The Bo-Kaap area is one of Cape Town’s iconic residential areas – and now it’s in the process of becoming a National Heritage Site.

The area, which dates back to the 1700s, has been attracting developers in recent years with several new buildings in the pipeline. However, these projects now seem less certain because of a continued backlash against development by members of the traditional Bo-Kaap community.

Will Bo-Kaap’s heritage status put an end to much-needed development in and around the Cape Town CBD? This article will explore that very question.

Bo-Kaap: inclusive development clashes with community activism

The Bo-Kaap area has a special place in Cape Town’s history, having been built by the city’s Cape Malay artisans between 1790 and 1825. With its picturesque, brightly coloured houses, traditional shops and eateries and mountain views, the area has always attracted visitors from other parts of Cape Town and beyond.

Recently, Bo-Kaap found itself under the radar of property developers who were keen to include the area in the broader redevelopment that has transformed the CBD.

F or members of the traditional Bo-Kaap community, however, development isn’t always seen in a positive light. Many Bo-Kaap residents have expressed concerns that development – which they call gentrification – will ruin the character of their neighbourhood.

  • Feelings ran high recently when members of the community tried to disrupt construction at a site on Lion Street.
  • The police responded with stun grenades, in a widely-reported incident that has received plenty of media coverage.
  • A court subsequently ruled in favour of the residents, posing a serious problem to the developer involved.

As the community clashes with developers, politicians haven’t missed the opportunity to involve themselves in the incident.

Heritage Status, politics and the future of commercial property in the CBD

In response to recent events, Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Arts and Culture, recently announced that Bo-Kaap would be declared a National Heritage Site. According to the Minister, the SA government will also request that the UN declare Bo-Kaap a World Heritage Site.

While few would dispute Bo-Kaap’s historical value, the Minister’s timing suggests that the area may have become a political showpiece ahead of the 2019 elections.

Reports have also surfaced that the City of Cape Town may be been prevented from declaring the area a heritage site by former mayor Patricia de Lille.

Whatever its motivation, the government’s decision will make things more difficult for developers and property owners in the Bo-Kaap area.

As discussed in a previous post, the types of renovations and modifications that can be carried out on heritage sites are severely restricted – and sometimes not allowed at all.

This could mean that Commercial property developers who had hoped to invest in Bo-Kaap may start to reconsider their decision.

Opportunities for inclusive development still exist in Bo-Kaap

The recent events in and around Bo-Kaap will undoubtedly have implications for commercial property investments in the area – but the news isn’t necessarily bad.

While large developments and redevelopments may prove difficult in the future, there is plenty of scope for investing in small commercial properties.

These heritage sites will come with their share of regulations, but their scarcity and uniqueness could produce excellent returns over the years.

If you’d like to invest in commercial property anywhere in the greater Cape Town area, we’d love to match you with the ideal building or office unit. Contact us today.