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The V&A Waterfront
The Waterfront development arose from declining business in the harbour and the success of waterfront projects in other countries.

The first proposal to turn the area into a yacht basin and tourist attraction was made in 1980 by well-known architect Gawie Fagan. In 1984, UCT architects encouraged the plan, emphasising that such a development would restore the city's link to the sea, something lost by the Foreshore development in the 1940s.

Building was hindered by the government's reluctance to relinquish control of the harbour, but in 1988 Portnet (the newly privatised port authority) worked with the council and city developers to establish the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Company.

With an initial lease allocation of 85 hectares, development of the old harbour began with the restoration and construction of buildings in the Victorian style. Hotels, theatres, shops and restaurants were gradually added. The Breakwater Prison, which originally housed convicts used to construct the harbour, became UCT's Graduate School of Business.

The development received high acclaim, and drew foreign visitors as well as Capetonians. In the late 1990s, the Two Oceans Aquarium and more hotels were added and plans laid for a marina and luxury apartments. The area around the old Clock Tower was re-developed with office buildings, another shopping precinct and the Nelson Mandela Gateway for boats to Robben Island. All these were under construction in 2001.

The Waterfront project has combined the city's heritage with business opportunities. At first, the Waterfront attracted some criticism from newspapers and the ANC who felt that it excluded black traders due to high rates and that it was a 'safe and sanitised' environment that did not reflect the 'real Cape Town'.

However, time has proved it's popularity with Capetonians of all backgrounds, who use the cinemas and other facilities regularly. Also, free jazz concerts and firework displays at the Waterfront are occasions that draw Capetonians together. Perhaps because it offers the diversity of Cape Town in a 'safe' environment it has become South Africa's most visited tourist venue.

By 1997 it was attracting an average of 1.5 million visitors every month.


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