Community welcomes new kid on the block

29 March 2010

The Obz Square Residence has been widely welcomed by its future neighbours, and UCT has been taking advantage of the different stages of the development to build ties with the community.

John Critien, the executive director of UCT's Properties and Services Department, says the university is working to minimise Obz Square's impact on traffic flow.

For instance, the Main Road is to be widened and realigned at this location - a point in the road that has been constrained, causing many accidents. Parking space for Obz Square residents and the customers of the new businesses will be available on the ground floor.

In addition, security issues are being addressed as part of UCT's involvement in the new Groote Schuur Community Improvement District.

Here is what a sampling of community leaders are saying about the potential for improving economic prospects, cultural activities and property values in Observatory.

Paddy ChapplePaddy Chapple, owner, Chapple Real Estate Agents: "The UCT projects are great from a security point of view. The residence should also go a long way in improving the look and even perceptions about Observatory. It will uplift the profile of the Obs community."

Joe TavaresJoe Tavares, owner, Postnet Observatory: "The new building should freshen up the area compared to the one it is replacing, which actually made the area unpleasant looking. Also, the residence will be close to the shopping centre, which is always good for business, but also for students, as they will have easy access to most of their shopping needs."

City Councillor Cedric ThomasCity Councillor Cedric Thomas: "Personally, I think the development is good for various aspects. It encourages the idea of diversification by showing that Cape Town is welcoming and accommodating to people from across different continents, as seen with those who choose to continue their studies at a prestigious institution like UCT. It is also important that the community benefits from opportunities brought in by the new development, whether it be through jobs or businesses. This also has the potential to boost the local economy through students' buying power. Eight hundred-plus students will bring in a few challenges, but these will be addressed through the CID plans. It is also important that traffic issues surrounding this development are addressed in a holistic manner."

David RaphaelDavid Raphael of Obs Neighbourhood Watch: "It is definitely a great project, but all stakeholders must work together to make sure that security is adequate– By establishing 'green' safety routes, ensuring security cameras are in good working order, an overall safe environment for both students and residents in the area can be achieved through a co-ordinated effort."

Andrew FifeAndrew Fife, owner, A Touch of Madness - Victorian Quaffery, and chair of Obs Business Forum: "Observatory has always been supported by the students. The development of Obz Square will provide a new face on the Lower Main Road Entrance to Observatory. The influx of 800 more students on our doorstep will increase the economic development of Observatory and contribute to the upliftment of the area. The Improvement Districts (Obsid and GSID) will be maturing when this building comes on line. The area will be seen as a safe, clean and vibrant suburb. It should be a popular destination of visitors to Cape Town The addition of more students will boost the cultural activities in the area. Any legal and ethical development with open and honest communication will always be supported by the Observatory Business Forum. It is in the interest of all business and the suburb to maintain high standards of legal compliance."

Rob GaylardRob Gaylard of Obs Civic Association: "The upside is that a well-designed building could add value to the area and add to the client base for local shops and businesses. Some residents from the immediate area have some concerns about the scale of the building, and the possible impact on traffic flow and parking – There may also be safety concerns, as students making their way back to Obz Square late at night may be soft targets for would-be muggers. I think close cooperation with the Obs Civic Association, the Obs Neighbourhood Watch, OBSID, Vetus Schola (the Obsid security provider) and SAPS would be necessary to manage these issues–On the other hand, local clubs and pubs and restaurants will benefit from the increased custom."

Read the full Capital projects Monday Paper.

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