Strength and the City

Cre­at­ing Re­silient Cities in Chal­leng­ing Times

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When the in­ter­na­tional Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion ex­tended an in­vi­ta­tion to Dur­ban and Cape Town to join its 100 Re­silient Cities (100RC) pro­gramme, it com­mit­ted to help­ing these cities be­come more re­silient to 21st cen­tury phys­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic chal­lenges.

Re­silience, it seems, has be­come the new global buzz­word. But in terms of the 100RC pro­gramme, the term has been re­fined to specif­i­cally de­scribe “ur­ban re­silience”, which it de­fines as the “ca­pac­ity of in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties, in­sti­tu­tions, busi­nesses and sys­tems within a city to survive, adapt and grow, no mat­ter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they ex­pe­ri­ence”.

Chronic stresses, of which there are 11 in to­tal, are de­fined as slow-mov­ing dis­as­ters that weaken the fab­ric of a city. These in­clude high un­em­ploy­ment, an over­bur­dened or in­ef­fi­cient pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem, and fi­nan­cial and/ or eco­nomic cri­sis. Among the 37 acute shocks recog­nised by 100RC which re­fer to sud­den, sharp events that threaten a city are earth­quakes, fires, floods and out­breaks of dis­ease.

Along with fund­ing to hire a chief re­silience of­fi­cer to lead a city’s re­silience ef­forts, the 100RC pro­gramme of­fers mem­ber cities: tech­ni­cal sup­port to de­velop a holis­tic strat­egy to re­flect each city’s dis­tinct needs; ac­cess to an in­no­va­tive plat­form of pri­vate sec­tor and NGO ser­vices to sup­port strat­egy de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion; and in­clu­sion in the 100RC net­work in terms of knowl­edge shar­ing and best prac­tice ex­am­ples.

The 100RC pro­gramme iden­ti­fies seven qual­i­ties that a re­silient ur­ban area needs to de­velop to mit­i­gate shocks and stresses. These in­clude be­ing:

• Re­flec­tive and re­source­ful: The abil­ity to learn from the past and use these learn­ings to in­form fu­ture de­ci­sions, while also find­ing al­ter­na­tive ways to use ex­ist­ing re­sources bet­ter.

• Ro­bust, re­dun­dant and flex­i­ble: Ro­bust, for ex­am­ple, in terms of de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture that will not fail cat­a­stroph­i­cally when de­sign thresh­olds are ex­ceeded; re­dun­dant in terms of pur­po­sively cre­at­ing spare ca­pac­ity to ac­com­mo­date dis­rup­tion; and flex­i­bil­ity in terms of an abil­ity to adopt al­ter­na­tive strate­gies in re­sponse to chang­ing cir­cum­stances.

• In­clu­sive and in­te­grated: En­sur­ing broad con­sul­ta­tion, en­gage­ment and in­volve­ment while at the same time bring­ing to­gether sys­tems and in­sti­tu­tions and the pool­ing of knowl­edge and re­sources.

When Dur­ban was in­au­gu­rated into the 100RC pro­gramme and turned its sights to­wards achieving these qual­i­ties, it led to a part­ner­ship be­tween Ton­gaat Hulett, Dube TradePort and the eThek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, with the three bod­ies work­ing to­gether to de­velop a re­silience frame­work for the north­ern area of Dur­ban.

“Be­ing re­silient is about mak­ing sure the foun­da­tions are in place to al­low us to respond ef­fec­tively to chal­lenges and, where nec­es­sary, to fun­da­men­tally change how cities op­er­ate,” says Dur­ban’s chief re­silience of­fi­cer, De­bra Roberts.

The key cor­ri­dor iden­ti­fied by the part­ner­ship stretches from the Oh­langa River in the south to the uThon­gathi River in the north and in­cludes the uMd­loti River. In­lands, it stretches to the edge of Veru­lam and be­yond Ton­gaat into Buf­fel­skloof.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the need for bal­anced and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion to over­come poverty and pro­vide eco­nomic up­lift­ment, while still pre­serv­ing the in­tegrity of threat­ened wet­lands in the re­gion, Rory Wilkin­son, plan­ning direc­tor at Ton­gaat Hulett, says: “The project arose out of an ac­knowl­edge­ment that eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is key if we are to al­le­vi­ate poverty, which is an im­per­a­tive at na­tional, pro­vin­cial and lo­cal gov­ern­ment level. In or­der to achieve this, cities need to grow in a way that op­ti­mises land use, in­fras­truc­tural pro­vi­sion and pro­mo­tion of in­vest­ment which will gen­er­ate in­clu­sive eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, while man­ag­ing the pres­sure ur­ban­i­sa­tion places on the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment through largescale trans­for­ma­tion.”

