Cape Town – Maximising public space

CAPE TOWN’S HIDDEN HOTSPOTS, SECRETS AND SERVICESWith all of the positive changes that urbanism brings, cities also face certain risk factors in this process. These include overdensity, overly high pricing, and the culture of the area changing and losing some of its charm. A city is only as strong as its residents, businesses, and community, and once these become overly exclusive due to the previously mentioned restrictions, that sense of propriety disappears and the area changes.

But a strong urban environment is not only dependent on its diversity and sense of community; actively encouraging the use of democratic public space in a city can play a huge role towards achieving a healthy balance.

There are more than a few strong examples of this happening locally, amongst these are included:

Marcela Guerrero Casas, co-founder and Managing Director of Open Streets Cape Town, is a strong example of an active and aware citizen working with her city, and creating something that has impacted positively on thousands of residents and visitors. Open Streets, an NPO that was founded in 2012, was the first formal Open Streets programme in Africa and offers a practical way to help bridge the city’s social and spatial divides. The programme today runs events in various parts of the city including Bree Street in the city centre, Belville in the Northern Suburbs and most recently, Mitchell’s Plein, a township community on the Cape Flats. The programme works closely not only with the City of Cape Town, but a host of sponsors and partner organisations.

Other interesting uses of democratic urban space include the popular Infecting the City (ITC) festival, a public arts festival that is held annually in the City of Cape Town’s streets and gardens. For a few days every year, ITC transforms the city into an outdoor venue where art is free and accessible to everyone. This not only brings awareness to the arts and the artists taking part, but it also serves to bring people together, enhancing community, and does this in open city locations that most urban residents seldom visit otherwise.

In Sea Point and the CBD, a handful of innovative businesses are making use of parking bays to create Parklets. A Park(let) is described by Future Cape Town, one of the organisations involved in the Sea Point project, as “an intervention which occupies a car parking bay(s) or large sections of a sidewalk, usually temporary in nature, and acts as an extension of the public realm.”

With two in the CBD and the most recent in Regent Road, Sea Point, these mini urban rest-stops offer anyone that passes by the opportunity to take a seat and relax with no obligation to spend money, and no restrictions in terms of who is allowed access.

Although the Regent Road parklet has not yet been granted a permanent license by the city, its Instagram account, @facesoftheparklet, shows the mix of people (on average 50 pax per day) that visit and use it daily and the contribution it makes to Sea Point’s busy main road, both in terms of convenience and providing dignified, safe spaces for members of the community (often the most vulnerable and marginalised) a place to sit, browse free wifi, and convene.

“When we launched the parklet with our strategic partners Future Cape Town, GAPP Architects and Cameron Barnes, we wanted to provoke a conversation around public space; who can manage and participate in co-creating it, and in doing so redefine the way that people view public spaces in an urban environment,” says Jacques van Embden, co-founder and Managing Director of Blok, urban property developers.

The project has undoubtedly added a vibrancy and much-needed pedestrian attraction to this busy, high-traffic road, and even contributed to the city drafting parklet guidelines (2015), something that previously had not existed, that aims to challenge introducing public space to busy urban areas.

All of which shows that the magic truly happens when active citizens work with their cities for the benefit of all groups, and also when the cities recognise the importance of these democratic urban projects and grant the licenses, write the guidelines and provide the assistance needed in order to encourage more organisations and individuals to imagine more of the same venta de viagra contrareembolso.

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