History  & memory

Cape Town Partnership retrospective – 2009 to 2017


There’s always something bitter-sweet about reaching the end of an era.

It’s sad to say goodbye, to shut a door one last time, to dwell on what went wrong and how we could have done things differently. If at all. However, it’s also the perfect opportunity to reminisce, to remember the good times and celebrate the successes.

As Cape Town Partnership reaches the end of its era as an NGO working to make the Mother City more liveable, we’re proud to look back on 18 years of memorable and successful projects.

Join us for this quick retrospective.

1999 – 2008: Creating a city that is favourable to businesses


Photo: Lisa Burnell

Back in the late 1990s, Cape Town’s CBD was certainly no place to have a casual stroll, let alone run any sort of lucrative business. The streets were filthy – papers and cigarette butts swirling, immune to the Cape Doctor’s influence – and among the dirt, a culture of petty crime started to thrive.

As muggings and car break-ins increased, business decreased. Unwilling to risk the safety of employees and clients, companies – big and small – started fleeing to the suburban outskirts, leaving the inner-city to take on all the elements of a ghost town.

Realising just how dire the situation was for Cape Town’s economy and its reputation as a prime tourist destination, it was decided that the City would join forces with the public sector in an attempt to remedy the situation.

And so, the Cape Town Partnership was born.

Apart from filling the role of interpreter between the public and the private sector, we were also instrumental in establishing the Central City Improvement District (CCID) – whose sole purpose it was (and remains) to get the CBD clean and safe again – in 2000.

Teams were employed to clean the streets and the presence of the CCID’s security personnel helped rein in rampant crime. Within in 10 years, Cape Town’s downtown area had undergone a total turnaround, becoming one of the cleanest and safest in the country, and business was booming.

Between 1999 and now, crime has dropped by 50% and today 82.6% of people say they feel safe in the CBD.

Even though Cape Town Partnership and the CCID parted ways in 2015, we consider this to be a major joint success, of which the legacy clearly lives on.

Another important happening during these years, was the launch of Creative Cape Town – a platform that would assist in communication, connection, collaboration and sharing the great work of up and coming local artists - as a response to a creative economy that was clearly booming.

The proof of Creative Cape Town’s success can be seen in the consistent growth in social media followings, as well as the continued requests for support from artists and events alike. Notable collaborators included the annual Design Indaba Festival and Infecting the City.

2008 – 2012: Creating a city that is inviting to people


By late 2008, the CBD was clean and safe again and businesses had moved back. However, inner-city office workers still seemed to be somewhat sceptical about venturing out into the city on foot.

Joining forces with the City of Cape Town, we drafted a Central City Development Strategy focusing on the role of urban management, how hosting events can invigorate both the economy and the atmosphere, embracing the creative economy and harnessing popular history and memory.

Viewing the city as an interconnected system – of transport, infrastructure, business and urban management – our goal was to make Cape Town more user-friendly, especially in the light of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. We worked hard at upgrading public spaces and making the city more pedestrian-friendly with the development of both St. George’s Mall and the Fan Walk.

The latter proved to be hugely successful during the World Cup, drawing thousands of visitors on a daily basis. While some were making their way to a game at the stadium, others merely wanted to soak up the vibe.

As sidewalk restaurants, coffee shops and fashion stores popping up and the addition of informal traders – selling everything from curios and clothes, to art and books – St. George’s Mall remains a lively pedestrian thoroughfare in the city. It has proven to be especially popular for office workers looking to grab lunch and enjoy a refreshing stroll.

2012 – 2017: Creating a city that encourages people to participate


As we helped usher in a new era of citizen-centred urban design, the city soon became more welcoming.

It also raised the perfect opportunity to bid for the prestigious title of World Design Capital, which we successfully claimed in 2014. The award led to an influx of arts-related events and activities, which in turn, set a new creative tone for Cape Town.

As we started engaging with creatives, it became increasingly clear that there was a growing need for citizens to become more involved in the process of making public spaces. In essence, Cape Town had become so inviting that locals wanted to take ownership of and responsibility for maintaining the city’s reputation as a surprising, welcoming and creative urban environment.

Recognising the importance of putting people first and including them in the processes of planning and development, ‘placemaking’ became our main focus.

We realised that while our view of the city as a system served us well in the past, it limited the role of people to users and consumers, when – in fact – they should be seen and treated as fellow creators.

With projects such as City Walk Saturdays and Church Square pop-up events, we aimed to make public spaces under our stewardship available and accessible, inviting people to actively participate. Amazing things came of this – origami installations in the Company’s Garden, impromptu piano performances on Church Square, a breadcrumb trail of storytellers throughout the CBD.

Isabelo Smart Bench


With projects such as City Walk Saturdays and Church Square pop-up events, we aimed to make public spaces under our stewardship available and accessible, inviting people to actively participate. Amazing things came of this – origami installations in the Company’s Garden, impromptu piano performances on Church Square, a breadcrumb trail of storytellers throughout the CBD.

Free public Wi-Fi was another focus of ours, with the Isabelo Smart Bench a case study on the reason why: within six weeks pedestrians had burned through more than 100GB of data. After the bench was relocated to Stellenbosch, today pedestrians find nearby free Wi-Fi on Church Square.

In conclusion

So, while looking back on the past 18 years does wring our hearts a little – knowing that we won’t be able to continue working on making Cape Town a truly liveable African city – we’re also proud of the successes our partnership has helped manifest.

Although it may be subtle, we’re confident that our fingerprint – along with the many others who make this city what it is – will remain on the Mother City for a long time to come.

A quick look at a few of our most notable projects:


City Walk

This inner-city walking route was created to encourage locals and visitors to explore the inner-city of Cape Town and discover its unique magic.

Connecting the Fan Walk to the Company’s Garden via St. George’s Mall, the route has become a quintessential attraction, counting among the prestigious Cape Town Big 7.

In an effort to encourage participation and create community around it, we hosted City Walk Saturdays once a month. Mostly centered the Company’s Gardens, these events were opportunities for Capetonians from every corner of the city to gather, play, converse and share.

Launch of Hout Bay Partnership

In 2014 the Hout Bay Partnership was formed as a self-governing non-political organization with goals to create social and economic development by working with a variety of people to improve the lives of people in Hout Bay. The first talks for this Partnership started in 2009, but it took a few years for anything to come to fruition, with a goal of creating something similar to Cape Town Partnership.

Hout Bay Partnership continues to work hard on it goal of making Hout Bay a better place to live.


In late 2010/ early 2011, the first issue of our bi-monthly community newspaper, Molo, was published.

Over its 6-year run Molo covered many issues that were important to the Cape Town community. These included everything from the effects of holiday season on the city to the unique ways in which a range of Capetonians found love.

Since we wanted Molo to be accessible to as many Capetonians as possible, each and every edition was made available free of charge.


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