First established in 1988, the founding vision of the V&A Waterfront was to reconnect downtown Cape Town with the sea. Known as Table Bay West, the area was largely industrial, dominated by a disused oil tank farm. It was, however, also steeped in history that needed to be protected for future generations.

From these humble beginnings the Waterfront has grown to achieve global acclaim, thanks to its focused, market-driven approach. At the 2013 Future of Places international conference in Stockholm, renowned American public space-planner Fred Kent declared the V&A to be the best Waterfront in the world of the more than 60 he had visited worldwide.

Spanning 300 acres, the V&A Waterfront is comprised of 11 different districts, featuring over 450 shops, 80 different eateries, 22 historic landmarks, ten hotels ranging from four to the six star One and Only hotel, offices, a vibrant marina and fishing industry and numerous residential developments.

Today, the V&A’s success is evident in year-on-year visitor growth, currently at almost 24-million visitors of which 55% are Capetonians. Immensely popular with domestic and international visitors, the V&A has established itself as far more than a tourist destination. It is a dynamic African business success story and home to South Africa’s oldest working harbour and a fishing industry occupying 112,407m2. Retail accounts for 100,000m2 and office space a further 97,090m2. An additional 30% (180,000m2) bulk is still available for development. The approach to development will remain sensitive, determined by market demand and with a long term view to sustainability.

In a study conducted to determine the economic impact of the V&A Waterfront, economist Barry Standish established that it accounted for and contributed:

  • R198-billion to GDP
  • R173-billion to provincial GGP
  • 35% of Cape Town’s tourism offerings
  • 61% of all tourism visits and 62% of all tourism spending in greater Cape Town of the 19 top attractions
  • Increased the value of properties in a 1.5km increased by 2.8bn (23%)
  • Created 33,136 jobs in Cape Town and 47,909 jobs throughout South Africa in the 10 years from 2002 to 2012.

As an extension of the city, the Waterfront is a key economic driver. Based on the current study, the estimated impact of new developments could be a cumulative R188bn to nominal GDP by 2023, with a projected growth of 35% per annum. The results of an updated economic impact study are expected by early 2015.

Recently announced developments include the final phase of the Silo District, with four new developments introducing over 35,000m2 of mixed use space for new corporate offices, a residential development, a Virgin Active Classic Health Club and a mid-range internationally branded hotel. The district houses multiple award-winning No1 and No2 Silo developments, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) currently being developed in the Grain Silo complex.

The R50 million Watershed is set to open in October 2014, housing some 150 small business traders, commercial offices, 1000m2 of dedicated exhibition and eventing space, and Workshop 17, the innovation hub collaboration with the UCT’s Graduate School of Business. The V&A Waterfront is committed to enterprise development through creating sustainable business opportunities for small scale traders from disadvantaged backgrounds. By offering them a platform, the Waterfront will stimulate ongoing economic growth and development in SA.

The V&A Waterfront is a sponsor of Accelerate Cape Town.