Open streets Cape Town: 4 Urban experiences to tap into

2018-03-08 19:00
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Photo: Herman Eloff, Channel24

Cape Town - Cape Town is a vibrant and complex city. While on the one hand it has beautiful, polished visitor spaces, there are those that are sharply juxtaposed against some of the poorest communities in the country.

And yet, investment and expansion into the Mother City has been rapidly increasing, bringing a surge of both business and leisure visitors to the city - with  international passengers at Cape Town International Airport increasing by 13.85% in the fourth quarter of 2017 when compared to the same period in 2016.

While water might be a scarce resource at present, infrastructure certainly is not.

SEE: #WaterScarcity: Cape Town has a new water mascot and thankfully it's nothing like Splash! 

A large part of the city's future skyline is set to be altered from 2020 as 11 skyscrapers are in the pipeline to complete the part-built highways, running along the city's Foreshore.  Business Insider reports the development is expected to cost an estimated R8.6 billion – with the proposal combining much-needed new housing in the City Bowl with traffic alleviation also a core focus. 

READ: A British traveller's take on Cape Town's transport issues 

But even more tangible is the recent opening of Zeitz MOCCA and the development of the Silo District in the ever-popular V&A Waterfront. It’s a mixed-used, lifestyle space including a new Radisson Red  hotel as well as a number of distinct eateries such as The Yard and Si.  

The opening of the CTICC 2 further establishes the city as a major events hosting destination, with a new Harbour Arch Precinct also currently under construction at a cost of some R8bn. 

PICS: What Cape Town’s new R8bn Harbour Arch precinct will look like

Cape Town's grand Urban Park plan forms part of a broad City of Cape Town master plan for a revitalised Urban Park, as designed and conceptualised during Cape Town's tenure as the World Design Capital in 2014.  It is set to "create a safe space for skateboarders to meet, practice, and hone their skills" and residents and skateboarders are invited to attend an open day to view the final design.   

The City of Cape Town's new R1 billion Clifton development is set to expand the Atlantic Seaboard's existing tourist attractions - it will include new boardwalks and pathways will be built to improve access to the beaches and link Camps Bay beach to Maiden's cove, which will provide visitors a view of the coast line.   

But it’s not just the high-end spots across the Mother City that are being given much-needed renewal and revival through infrastructure.

Thankfully, various initiatives are re-appropriating the 'bad' streets of the city, making them open spaces to be enjoyed by all.  

READ: Street Minds: Reshaping the Mother city for the better

The Langa Quarter is set to be a hub of social development projects as the latest  Tourism enterprise in Langa township. Proactively zoned for tourism, the Langa Quarter SEP (Social Enterprise Precinct) consists of a nucleus of 207 homes. These have been transformed into restaurants, galleries, informal bars (shebeens), craft stores and The Langa Quarter Homestay Hotel, a 40-bed cluster of Homestay accommodation in the residents’ homes, nine of which are listed on Airbnb.     

READ: Township Tourism: Why SA should value and invest in places like Khayelitsha

The national department of tourism believes inclusion of SMMEs and community members is seen as a means to an end in achieving radical economic transformation and inclusive economic growth". 

Want to experience the diversity of Cape Town's streets - here are four upcoming experiences to consider:

1. Open Streets Mitchells Plain

Due to popular demand, a major roadway in Mitchells Plain is set to go car-free for the third time since the inception of Open Streets Cape Town. 

On 25 March, a portion of Eisleben Road will become a space for people to walk, cycle, skate, explore, play and connect. This follows the recent Open Streets Main Road on 25 February, where young and old, locals and visitors, came out to share the car-free space together.

Open Streets has shown there is a clear appetite for a regular programme of Open Streets Days in Cape Town, say the organisers. 

Mitchells Plain has hosted two Open Streets Days, on Merrydale Avenue in April 2016 and on Eisleben Road almost exactly a year later. For the third instalment, after consultation with various local stakeholders, it will return to Eisleben Road with a longer 3km route.

Ricky Mabee, founder of Mitchells Plain Alive, an online business forum says, “Open Streets is a unique opportunity for our community to come together and realise its potential. From getting to know each other in a safe and welcoming space to having the platform to showcase our different talents, 25 March will be an opportunity to build our networks in Mitchells Plain and beyond. Join us!” 

2. First Thursdays

First Thursdays of each month sees the city bowls of Cape Town a come alive in a festive buzz. A public event which is free to attend - art galleries and cultural events around Cape Town stay open until 21:00 or later on the first Thursday of every month, allowing anyone to explore the city on foot and experience the cultural wealth this city has to offer. 

There is no tour, schedule, or guided walk; that is up to you. The First Thursday movement simply hands you a map and lets you figure out what to see and where to go by highlighting what is happening. The next First Thursday will be taking place on 5 April 2018. 

3. Open street festivals

The vibrant inner-city culture is brought to the fore with the annual Cape Town Carnival - set to takes places on 17th of March 2018. This year the theme to match the Mother City is a well-placed focus on Mother Nature.

The carnival will showcase the beauty and diversity of the Cape flora and fauna as they depict Mother Nature in massive floats that range from the seed of life to the indigenous flowers of the region.  It will also display the hard work and determination of the people of Cape Town. The focus of the celebration and show is on how nature connects us to one another.  

SEE: Cape Town Carnival 2018: More of Mother Nature

4. Open street markets  

Green Market Square - In the heart of Cape Town’s business district, Greenmarket Square has become quite an establishment for South Africans, as well as international visitors. The square has a vivid history – it has been a slave market, a fruit and vegetable market and during the 1950s it was used as a humble parking lot.

READ: Hugh Masekela Tribute sets the scene for 19th Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Today, the market is a vibrant exhibition place for many entrepreneurs from all over Africa. Unique clothing, glassware, hand-painted fabrics, footwear, music, sunglasses and curios. This is a good place to come if you would like to buy some unique and good-quality souvenirs.

The market plain has also become famous for hosting the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival's free concert, which will be taking place on Tuesday 20 March 2018.