CBD Recovery – By Alderman James Vos, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities


Near the tail-end of the 1990s, Cape Town’s Central Business District (CBD) faced significant economic difficulties. Crime and grime was on the increase, occupational density and footfall declined, and economic activity deteriorated as a result.

Brought on by the lockdown measures imposed by national government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CBD is now in a similar state. The health and safety of Cape Town’s residents is a priority and we now need to get back to work safely so that we can save lives and livelihoods.

It is clear that urgent intervention is required to address the issues facing the CBD and other commercial areas around Cape Town. We need practical solutions to support businesses, stakeholders and residents.

With this in mind, some months ago, Subcouncil 16, which is responsible for the CBD, set up five work streams to initiate the economic recovery of the area. These include regulatory reform, precinct management, events and activations, occupational density, as well as partnership and ecosystem collaboration.

Each work stream has prioritised launching interventions aimed at addressing the decreased footfall, criminal activity, vacant urban space and the general lack of vibrancy across the city. This is a massive undertaking and the first practical intervention, led by the regulatory reform work stream, was launched in early October following approval by the Mayoral Committee.

This intervention is aimed specifically at restaurants and eateries, with the intent to bring relief to businesses not only in the CBD but across Cape Town. Establishments now have the option to rent the sidewalks in front of their entrances for outdoor seating, at a reduced rate, for the next six months. This opportunity is open to businesses throughout Cape Town, with the CBD being prioritised for revitalisation as the jewel in our city’s crown.

Applications are currently available for download from the Invest Cape Town website, and during this month the Cape Town Central Improvement District (CCID) deployed teams to personally visit and hand out hard copies of these application forms to establishments based in the CBD.

We encourage as many eateries as possible to apply. To speed up the processing of applications, we advise restaurants block together and submit a single application. There will be rental holiday of three months for successful applicants and the rental of the remainder of the financial year up until July 2021 will be reduced by 50%.

This intervention is the first of many, as our work streams coordinate opportunities and solutions to breathe life back into Cape Town’s commercial and social centres. Just last week, on 21 October, our events and activations work stream hosted a free event that featured the Delft Big Band and a number of local stars. This engagement was a wonderful success and is the first of many to come.

The City of Cape Town, together with key partners like the CCID, are committed to reanimating our beautiful city. It is important to note that our collaborative efforts form one part of the broader ecosystem; we rely on the input of local businesses and the city’s residents to identify where and how we can best assist to ultimately bounce back.

No challenge or issue is being experienced in isolation – we are all affected; from the artisan shops whose doors have closed to the empty office spaces dotted across the CBD – we recognise the ripple effect being experienced by everyone invested in our city.

Cape Town is recognised as one of best cities in the world. A location where we all live, work and play. With these elements having been disrupted by COVID-19 and the hard lockdown, as a city we are in the process of transition because the “new normal” isn’t new anymore – it’s now. Together, we can emerge from this transition stronger and more resilient. Together we can and will bounce back!

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