No grand plan for Parade

Picture Leon Lestrade

While the City of Cape Town has spent over R27 million upgrading the City Hall, one of the city’s oldest buildings, – and with more upgrades expected – there seems to be no solid plan for the revitalisation of the Grand Parade.

This, despite years of requests by the Grand Parade United Traders’ Association to develop the public space.

In the latest development linked to the upgrade of the City Hall, the City’s naming and nomination committee has recommended to Mayor Patricia de Lille, that the City commence with the proposal to install a life-size statue of Nelson Mandela, and a permanent exhibition at iconic building.

According to a report from the City, the committee considered the recommendation on the outcome of the public participation process about the proposed heritage project to commemorate the life and work of Madiba and those who were involved in South Africa’s transition to democracy.

“We have discussed the report and have recommended to the mayor that the City accept the donation of a life-size statue of the late former president, Nelson Mandela, from the Western Cape Government.

“Should the Mayor and full Council agree with the recommendation, the statue will be installed on the balcony at the City Hall where Madiba delivered his first public address after his release from prison on February 11 1990,” said the chairman of the City’s naming and nomination committee, Brett Herron.

Additional upgrades to the City Hall will include a revamp of the stage, backstage area, auditorium seating, venue acoustics and banqueting rooms as well as the installation of new mechanical ventilation.

Another significant upgrade will be the major restoration work to be carried out on the carillon – a musical instrument that comprises tuned brass bells that hang in a tower-like structure.

The City Hall carillon boasts 39 brass bells, making this the largest and heaviest such instrument in the southern hemisphere.

The plan is to complete the carillon refurbishment in 2018.

Work already completed includes the repainting of the main entrance hall and the auditorium, refurbishment of the slate roof – which is almost complete – and repairs to the organ.

According to the City, the installation of the statue is part of the revitalisation of the precinct, which includes the Grand Parade, to make it attractive for events, and to create tourist attractions that could contribute to local job creation and economic opportunities.

The Grand Parade and City Hall have hosted many national and local events and activities, with the area having been the scene of many civic protests and public jubilation.

The section of the Grand Parade which was previously used for public parking, has now also been earmarked for events. Big events held there previously include the travelling Madame Zingara dinner theatre and the Mumford and Sons concert, while the space hosts the switching on of the festive lights event every year.

However, when the CapeTowner asked the City about the plans for the Grand Parade, which forms part of the precinct, the mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond, said the revitalisation of the Grand Parade would require the input from a range of internal and external stakeholders.

Mr Diamond, who is spearheading the project, said he had created a working group made up of the various City departments responsible for the management and upkeep of the Grand Parade and surrounds. “The working group met recently to look at a vision and intent for the Grand Parade. However, we will need to look at what will be feasible for the site and how best the City of Cape Town executes a plan to revitalise the Grand Parade.”

Mr Diamond said he had met with the Central City Improvement District (CCID) and various business leaders to discuss the Grand Parade, its challenges and its opportunities.

“The stakeholders were equally excited and welcomed the City’s commitment to dealing with the Grand Parade,” he said.

According to Mr Diamond, short-term strategies would include the increased presence of additional law enforcement officers from August this year. “The City will also focus on further upgrades to its CCTV system and monitoring capabilities. Part of the vision is to create a safe and inclusive well-used public space.”

Roshieda Muller of the Grand Parade United Traders’ Association said while communication between the City and the organisation had improved, there had been no real progress.

“We’ve been meeting with the City monthly to discuss the Grand Parade, but I must say, progress is rather slow.

“The City has provided 12 law enforcement officers to address some of the many concerns we have, but there is no physical progress, like infrastructure, or fixing up of the place. When the wind blows too hard or it rains too much, we are still unable to trade. This has been something we have been asking the City for years.

“It’s also difficult to control the Parade with all the crime and grime.”

She said despite the fact that the City had been promising them infrastructure for years, she was grateful that there was an ongoing discussion, and said she looked forward to the “Grand Plan” that would help restore the Parade to it’s former glory.

The City acknowledged the issues faced on the Grand Parade and its ability to become a tourist attraction in the city, and Mr Diamond said he, along with business leaders would conduct a site visit as part of a “unified commitment” to the upliftment of the Grand Parade, and would release more information about the plan as it became available.

BLOB: The City Hall will not be available from September 2017 to June 2018, owing to extensive upgrades. However, the municipal court on the ground floor will not be affected and will continue operations as normal.