Upgrades on the cards for City Hall precinct

A proposal by the City to revamp the space around the City Hall is under way.

A proposal to revamp the space around the City Hall topped the agenda at the Ward 115 committee meeting last Thursday.

The plan was presented by officials from the City’s transport department and the contracted engineering company, Aecom, at the Sub-council 16 chambers in Wale Street.

Project manager, Claude Madell, said the upgrade around the City Hall formed part of phase two of the non-motorised transport project.

Phase one, which was rolled out around the Loop and Long streets area, had been completed recently.

Phase two includes City Hall, Darling Street and the Grand Parade, as well as areas in Gardens.

Mr Madell said one of the objectives of the project was to improve pedestrian movement and access for pedestrians.

This part of the project, however, did not include bicycle lanes planned for the CBD, but rather detailed the rehabilitation of existing sidewalks and improvement of pedestrian spaces.

The purpose of the upgrade to the City Hall is to draw attention to the planned statue of Nelson Mandela, (“Public urged to add their voices to proposals for Madiba statue”, CapeTowner, April 20, 2017) donated by the Western Cape Government.

The statue, when installed, will stand on the balcony at the City Hall where Madiba delivered his first public address after his release from the then Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990.

The upgrades will also connect the City Hall to the Grand Parade.

Representing the engineers working on the project, Louise Buys said the parking bays outside of the City Hall would be removed, and the space paved with bricks and grey cobblestones.

“We are not raising the road, just removing the parking.”

The pavements will also be extended to connect the Grand Parade with the precinct.

When the Central City Improvement District’s Muneeb Hendricks asked how they planned to stop motorists from parking in front of City Hall, Mr Madell said it would be impossible for cars to park there as the sidewalks would be widened.

However, Marc Truss, the chairperson of the Cape Town Central community police forum, was concerned about removing more parking bays from the area.

“With the roll out of the MyCiTi buses, lots of parking bays were already taken away, and to take away those bays in front of the City Hall… you have to find an alternative.

“We are under huge pressure in the CBD with the parking issue. When people see the removal of parking bays, it is going to cause upset.”

But Mr Madell argued that it was only a few parking bays which would be removed – about 12, but that still had to be confirmed.

“The removal of the parking bays will also have to go through a formal process, so we will see how that pans out.”

She said the curbs of the designated areas in Darling Street would be dropped; they would remove and replace the existing asphalt; repair the existing drop curbs and side walks; and implement bump outs and put up new road signs.

She said there would also be a stormwater upgrade, landscaping and planting of trees. Construction of the project is set to start next year, but it was unclear how long it would take.

Homelessness in the CBD

Another topic that took over a large part of the agenda was homelessness in the CBD.

The chairperson of the meeting, Dave Bryant said people on the streets were suffering in the winter rain, and the fact that shelters were full, posed a further challenge.

He said, through its winter readiness programme, the City was trying its best to make sure that extra beds were available for the homeless.

The City’s safe space initiative, which was set to be complete in July, is still in the process of being established (“Haven for the homeless”, CapeTowner, March 2).

The safe space, to be set up at Culomberg, will be an open-air, partially enclosed safe space to address the shortage of beds at shelters and the restrictive rules at such places.

“We have to exercise a certain degree of empathy for the homeless. If we move them, they ask ‘where must we go’. When the safe space is complete, they will have somewhere to go, so we must give it a chance.”

Hassen Khan, the CEO of the Haven Night shelter, expressed concern about the homeless people sleeping under the Nelson Mandela Boulevard bridge.

Mr Bryant said they were trying to find alternative ways to deal with the issue. “We have offered them assistance on numerous occasions during operations but only two people decided to accept it.”

Mr Hendricks said the CCID had recently started its Show you Care campaign, through which they handed out ponchos and plastic sleeping bags to the homeless, as well as hot soup for the destitute.

Mr Khan said there was definitely an increase in homeless people in the city centre.

Other news at the Ward committee meeting included:

* The CCID is educating people around drug usage, as there have been many complaints of public drug use.

* A motorbike was issued to the Long Street Rent-a-Cop

* A trailer was issued to Law Enforcement officers who do operations in the area.