The Strand Street Concourse, built as an underground pedestrian walkway in the early 1970s, is undergoing a major refit. The first photo below shows what it looked like some years ago, the second shows construction, and the third is an impression of what is to come.
The Strand Street Concourse, owned by the City of Cape Town, is part of a broader network of underground walkways that serves as a critical pedestrian link between the Cape Town Station precinct and the St Georges Street, Woolworths, Old Mutual and the Golden Acre shopping malls.
The entire network is often confused as being a part of the Golden Acre Mall, which incidentally is the oldest mall in South Africa.
The concourse allows for protected pedestrian movement across busy Strand Street and Adderley Street, with a number of exit points into the heart of the central business district.
A foot count conducted during the feasibility stage of the upgrade project revealed that about 62 000 people moved through the concourse per day. The foot count was done on a clear day and it is assumed that this number could be higher when the weather turns nasty. Additionally, the results revealed that an estimated 33% of pedestrian traffic occurs between the morning peak of 07:00 and 09:00, and 43% in the afternoon peak between 16:00 and 18:00.‘The time patterns indicate that the Strand Street Concourse is an integral thoroughfare to the CBD, rather than a destination. One can comfortably deduce that pedestrians make use of the concourse to avoid the heavy vehicular traffic. They are able to move quickly without being hindered by traffic lights to get across the busy intersection. In addition, the concourse offers protection from inclement weather conditions,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Assets and Facilities Management, Councillor Stuart Diamond.
With the incorporation of commercial activities, the management of the concourse became fragmented as its status gradually shifted to that of an informal mall. This led to the original purpose and functionality as a pedestrian thoroughfare being whittled away to be replaced by the activities of a mall over time.
Eventually this caused an overall collapse of a cohesive management system for the facility that ultimately led to a decay of the infrastructure and deterioration of the lease management of the commercial activities.
An example of this is the escalators that have been in a state of disrepair for many years and the fact that the concourse could not be closed after hours, leading to this once bustling public space becoming a haven for anti-social behaviour.
The City’s Property Management Department stepped into the fold in 2012 and decided to consolidate all management functions of the concourse under its own control. A specialist consultant was appointed to conduct a feasibility study on the business model of the facility.
‘The recommendations of this feasibility study, coupled with the shortage of office space in the Civic Centre, resulted in the facility being earmarked for use as municipal offices instead of pursuing the commercial route once again. The concourse as a public walkway will not be affected by this decision to use the space for municipal purposes,’ said Councillor Diamond.
The scope of work, which started in September 2016, includes the following:
- Replacing the six escalators as well as the design and construction of new escalator landings at street level to provide ease of access for pedestrians
- Retiling the entire area
- Fitting new shop fronts throughout the space
- Compliance with all health and safety requirements
- Installing new lighting and a new electrical reticulation system
- Cladding of all pillars
- Installing building control systems
- Maximising the commercial and office space
- Upgrading the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system
- Installing new roller shutter doors at all entrances
- Construction of a banking court to cater for ATMS of all the major banks
- Construction of a municipal court with holding cells
- Construction of new ablution facilities
The entire refit, spanning 1 752 m², has now reached the last mile of the major construction work.
Upon completion, public interface services will include two community courts, municipal pay points, a centre management office, and offices to accommodate the City’s departments of Social Development, Building Development Management and Environmental Management. These public interface offices will operate during normal working hours and will be closed from 22:00 to 06:00 daily for security reasons.
‘The Strand Street Concourse refit project ties in with the over-arching principle of the City’s Organisational Development and Transformation Plan to become a more customer-centric organisation. Thousands of residents make their way to the city centre on a daily basis and many previously made use of the concourse as a thoroughfare. It therefore makes perfect sense to have municipal services available within easy reach by taking services closer to our residents. I am sure that once the revamp has been completed the pedestrians will be back in their numbers to make use of this public space again which will be a lot more comfortable than it was before,’ added Councillor Diamond.
This project is also a fine example of how the City plans to manage its strategic assets in future.
‘The refit of the Strand Street Concourse is yet another exciting chapter in the story of the revitalisation of the Cape Town CBD. The upgrades serve as an important recognition of public transport users who travel from other parts of the metro on a daily basis,’ added Ward Councillor for Ward 115, Councillor Dave Bryant.