to attract an estimated £337.3 million in property investments.
“The resilience and sheer staying power of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District has been nothing short of remarkable. Tasso Evangelinos and his team, and the CBD’s businesses and entrepreneurs, can be applauded for daring greatly during this extremely challenging period,” Kane says.