When great events in this city’s history have unfurled, the Grand Parade has always provided the stage for the public’s participation and reaction to these historical moments. Originally known as “Wapen Plein” (Square of Arms) and the site of Jan van Riebeck’s original fort in the 1650’s, the Parade has always been closely associated with its immediate neighbour, the Castle. While its significance in the public life of Capetonians has dwindled in recent years, it was for centuries the public face of Cape Town’s spirit : a place where citizens gathered to celebrate, protest or seek refuge. It was here too that crowds gathered to hear Nelson Mandela address the world upon his release from prison in 1990.
Today the City of Cape Town is determined to put the Grand Parade back at the heart of city life with a major upgrade of the space and by changing the role it plays in the lives of Capetonians from car park to gathering place and trading centre. During the 2010 World Cup, the Parade will become a fan park for football fans to follow the matches on giant screens. Phase one of the refurbishment will be completed before 2010: the entire area has been re-surfaced with paving stones that match the colour of City Hall, a double row of stone pines planted around the perimeter and lighting masts and up-lighters have already been installed. Phase 2 of the refurbishment, which includes an improved dedicated trading area, will begin once funds have been raised through a public-private partnership.