Two Views of Woodstock:Cape Town – “Upscaling” vs “Gentrification”

Here are two opposed views of the regeneration of an old area of Cape Town, Woodstock,   it seems inevitable that any upgrading or regeneration effort  runs the risk  being labeled ‘gentrification’ with its negative connotations of poor locals being forced out by profit hungry developers. It seems ironic that in many of these cases the developers are out-of-work young professionals who seeing the opportunity, make the best of their creativity, contacts and by hard work get the thing going in the face of enormous odds. Only once they have made the area acceptably safe and more economically viable, does the area become the target for  developers to enter the market and the price of rents, land etc become a problem as the “poor”  landowning residents decide to cash in and sell their properties.

The   first post by Ravi Naidoo is the positive and development oriented “neo-liberal” view of things, from Dezeen and Mini World Tour

“South Africa has always had an Upscaling Culture”

In the second part of our tour around Cape Town, Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo shows us the former industrial suburb of Woodstock, which the city’s design community has recently made its home, and explains the importance of upcycling in South African design."South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"“If you have 36 hours in Cape Town and time is at a premium, you have to head down to Woodstock,” says Naidoo. It is an area of Cape Town three kilometres from the city centre that has undergone an “extreme makeover” in recent years and is now home to an array of arts, craft, fashion and design studios and shops, as well as cafés and restaurants.

"South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"

Naidoo takes us to The Old Biscuit Mill, a 19th-century biscuit factory in the heart of Woodstock, which was redeveloped in 2005 by Kristof Basson Architects, and where many of the designers that present their work at theDesign Indaba Expo are now based. It also hosts a weekly food market that draws crowds from across the city every Saturday.

"South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"

The Old Biscuit Mill recently underwent its second phase of redevelopment, converting the old  flour silo into six storeys of mixed-use space, which now houses the Cape Town Creative Academy as well as a new penthouse restaurant called The Pot Luck Club by leading South African chef Luke Dale-Roberts.

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Laura Wenz’s post,  while  more “gentrification” orientated, examines some of the problems and attempts to mitigate the negative effects from Daily Maverick

Woodstock’s urban renewal: Much more at stake than the loss of parking

In South Africa, the phenomenon of gentrification is commonly associated with the resurrection of downtown Johannesburg and the rebirth of Woodstock in Cape Town. Both areas share a common denominator for gentrification: a growing middle class with disposable incomes and a taste for all things designer. And both fail to support government’s claim that it is creating inclusive cities for all, writes LAURA A WENZ.

“When I first moved to New York, it was dingy, disgusting, dirty, ugly, flea-ridden, stinky and altogether terrifying – but then sadly the whole city started to go uphill,” laments Ted Mosby, the naïve and inveterately romantic protagonist of the popular American TV-comedy series  How I met your Mother. His sentimental statement captures the glum irony of urban regeneration: Neighbourhoods with the right mix of historical flair, cosmopolitan ambience and urban decay perpetually attract students, young professionals and artists in search of cheap rent and inspiration.

Armed with the best intentions and an undaunted can-do attitude, these pioneers set out to make their newly adopted working-class neighbourhood an even better one, praising its “gritty charm” and “original character” while they open coffee shops and organic eateries. Only too late do they realise that property developers have been watching them closely and once the word on the potential value of the once hidden gem is out, land prices shoot through the roof, artists exit through the gift shop and long-time residents end up on their stoep, door locked firmly behind them.

woodstock bromwell door

Photo: Bromwell Boutique Mall, with close-up of doorman.

Rising property values are often too readily assumed to benefit local home-owners, while in fact they have put severe strain on old-established residents, who have had to cope with rising municipal rates due to property re-evaluation. According to the Anti-Eviction Campaign, some families have not been able to afford the escalating rates, leading to their eviction and removal to‘Blikkiesdorp’.  This infamous Temporary Relocation Area (TRA) – a not-so-glamorous World Cup legacy – has been repeatedly slammed by human rights groups for its inhumane living conditions.

