The Cape Town Partnership is a collaborative intermediary organisation focused on urban transformation in a city of 3.5-million. A small city by global standards, Cape Town nonetheless represents many of the challenges with which the world is currently faced: a rapidly urbanising poor in a city and country still spatially and socially divided – in South Africa’s case, along old apartheid lines.
Set up in 1999, by a group of concerned property owners, city government officials and the regional chamber of commerce, and in response to the state of Cape Town’s central business district (CBD) – which was suffering from crime, grime and capital flight – the Cape Town Partnership established one of South Africa’s first business improvement districts (BID), the Central City Improvement District, to help manage urban issues like security and cleaning on the ground. Since the CCID’s establishment, crime in the CBD has reduced by 50%, and today 82.6% of people using the space say they feel safe in the CBD. The residential population has also risen by 76% since 2001, and between 1999 and 2010, R15-billion (US$1.8-billion) was invested in properties in the area.
From these beginnings, the organisation has grown from strength to strength. In 2008, it worked with the City of Cape Town and community members, through a participatory design process, to develop the Central City Development Strategy (CCDS) to guide development work in the Central City for the next ten years. The CCDS is less a master plan to the city’s future than a very good compass to help decision makers and communities make informed decisions that take the city towards a more liveable, inclusive urban future – despite a shifting socio-economic landscape.
Guided by the CCDS, the Cape Town Partnership has in more recent years assisted in using South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World Cup moment to accelerate Cape Town’s urban regeneration plans, specifically the pedestrianisation of a major arterial route now known as the Fan Walk, and the more immediate roll-out of a reliable bus rapid transport system for the metropole; MyCiTi.
The Cape Town Partnership was the agency chosen to drive Cape Town’s successful World Design Capital 2014 bid on a socially transformative design agenda (drawing on World Cup insights into how a significant global event can be used to help accelerate social change), and has since continued to share these lessons with other cities looking to transform their cities through design – most notably the designated city for World Design Capital 2016, Taipei.
The creative sector not only informed and motivated Cape Town’s bid for World Design Capital 2014, but is also a key tenant and employer in Cape Town’s Central City. Creatives have shown ever-increasing interest in the design and activation of the city itself. In 2006, the Cape Town Partnership recognised the potential of this contribution by creating a platform called Creative Cape Town, which would go on to be a vital conduit for networking, ideas and projects such as the annual Creative Week event which takes place in the city centre in September.
Creative Week is a crowdsourced week-long event that not only allows creatives, thought innovators and idea engineers to share a platform to showcase their work, but also functions as an exercise in deepening partnerships with the creative community by assisting them in activating public spaces in the city.
As the forthcoming IDA conference; Passion for Cities: People, Places, Partnerships will no doubt explore, people are the cornerstone of collective urban ownership and transformation, and Cape Town’s creative sector has a key role to play in further designing and developing the city. To this end, Cape Town Partnership is formally supporting an organisation called Creative Nestlings that will help drive integration of emerging creatives – the shapers and challengers of Cape Town’s future identity.
Beyond creativity, the Cape Town Partnerships’ collaborative model has proven to be so successful that it now helps establish and incubate other like-minded social programmes in the region. These include the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership which focuses on inclusive economic development in the Western Cape, The Safety Lab; an innovative project looking at ‘whole of society’ solutions to community safety issues in the Western Cape, and the Hout Bay Partnership; a project still in development that seeks to encourage social cohesion and deepen democracy in a particularly divided community on the Cape Peninsula.