Fish Hoek with its rich history – fondly referred to by locals as the valley – is protectively capped by a range of mountains including Chapman’s Peak, Spitskop, Silvermine Mountain and Ridge Peak.
The beauty surrounding the town founded in 1918 is breathtaking but sadly, time has taken its toll on the valley, causing the deterioration of many buildings around town, especially the Main Road. And due to this, Fish Hoek has become a drive through and no longer a destination, believes founder of Revamp the Valley, Leigh Barrett.
Revamp the Valley is a community group dedicated to reviving the valley in order to make it a safe place for residents and visitors and to restore the town’s beauty, making it unique again with a commercially vibrant Main Road that would make it hard for visitors not to stop.
Ms Barrett said the deterioration of the Main Road directly impacts the local economy as visitors would much rather stop in quirky Kalk Bay or drive through to Simon’s Town. This also leads to increased crime in the area and a decrease in property values.
She explains that creating an identity unique to the town is imperative and said between absentee landlords and property managers not being held accountable, the buildings on Main Road are in varying states of disrepair. A long-term aesthetics project will include emphasising the Art Deco buildings, and transforming the plain buildings by adding sophisticated artworks and colour.
She said Cape Town has a global reputation for good food and wine and Fish Hoek seriously lacks in that department.
If the Main Road was in a better condition, retailers would want to trade there and Fish Hoek could attract people who love good food and wine meaning the local economy will improve, crime will be reduced due to more eyes on the street and it can result in employment opportunities for locals.
But revamping the Main Road is easier said than done. Ms Barrett said in order to “revamp” the Main Road, Fish Hoek residents must show an interest and be actively involved in the process. “They need to show up and say ‘what can I do to help’ or suggest ideas on how to improve the Main Road,” she said.
Her biggest challenge to date has been locating the owners of buildings in the Main Road. While some buildings only need a fresh coat of paint, others are in serious need of renovations such as the Krinos building which has pieces of cement dropping off its ledges onto the pavement.
“Every project will require community input – whether in the form of opinions freely expressed, or voting for a winning idea. Residents, businessandpropertyowners, elected representatives, and other organisations, are all welcome and their voices will be heard with respect,” she said.
Fish Hoek resident, Shelly Schutte, said she grew up in Fish Hoek and recently spent two years teaching in Thailand. “Upon returning to Fish Hoek a few months ago, it struck me how little life there is on Fish Hoek Main Road. There is no motivation to wander the streets, to pop into local coffee shops or artisan shops,” she said.
She added that it was vital for the Main Road to be rejuvenated. “We need to bring the life back to the Main Road by giving store-fronts a facelift, creating public art and encouraging innovative businesses. This will not solve the problem entirely, but it’s a great place to start,” Ms Schutte said.
Ms Barrett said Fish Hoek has great bones and Revamp the Valley will not allow outside developers to turn Fish Hoek into a trendy, upmarket destination.
“We, the residents of this area, will preserve the spirit of the town, while creating a safe and beautiful environment. Revamp the Valley respects the history of the area, and will make every effort to preserve and promote that history,” she said.
The City of Cape Town’s executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, said the Krinos building is not logged as a problem building and the City’s problem building unit has not received any complaints about it.
“The problem building unit will investigate a property once a complaint has been made in order to compile a case file.
“Once a property has been declared a problem building, a penalty tariff, not a fine, of R5 000 a month will be added to the rates account,” he said.
The City cannot effect any alterations to the property without the consent of the owner, but can secure the property to prevent any unlawful occupation in the absence of the owner.
CurrentRevampprojects include transforming two open spaces, a park called Steenbok Way and an open field opposite the False Bay Hospital on Nelson Road.
Ms Barrett said they hope by turning these empty lots into family-friendly parks where seniors can relax and kids can play, that neighbourhoods will become more social. For more information about Revamp the Valley, visit its Facebook page at Facebook.com/RevampTheValley
Residents who would like to report suspected problem buildings to the City for investigation can do so via the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089.
* Revamp The Valley is planning a mural at the Fish Hoek fire station at Central Circle and is looking for all schools to collaborate on an artwork that reflects Fish Hoek and pays tribute to the firefighters. Any school, from kindergarten to college, who wish to participate in the activity, can email Ms Barrett at email@example.com