Though the market effects of higher land value are at first glance supporting the city council’s densification strategy as space needs to be used more efficiently, it simultaneously prohibits the development of affordable housing and rental units. This however is an essential prerequisite for making the inner city more accessible to people in the low-income bracket and cracking open the encrusted patterns of urban inequality.

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The High Line- An Urban Oasis in New York via thisbigcity

In thisbigcity Joe Peach has posted this tribute to one of urban restorations ‘success stories’ at least as it is being recognized in conventional American media – here by National Geographic.  Designed by James Corner Field Operations (project lead) and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, after winning a well publisized competiton for The City of New York / Friends of the High Line, it has won numerous awards including ASLA Honor Award 2010 The High Line, Section 1

The High Line – An Urban Oasis in New York

Images courtesy of Diane Cook and Len Jenshel and taken from the April 2011 edition of National Geographic magazine – on the newsstands now.

“Originally intended for demolition during the Giuliani administration, New York’s High Line has instead gone on to become one of the city’s most iconic public spaces – an impressive feat when considering what the city has to offer. Despite battling resistance throughout the design stage, this former elevated rail line somehow made the transition into a realised project, and the city is a better place as a result. The April issue of the National Geographic explores the High Line in more depth, along with some beautiful photos, some of which they have kindly allowed This Big City to reproduce:

Parks in large cities are usually thought of as refuges, as islands of green amid seas of concrete and steel. When you approach the High Line in the Chelsea neighborhood on the lower west side of Manhattan, what you see first is the kind of thing urban parks were created to get away from—a harsh, heavy, black steel structure supporting an elevated rail line that once brought freight cars right into factories and warehouses and that looks, at least from a distance, more like an abandoned relic than an urban oasis.


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The New Public Landscapes of Governors Island: An Interview with Adriaan Geuze

In PLACES Brain Davis interviews Adrian Geuze of West8 , winners of a competition for the reinvention of Governors Island New York:

New York Harbor, Upper Bay, 1999, with Governors Island near the center, Manhattan to the left, Brooklyn at top, and Jersey City at the bottom; Ellis Island is at the left, Liberty Island at right, just off New Jersey. [photo by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]

The Island Near the Island at the Center of the World
New York Harbor has been inspiring extravagant praise for centuries, ever since the three-masted Half Moon, sponsored by the Dutch East India Company and captained by Henry Hudson, sailed into the waters surrounding what would become first Nieuw Amsterdam, later New York City. “The greatest natural harbor on the coast of a vast new wilderness” is how Russell Shorto describes it in The Island at the Center of the World. [1] With its islands and wetlands and rivers, its maritime and industrial infrastructures, its fortifications and bridges and monuments to immigration, liberty and enterprise, New York Harbor has long occupied a central place in the history and mythology of one of the continent’s greatest cities.

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Eric Reynolds, Master of Low-cost, High-return Public Space Interventions in London and NYC

While I dont hold that “Place-Making” is enough initself to make a lasting diffenrce to a city , much more is required than quick fixes, it is worthwhile to note the impacts that quick entry and results can have on galvanizing an areas people into acting more like a community and demanding more permanent results:

Fom PPS Project for Public Spaces by Megan MacIver

Eric Reynolds

Lighter, quicker, cheaper:”   three words to sum up a revolutionary, low-cost, high-impact strategy to development, one behind all of Eric Reynolds’ projects at Urban Space Management (USM), a firm known for driving the economic renewal of run down or under-utilized spaces in imaginative and cost effective ways.  Reynolds urges a movement away from “mega-schemes” which make development unsustainable because they require long time frames to assemble large sites, large teams and large sums of money- all of which can be risky in today’s volatile economy.

Eric and his business partner, Eldon Scott, promote and use an entirely different development model; one that is lower risk and lower cost and which can be an interim solution for a site that is in transition- techniques especially relevant to the thousands of evolving post-industrial waterfronts around the world.  Eldon used Urban Space Management’s approach in his work setting up the Union Square Holiday Market in New York City.

At this market at Camden Lock, Eric Reynolds kept rents low to attract a wide range of tenants

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