Save the Town Centre

A shopper takes a breather in Harmony Square, Town Centre, in 1986.

Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre shoppers are being called on to reclaim their one-stop bargain shopping complex and save it from ruin by crime and grime in a social media campaign on Facebook, called “Save The Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre”.

The campaign’s quest is to keep big businesses from movingout and to return feet to what was once the hustle and bustle of the Mitchell’s Plain central business area.

The Facebook support group was started by Town Centre tenant and Eastridge resident Rozario Brown, founder and co-ordinator of the annual DStv Mitchell’s Plain Festival, of which the Plainsman is the print media partner.

Mr Brown calls on members to help restore the Mitchell’s Plain CBD to its former glory. “Expose the criminals, drug dealers and other social challenges facing this once popular transport interchange and shopping centre,” he said.

“I just want us ordinary people to get it right. My office is there, I live in the area … I shop there,” he told the Plainsman.

A week after the Facebook group was created on Wednesday October 19, it has close to 300 members.

Mr Brown said he created the group after a walk in the Town Centre during which he felt decidedly threatened by the criminal elements roaming the centre. He said before it would be groups of two or three people attempting to rob people. “Now it is a group of 10 to 15 people who are looking for their next victim. You can feel them watching you.

“I’m a big guy, I may just be able to defend myself but what about a woman or a child,” he said.

As the festive season approaches Mr Brown said he would like to see the seniors find their bargains and safely do their Christmas shopping. “I don’t want the Town Centre to be a life-threatening situation,” he said.

Mr Brown said he has spoken to landlords and business owners who are at their wit’s end and threatening to move out, which could mean the end of the Town Centre.

“We all have a part to play,” posted Ashley Potts, from Eastridge on the “Save The Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre” Facebook page. “Let’s join hands to make this phenomenal shopping space regain its pride and do away with the criminality it is currently exposed to.”

Town Centre business landlord, Pheroz Khan, wrote: “Great initiative. Let’s make this centre the pride of the community once again. It is only a small criminal element keeping us all at ransom. Mitchell[‘s] Plain RISE and claim what is yours.”

Speaking to the Plainsman Mr Khan said the main challenge for the centre is crime. He said drug dealing is happening in the open public spaces and that shoppers witness it all the time. “It is the biggest transport interchange, including a MyCiTi, train station and bus service, which people use every day,” he said. “We need security and the police allocation for the centre is not cutting it,” he said.

Mr Khan said his buildings are secure with security and armed response but they cannot police drug use or selling in the open spaces. “I fully support this initiative for the people of Mitchell’s Plain to take back the Town Centre,” he said.

Last month the Plainsman reported on Mitchell’s Plain hawkers being at loggerheads with each other about developments in the Town Centre but they all agreed it has become infested with crime and grime (“Tension at Town Centre hawkers’ meeting,” Plainsman September 28).

Councillor Mark Kleinschmidt, who owned Radio Plain, a community radio station that broadcast from the Town Centre in the late 1980s, has also added his voice to the group by posting photographs of the caravan radio station, which hosted several celebrities and activities in the heart of Town Centre.

Mr Kleinschmidt, who managed several shopping centres in Mitchell’s Plain, told the Plainsman that a big problem at the Town Centre was that it does not have a managing entity.

The City of Cape Town’sMayoral Urban Regeneration Programme (MURP) has set aside R8 million for the safety and security of eight business nodes, namely Mitchell’s Plain, Harare and Kuyasa interchange precinct, Bellville transport interchange precinct and Voortrekker Road corridor, Wesfleur business node (Atlantis), Athlone CBD and Gatesville, Ocean View and Macassar.

Each node will receive its quota to recruit 10 new people as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to enforce the by-laws.

Similarly SAPS, law enforcement, Metro police and traffic are due to have joint operations to ensure a safer Town Centre.

In early 2012 mayor Patricia de Lille established the MURP, to uplift areas that had experienced apartheid-era underinvestment.

The particular focus was on improving safety, quality of life, and the socio-economic situation – with an emphasis on the public or shared environment.

The Town Centre upgrade has incorporated the following phases which have been completed at an approximate cost of R200 million – construction of taxi rank facilities and a new bus terminus; construction of informal trading market facilities; trading and public infrastructure within the old Town Centre area; a range of facilities or infrastructure for traders, including fish traders, canopies and trader kiosks; public space improvements and landscaping; new road infrastructure and signalised intersections; new public parking areas; the construction of public buildings including civic offices, community offices, boardrooms, ATMs and public toilets; construction of a traffic licensing centre; installation of CCTV cameras; and construction of an additional pedestrian bridge over the rail corridor.

The regeneration of the area is currently 90 percent complete, and will be finalised, with the following projects under consideration: the establishment of a City Improvement District (CID) to co-ordinate the management and operations of the CBD; the construction of a road link from the Town Centre to the Promenade across Wespoort Drive (which is almost complete); further upgrading to the old Town Centre including more trading space; facilitation of private sector investment through the disposal of vacant commercial land parcels; facilitating development of the gateway site adjacent to the magistrate’s court; and the design and development of a business and small-scale industrial park and the development of False Bay College on the intersection of Wespoort and AZ Berman Drive.