On Monday 14 November 2005, the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Public Works will be holding a press conference to announce the launch of a new sustainable neighbourhood project on the so-called Oude Molen site located between Pinelands and Observatory near the inner city area of Cape Town.
This 18 ha historic site that dates back to the 1700s has been hotly contested over the past ten years. Dominated by large derelict buildings that used to be part of the Valkenberg Mental Hospital, the site has been occupied and developed by a mix of former mental health care patients, entrepreneurs, community activists and environmental professionals.Many development plans have been formulated and fallen by the wayside over the years. In August, the Department of Public Works that owns the site commissioned Mark Swilling to write up a strategic framework for the future development of the site. Working in partnership with a new up-and-coming black owned architectural company called Makeka Design Laboratory, a strategic plan was developed and presented to the Provincial Cabinet. The plan makes provision for 600 homes, a large bulk of commercial space, the restoration of heritage sites, the extension of the existing urban farm, and the construction of an ecological designed infrastructure including zero waste systems, renewable energy, biogas digesters, etc.
Building on the lessons learnt during the planning and construction of the Lynedoch Sustainable Neighbourhood, the Oude Molen project will prove that it is possible to socially integrate richer and poorer communities, bring the poor back into the inner city, and design infrastructures and buildings in a way that enhances rather than destroys the environment. Government will fund the infrastructure, after which residential and commercial plots will sold on the open market. Government sees the Oude Molen site as a test case for a wide range of recent policy initiatives at National, Provincial and Local levels.