Major development planned for Cape Town’s derelict Strandfontein Pavilion

About 1,200 residential units, including subsidised housing, as well as retail and recreational facilities are proposed

By Steve Kretzmann

31 January 2023

The neglected Strandfontein Pavilion is to be developed with almost 1,200 residential units, shops, ecologically sensitive landscaping and various public amenities. Photos: Steve Kretzman

The neglected, derelict Strandfontein Pavilion has been earmarked as a new development node with almost 1,200 residential units as well as retail and recreational facilities. It is hoped the development will spur further private investment in the surrounding area, upgrading the under-used False Bay coastline between Muizenberg and Strand.

The pavilion, with its vast tidal pool, beach and picnic areas is currently run-down, underutilised and unsafe. But, say the authors of the City’s Conceptual Development Framework, it was a vibrant spot in the 1980s and 1990s and is alive in the memories of people in neighbourhoods nearby. Plans to develop the spot have been fast-tracked by Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

The City says though Cape Town has more than 300km of coastline, due to apartheid spatial planning most Capetonians have been excluded from owning property along the coast.

The plan is to keep the tidal pool and part of the existing pavilion, re-establish the adjacent canalised river, and make it a place where people want to live by building four and seven-storey residential blocks with courtyards that let the sun in. The current entrance from Baden Powell Drive on to Strandfontein Road will remain, with another main entrance off Baden Powell to Leukannon Drive about 500 metres further on. While basement parking space for residents is included, the plan is to focus on pedestrian movement, with retail spaces on the ground floor of the residential buildings, and a terraced picnic area on the slope up from the tidal pool on the west side.

Further job opportunities can be created with the possibility of an aquaponics and container fish farm on the east of the adjacent river.

The Urban Planning and Design Department has taken into account sea level rise, the prevailing southeasterly winds and shifting sand.

Infrastructure that can be dismantled and relocated if necessary, such as braai areas, pergolas, action courts, skate parks, and beach huts is included within the 100-year flood line, as well as space for short term structures such as concert stage scaffolding and weekend seaside market stalls.

Dune grasses are to be planted and irrigated to prevent shifting sand impacting the buildings above the flood line.

Of the 1,196 proposed residential units, 287 (15%) would be for first-time home buyers earning between R3,500 and R22,000 a month, qualifying for the Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP). These units would range from R135,000 to R185,000. The rest, going up to a proposed R3.6-million, would be on the open market.

Convenience shops, selling swimming, surfing and fishing equipment, and food are proposed across more than 15,000m2 of retail space, with the planners also accommodating a 100-bed hotel to be built within the precinct at a later stage.

Sustainability studies show that while the City would have to spend almost R340-million to create an inviting prospect for private developers, the completed precinct would contribute more than R140-million a year to City coffers in the form of rates and service charges, with an annual maintenance expenditure of R56-million, since facilities such as the tidal pool and pavilion would still have to be managed by the City.

The ambitious project hopes to spark development between neighbouring Pelican Park and Strandfontein at a later state, but with the reservation that a biodiversity corridor along the west of Strandfontein Road needs to be preserved as there is a unique species of butterfly there. According to the study, only about 50 survive.

A sketch of the proposed development at Strandfontein as depicted in the City of Cape Town Conceptual Development Framework

Michael Jacobs, a Strandfontein resident and deputy chair of the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents Association, said the development is welcome. However, Jacobs said, the City should look at developing the whole False Bay coastline up to Monwabisi. This should become a tourism hub able to compete with Muizenberg and Camps Bay.

“We want investment in the billions to come in so there can be work opportunities linked to skills development and not just a little development around the pavilion,” he said.

While public participation has been satisfactory so far, he said, the City needed to ensure it continued to engage with communities.

Jacobs urged people to engage in the public participation processes.

Helen Rourke, Development Action Group programme director, speaking generally rather than specifically about the Strandfontein proposal, said Hill-Lewis appeared to be pushing for the acceleration of land release for affordable housing, and entering into partnerships with non-profit organisations where the profit margins for private developers on their own would not be sufficient.

“Previously they [the City] would have just disposed of the land,” said Rourke.

The City also “seems serious” about public participation, although the bureaucratic nature of the process meant there was always a danger of it becoming “a tick-box exercise”.

“It’s early days … we’re excited, but cautious,” she said.

The comment period for the Conceptual Development Framework ends on 31 January, but a City planning official, speaking outside formal media channels, said there would still be numerous opportunities for the public to comment as the plans would need to be presented to sub-councils and other processes, such as Environmental Impact Assessment and rezoning applications.

The Strandfontein Pavilion is run-down, underutilised and unsafe.