|The Waterfront development arose
from declining business in the harbour and the success of waterfront projects
in other countries.
The first proposal to turn the area into a yacht basin and
tourist attraction was made in 1980 by well-known architect Gawie Fagan. In
1984, UCT architects encouraged the plan, emphasising that such a development
would restore the city's link to the sea, something lost by the Foreshore
development in the 1940s.
Building was hindered by the government's reluctance to
relinquish control of the harbour, but in 1988 Portnet (the newly privatised
port authority) worked with the council and city developers to establish the
Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Company.
With an initial lease allocation of 85 hectares, development of
the old harbour began with the restoration and construction of buildings in the
Victorian style. Hotels, theatres, shops and restaurants were gradually added.
The Breakwater Prison, which originally housed convicts used to construct the
harbour, became UCT's Graduate School of Business.
The development received high acclaim, and drew foreign
visitors as well as Capetonians. In the late 1990s, the Two Oceans Aquarium and
more hotels were added and plans laid for a marina and luxury apartments. The
area around the old Clock Tower was re-developed with office buildings, another
shopping precinct and the Nelson Mandela Gateway for boats to Robben Island.
All these were under construction in 2001.
The Waterfront project has combined the city's heritage with
business opportunities. At first, the Waterfront attracted some criticism from
newspapers and the ANC who felt that it excluded black traders due to high
rates and that it was a 'safe and sanitised' environment that did not reflect
the 'real Cape Town'.
However, time has proved it's popularity with Capetonians of
all backgrounds, who use the cinemas and other facilities regularly. Also, free
jazz concerts and firework displays at the Waterfront are occasions that draw
Capetonians together. Perhaps because it offers the diversity of Cape Town in a
'safe' environment it has become South Africa's most visited tourist venue.
By 1997 it was attracting an average of 1.5 million visitors
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