Mean­while, on the op­po­site coast of South Africa, and recog­nis­ing that strong cen­tral busi­ness dis­tricts in­vari­ably help to build strong economies in metropoles, the Cape Town Cen­tral City Im­prove­ment Dis­trict (CCID) was in­vited to at­tend Cape

Town’s first large-scale 100RC work­shop ear­lier this year.

With the CCID pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for at­tract­ing new in­vest­ment into the city’s tra­di­tional CBD while en­sur­ing that ex­ist­ing in­vest­ment stays, CCID CEO Tasso Evan­geli­nos notes: “Cape Town’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the 100RC pro­gramme is ob­vi­ously a city­wide, holis­tic one that cov­ers the en­tire metropole, but we’re look­ing very se­ri­ously at how we can also bring the con­cept of re­silience down to the mi­cro­cosm of the Cen­tral City, so that we can pre­pare for fu­ture stresses or shocks that could af­fect not only our own area, but have a rip­ple ef­fect in the metropole be­yond our bound­aries.

“To achieve re­silience for the Cen­tral City,” says Evan­geli­nos, “we’re look­ing very specif­i­cally at how we can learn from the past and use the data we’ve col­lected and trends we’ve iden­ti­fied over the past few years. These can then in­form the best pos­si­ble strate­gies for the CBD’s fu­ture and the way in which that im­pacts all stake­hold­ers, right from how an in­vestor con­sid­ers the CBD for in­vest­ment, to how an em­ployee who works in the CBD or stu­dent who stud­ies here en­gages with the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment.”

The data and trends Evan­geli­nos refers to have been col­lated since the CCID came into be­ing in 2000, ini­tially to plan op­er­a­tions across three of its di­vi­sions, namely pub­lic safety, ur­ban man­age­ment and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. More re­cently, since 2012, these have also been used by its com­mu­ni­ca­tions divi­sion as the foun­da­tion for the CCID’s an­nual in­vest­ment guide, The State of Cape Town Cen­tral City Re­port.

Carola Koblitz, au­thor of the pub­li­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for the CCID, elab­o­rates: “This guide has al­ways looked back at the eco­nomic cli­mate of the CBD in terms of be­ing a ‘barom­e­ter’ for in­vestors, but the ex­tent of our in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing and the con­se­quent analy­ses we now do has be­gun to en­able us to fore­cast ar­eas of po­ten­tial growth and busi­ness op­por­tu­nity, as well as chal­lenges that we may be fac­ing.”

Al­though the re­port is only pub­lished once a year, re­search and anal­y­sis is on­go­ing through­out the year in or­der to be con­stantly aware of any changes in trends. “For ex­am­ple, six months into 2017, we know that com­mer­cial and re­tail va­cancy rates are still rel­a­tively sta­ble, while the un­prece­dented year-on-year in­creases we’ve seen in the prices of res­i­den­tial prop­erty are be­gin­ning to show a sta­bil­i­sa­tion,” Koblitz ex­plains.

This, Koblitz be­lieves, bodes well for en­sur­ing that res­i­den­tial prop­erty in the CBD re­mains within re­al­is­tic lev­els, even though it has risen steeply in the past few years off a low base since the mid2000s. “Hope­fully, the sta­bil­i­sa­tion we’re now see­ing will also be­gin to en­cour­age devel­op­ers to take cog­ni­sance of the need for more af­ford­able units that could ac­com­mo­date those in the CBD work­force who find them­selves in the ‘miss­ing mid­dle’ – peo­ple who do not qual­ify for gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies but who spend up to 40 % of their in­come just on trans­porta­tion.

“For ex­am­ple, how can we pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tion for bank clerks, shop as­sis­tants, so­cial work­ers, teach­ers or call cen­tre staff – the em­ploy­ees who very of­ten make up the back­bone of a CBD econ­omy?”

Evan­geli­nos fin­ishes by say­ing: “It’s time for us as a CBD to take a holis­tic view of our down­town strengths as well as chal­lenges, and work out how we can cre­ate a strong core to take us for­ward and cre­ate ur­ban re­silience that stretches from our busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties to our res­i­den­tial and vis­i­tor economies.”

Text: Sup­plied Im­ages © Cape Town CCID & iS­tock­photo.com

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