Hermanus Old Town is set to receive a small facelift in the coming months, thanks to a number of projects aimed at improving the look and feel of the area.

According to Kari Brice, Ward 3 councillor, the municipality has been in talks with business owners in the CBD to identify short-term projects that will aid in attracting more people to town. “Both Mayor Dudley Coetzee and I are positive about the outcomes and we will be working hard to start making a difference before the summer season is in full swing,” she said.

Some of the projects that will receive immediate attention include the re-issuing of the tender for the upgrading of the stormwater system in High Street. Work on the project was due to start earlier in the year, but the contractor who won the tender was unable to proceed. After the new tender is awarded, work will be scheduled to start after the Easter holidays next year, in order to ensure as little disruption as possible during peak holiday periods.

In addition, the renewal of the contract for parking attendants is under review. The intention is to formalise the after-hour informal car guards, as well as the car-washers and the areas in which they may operate.

According to Brice, overnight parking for tour coaches at the old tennis club site is scheduled to be completed by the end of October and areas for drop-off bays are being identified.

“The signage opposite the traffic circle in Main Road at the entrance to town will all be removed and replaced with an electronic sign board that will welcome visitors, and on which information about various special events and festivals can be displayed. We intend to have this done as soon as possible as the current setup is an eyesore,” she said. Together with this, new signage will be made to improve the flow of pedestrian traffic in town. These signs will make use of infographics rather than words in order to reach as many people as possible.

Improvements to the current tourism website as well as an increased social media presence for the town are also being planned, in order to ensure maximum national and international exposure to tourists.

Brice also said that meetings have been held with supermarket chains to improve on the collection of trolleys that are left abandoned all over town, especially during weekends.

During the regeneration of Hermanus Old Town, drinking water fountains and improved ablution facilities will be built.

The good news for our environment is that the municipality has committed to making Hermanus a plastic-free environment. “We know this will not be easy, but we know we need to start somewhere. Meetings have been held with business owners and I am positive that through a public-private partnership, the town will be able to rid itself of plastic,” said Brice.

The planned projects are aimed at underscoring the bigger CBD Regeneration Project for which a capital project budget of R7 million was allowed for in the 2019/20 municipal budget. The regeneration project plan that was drawn up by GAPP Architects and Urban Designers was adopted by Council in 2016 and included in the 2017 – 2022 Integrated Development Plan. It consists of six individual projects aimed at reviving Hermanus Old Town.

The announcement of the improvement projects follows on the heels of the start of the public participation process on the draft report on the Hermanus CBD Public Space Manual. The draft report was made public last week and an open house meeting to discuss the report will be held on 5 November in the municipal banqueting hall at 17:00.

The CBD Public Space Manual has been created to provide a set of objectives and guidelines to assist in creating continuity in the design and quality of Hermanus’s streetscapes and public spaces.

According to the report, the Hermanus Old Town “requires a cohesive public realm with a unified material language for streetscapes and open space areas. Over the previous years the improvements to Market Square, Gearing’s Point and the Cliff Path have undoubtedly made a dramatic improvement to the quality of the public spaces. Similarly, the investments made in the building of the Station Square and Woolworths developments have reinforced the quality of the town. However, much remains to be done.

“These newly-created landscaped spaces do not connect well with the core business district and a number of streets and spaces are in poor condition. There is a multitude of different paving materials and a variety of types of street furniture,” states the manual.

The manual is one of the tools for fulfilling the town’s strategy in planning, designing, managing, operating and using public spaces. The manual is a document responding to Hermanus’s CBD Regeneration Framework, which identifies the importance of public spaces for the quality of life in the CBD. The regeneration objectives identified promote a strengthened sense of place, ease of access, and the creation of a vibrant public realm.

“In order to achieve these objectives, a unified design language has to be adopted and rolled out throughout the CBD. The Public Space Manual needs to fulfil a number of requirements that include the defining of the character and branding of the public domain in order to contribute to the ‘sense of place’ of the business district, identifying appropriate materials and furniture and giving guidance on how and where to use materials and furniture in public spaces.”

The report states there are two distinct character zones in the CBD that require a different approach. The first is the town and Old Harbour precinct with its small-scale urban character. The second is the coastal zone and Hoy’s Koppie with its natural interface. The lack of cohesive design affects the quality of the public spaces and this disjuncture creates spaces that are disconnected from one another, visually cluttered and in some cases difficult to maintain.

The biggest challenge within the town is the dominance of vehicles claiming space that should be pedestrianised and detracting from the small-scale historic character of the environment. The poor walkability of the area and unsafe pedestrian crossings further add to the town’s woes.

The report adds that the coastal zone’s main challenge is “the degradation of the natural beauty and environment by an overload of (and different forms of) information signage, artworks, planet exhibitions, waste bins, exposed infrastructure, service kiosks etc. The coastal edge has become a dumping ground for masses of street furniture and needs to be curated, so that focus can be placed back onto the natural beauty of the environment.”

The Report is available at the Town Planning offices and on the municipality’s website Overstrand.gov.za

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