Unlocking the regeneration and transformation potential to build the urban society we all want in Stellenbosch – the Adam Tas Corridor project

“The Adam Tas Corridor is the start of Stellenbosch’s emerging urban transformation district and the vision is to create an integrated urban-development corridor that is liveable, safe, resource-efficient, socially integrated, economically inclusive and globally competitive, in which all citizens can actively participate. It is a place that embodies our best knowledge on what constitutes good, equitable urbanism, and supports and enhances national, provincial and municipal policies,” said Kelvin Campbell collaborative urbanist, chair of Smart Urbanism and the Massive Small Collective and STIAS fellow. Campbell was presenting information on the Adam Tas Corridor Project, a project initiated by Hannes van Zyl and developed with input from David Jack, Kelvin Campbell, Stephen Boshoff and other professionals, and supported by the Western Cape government, National Treasury, the Stellenbosch Municipality, Stellenbosch University, STIAS, and local business and academic leaders.

Kelvin - 1STIAS fellow Kelvin Campbell during his seminar on 5 April 2019

The Adam Tas Corridor (ATC), is a 5km long area comprising 400 ha, stretching along the R310 and R44 in Stellenbosch. It includes parts of Kayamandi, Cloetesville and Central Stellenbosch and is an area five times bigger than the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. It comprises well-located, prime, regeneration land and a major transport spine. The project will aim to redevelop the Bergkelder area and to use space made available by the relocation of Distell’s distilleries. Among the initial plans are the development of heavy and light rail systems whilst reducing the barrier effect of the rail and road corridor. It includes a walking, cycling, public transport link to the university; exploring how to provide several thousand housing opportunities, addressing the needs of various income groups; increasing access to urban opportunities for the poor; open, collaborative city workplaces; extending the network of creative enterprises; and, connecting isolated areas back into the mainstream.

“It’s about transitioning from informal to formal. Putting in place the conditions to improve the ‘rotten core’ and creating a new environment along the corridor,” said Campbell. “The aim is to put Stellenbosch at the heart of the most important development project in the country. It’s of significant enough scale to make differences to policy and practice at local, national and even regional level. We believe the work here will have the potential to be replicated in other places and that the project can become an ‘urban laboratory’ to test different land-development models, and ways of thinking and acting.”

Some of the ideas underlying this initiative are based on Campbell’s handbook titled: Making massive small change: Ideas, tools and tactics to build the urban society we all want and his work with the Massive Small Collective. Seehttp://stias.ac.za/news/2018/10/making-massive-small-change-a-vision-for-urban-development-stias-lecture-by-kelvin-campbell/

“Cities are straining under the pressure of rapid population growth, rising inequality and inadequate infrastructure. There is a huge problem in delivery across the world,” he said. “Initiatives from the top-down seem doomed to failure. The antidote is about harnessing the creative power of citizens and many small ideas and actions to tackle big problems.”

“Governments the world over have tried to order and control the evolution of cities through rigid, top-down action. Yet, master plans lie unfulfilled, housing is in crisis, the environment is under threat, and the urban poor have become poorer. Nowhere is this more evident than in South Africa.”

Campbell pointed out that the current South African urban development model functions on two polar extremes – on one side, the real-estate model comprising guarded communities and, on the other, informal settlements based on shacks, and that this model cannot accommodate much-needed expansion, integration and renewal. “Currently over 200 shacks are being built per day in the Western Cape,” he said.

“These extremes are particularly evident in a community like Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is highly divided. It’s the equivalent of putting Monaco next to a favela,” he said.

“There is also no middle ground – young families who work in the town; graduates from the university and young entrepreneurs can’t afford to live in the town and can’t afford office space (even if available) so they have to commute or are lost to the town.”

Harnessing existing energy

Campbell pointed to Hannes van Zyl’s experience of the devastating fire in 2013 which destroyed part of Kayamandi. “People immediately began to rebuild their shacks and within two weeks the area was rebuilt but, unfortunately, with exactly the same problems. But that is exactly the kind of energy the project hopes to harness, coupled with enhanced technical knowledge, skills and funding to turn this energy into better outcomes.”

“We want to expand local capacity and arm people with the hardware and software to take things forward. Training and capacitating locals rather than losing them to the town.We need new cultural models that bring people together.”

It’s also about harnessing and combining the creative energy of the shack dwellers and academia. “Stellenbosch University is the single biggest player in the town and is a leading innovation hub,” said Campbell, “40% of patents in the country come from the US, R&D spend is double the international average, and there is a good record of turning R&D into jobs. The ambition is to turn the US into the Oxford or Cambridge of Africa and expand R&D to even higher levels. The university and STIAS, who host this incubation stage of the project, are very much at the centre of the initiative as thought leaders and we want to significantly increase their focus in this area.”

“It’s not about telling people what to do. It’s about demonstrating good faith, incentivising change, showing by example, facilitating behaviour change, and creating an environment to which people can respond – a big tent into which they bring their ideas.”

Campbell pointed to projects in India and Germany which have shown that such models can produce results much quicker and cheaper – but more importantly, with much higher space standards, social outcomes and property values.

The initiative has already secured government support and a commitment to grant funding. Other funding possibilities include philanthropic and beneficiation funding as well as the potential for a establishment of credit union, mortgage and micro-loan funding options. The key stakeholders have already seconded people into the management team, with Sarel Meyer now providing a critical project management role. An independent development agency will be developed as the interface between the public and private sectors, and a Board of Patrons will be established in the immediate future.

The overall initial goals include:

  • Growing the town in a manner that prevents sprawl, creates conditions for efficient, creative living and working, and sustainable public and non-motorised transport.
  • Rethinking and reconstructing the infrastructure to make it relevant to the times.
  • Integrating Kayamandi, Cloetesville and Ida’s Valley into the mainstream of the town.
  • Accommodating urgent needs such as higher-density housing and university expansion to reduce the need for commuting.
  • Enabling job creation, entrepreneurship and livelihoods for all citizens, at all levels.
  • Supporting and expanding the national heritage and the critical tourism industry.
  • Increasing land value and harnessing local economic development opportunities.

The underlying values that direct the project include:

  • Spreading value: in particular to counteract the divided urbanism and benefit the poor.
  • Creating security of tenure and building social capital.
  • Promoting collaboration, challenge and innovation.
  • Starting by starting and learning by doing.
  • Creating small-scale opportunities for the individual, collective and institutional.
  • Building a common (information-sharing) platform.
  • Adopting a whole-society approach to social and economic transformation.

“It’s a bold, integrated plan for the future of Stellenbosch. But,” said Campbell, “it must be about social transformation and wealth building for all, and finding a uniquely South African way of doing things, not relying on the legacy solutions of the past.”

Michelle Galloway: Part-time media officer at STIAS
Photograph: Christoff Pauw

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