The Cape Town City Council has given the go ahead for the formation of a City Improvement District in the Athlone business area. This is the culmination of several years of hard work by the Athlone branch of the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry and it is expected to lead to the revival of the once thriving business area.
As an improvement district the Athlone CBD will be jointly managed by the CID and the City and under this intensive care the area is expected to overcome the crime and grime problems that have plagued it for several years.
Athlone will be the 15th CID to be established in the City. In terms of the CID arrangements property owners in the area will pay an extra levy in addition to their normal municipal rates and this money will be used to finance additional cleansing and security services.
The formula has proved to be extremely successful in other parts of the city. In the Central city where it was pioneered, the formation of the CID halted an exodus of business to the suburbs and attracted billions of rands in new investment.
The investment process has already started in Athlone with major improvements by the council. These include new pedestrian areas, parking and the upgrading of the transport interchange.
Ms Sumaya Taliep, Deputy President of the Cape Regional Chamber, said Athlone was now in a position to benefit fully from the Government's R1.3 billion urban renewal and redevelopment incentive scheme. In terms of this scheme the costs of upgrading and redevelopment could become tax deductible expenses.
"On the one hand property owners will pay an extra levy on their rates but those that do upgrade their buildings will benefit from the tax concessions. This will be a tremendous incentive to uplift the area," Ms Taliep said.
She said the area had great potential as it was well served by public transport and was well located in relation to the city. "We have a three pronged stabilising intervention planned. Firstly the establishment of the CID, secondly the regularization of informal trading to strike that balance between formal and informal business, and, thirdly, the implementation of an effective CCTV camera system that will synchronize and be compatible with similar systems presently operational in the broader Athlone area."
Ms Taliep said these steps would set the platform for sustainable development that wpould attract economic re-investment, and encourage property owners to upgrade and develop their properties."
The battle to save the area started several years go when the Athlone branch of the Chamber began campaigning for improvements. Initially the stress was on the removal of the "waterfront" informal settlement which was associated with many of the area's problems. Since then there has been a slow but gradual improvement as the Chamber became more active and the results became apparent. This is reflected in the growth of the branch from just 42 members to 360 today.
Ms Taliep said this was a clear indication that the business community was fully committed to the revival of the area.
In approving the CID, the City Council said it was an example of public-private partnerships. Councillor Simon Grindrod, the Mayco member for Economic, Social Development and Tourism said: "This will serve as a catalyst to attract further regeneration investment from the private sector. It is a great example of how public-private partnerships can work and it will stimulate job creation in Athlone and surrounding areas".
Mansoor Mohamed, the City's Executive Director for Economic, Social Development and Tourism, said: "ATHCID is the fifteenth CID to be established in the city. Collectively, they have an annual budget of more than R50 million which is collected by the City and paid to the respective CID Management Boards. This funds their activities in accordance with their business plans. It is an excellent example of how symbiotic partnerships should be implemented and active participation by business owners will enhance their investments".
The founding of the ATHCID is the culmination of a two-year process by the Steering Committee led by Ms Taliep and the City's Economic Development Department, under Runan Rossouw.
Press Release: Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry
(04 June 2007)