With its cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafés and heritage cottages, Cape Town’s fashionable inner-city suburb of De Waterkant is highly sought after, attracting upper-end property investors.

Words Nicole Cameron

In with the new
at the Old Cape Quarter
Project date
October 2021
Green Star rating
4-Star Green Star Multi-Unit Residential Design
Project location
72 De Waterkant Street, De Waterkant, Cape Town
Project type
Mixed-use development
Project size
5 315m²

Developed by Tower Property Fund and designed by dhk Architects, the Old Cape Quarter has been reimagined as an exciting mixed-use development and is set for completion by October 2021. With very few opportunities available to investors looking for unique spaces in a historical setting – with easy access to all amenities including Cape Town’s city centre – the development of 55 upmarket apartments will enable residents to take full advantage of the heritage and buzz of one of the city’s oldest precincts.

The residential aspect of the development is located in the four storeys above the existing building, which comprises of retail and offices on levels two, three, four and five. Naturally, it made sense to green this asset, with the numerous advantages of a reduced environmental impact being well recognised.

“These include its marketability and being able to attract tenants and investors through higher quality assets with greater returns and increased value,” says Simon Penso, director of Imbue Sustainability and the accredited professional working on the development, which achieved a Multi-Unit Residential 4-Star Green Star Design rating from the GBCSA. “Green buildings have reduced operating costs for tenants, efficiently designed building services and are premium spaces that offer great indoor environmental quality. The improved saleability and risk mitigation associated with green buildings have consistently shown improved rentals and valuations worldwide,” he adds.

The Old Cape Quarter’s sustainable building features further entrench Cape Town’s position as an eco-centre, once again putting high-end green residential complexes on the map.

With this in mind, the Old Cape Quarter apartments were devised to be more sustainable through specific design interventions. Penso says that these initiatives will result in fewer natural resources being required, greater health and wellness benefits, as well as lower monthly energy and water costs for occupants. For starters, double-glazed floor-to-ceiling windows enhance natural light and reduce the electricity load, which is further diminished through the installation of LED lighting and heat pumps instead of geysers. A detailed thermal comfort modelling process took place, with insulation installed and a highly efficient HVAC put in place, only where needed. The development’s living and work spaces have been designed to optimise comfort and well-being, and the indoor air quality has been an intentional focus, improved through the use of non-toxic indoor paints, flooring, adhesives and sealants.

The revitalised Old Cape Quarter offers easy access to restaurants, shops and amenties amidst the bustling
De Waterkant precinct.

When it comes to water efficiency, features such as an advanced greywater system collects water from the showers. This water is cleaned and used to flush toilets and for onsite irrigation. Indigenous landscaping with minimal watering requirements drastically reduces the expected water use, and efficient shower, tap and toilet fixtures further decrease potable water use on site. Each apartment is to be fitted with energy and water monitors to track consumption and manage usage. “The sharing of this metering information with the building managers and occupants will allow for a better monitoring of the building’s usage, and this information and awareness will influence the consideration of future sustainability plans,” says Penso.

An artist’s impression of the completed Old Cape Quarter, with the ‘timbre soleil’
adding a stylish finish.

A lower carbon footprint

“Greener transport options are encouraged through user-friendly cycle routes and lockable and secure cycling facilities,” he continues. “There are also a number of parking spaces designated to fuel-efficient vehicles, such as scooters and motorbikes.” The fact that the area is highly walkable, with safe and easy access to the closely situated Sea Point Promenade, Green Point Park, Cape Town Stadium and other green spaces, makes this more sustainable lifestyle possible. The MyCiti public transport facility has two bus stops conveniently situated right up and down the road from the Old Cape Quarter, providing easy access into the CBD, Atlantic Seaboard and further out of Cape Town.

Penso says that amalgamating an existing building with a new build extension can be a challenge, especially when the sustainability consultants are brought in further down the line once the design in more set in stone. “With this project, Imbue Sustainability was actively involved right from the beginning, which made incorporating these initiatives into the design much more streamlined,” he says. He also adds that integrating sustainability initiatives into an architectural design is a balancing act, especially within the context and any perceived barriers. “One such barrier is the perception that building green will increase the cost of the project, as with most projects, cost is a limitation. However, on this project and across the industry it has been seen and proven that designing and implementing a 4-Star level building incurs negligible additional costs. As was shown in the 2016 Green Building in South Africa: Guide to Costs and Trends Report, green buildings can be built for a negligible premium, and this green cost premium appears to be progressively diminishing overtime. The implementation of complex sustainability initiatives will attract good return on investment.”

The Old Cape Quarter’s sustainable building features further entrench Cape Town’s position as an eco-centre, once again putting high-end green residential complexes on the map.

Bruce Rogerson of Tower Property Fund Limited says that there have been two major shifts in the economy while developing the Old Cape Quarter, circumstances during the lead time between the development approval and the actual physical building taking place. “These included international rating agency downgrades and Covid-19.

Fortunately, there is incredible demand for the commercial component of the development, but we have had to reduce the residential pricing to remain competitive.” Rogerson says that a highlight has been working with a team that must get huge credit for working under extremely unnatural circumstances during and after lockdown. “We are on track to complete the development by the last quarter of the year and would like to thank the local community for their patience during development, which can be very disruptive.”

An inner city oasis

Ranging from one- and two-bedroom apartments to three-bedroom penthouses, the Old Cape Quarter residential prices start from R2 950 000 Vat inclusive. Speaking of the design concept, dhk describes each apartment as “displaying clean, contemporary lines with floor-to-ceiling windows, bedrooms with shutters, timber flooring, Rheinzink cladding to the penthouse level, all set within the existing multicoloured sophisticated fabric of the De Waterkant precinct, resulting in a well-proportioned elegant architectural solution.” They go on to say that the central courtyard, which sits at the heart of the development, “will be activated through the creation of a new green oasis with flanking and cascading planted terraces. A timber brise-soleil will hold the edge of the courtyard on the northern side, while providing a visual barrier between public and private realms”.

The parking, office and retail spaces are being refurbished to a high standard, with the size of the office floor plate increased, and the retail and restaurants areas invigorated. “There was a partial demolition of the existing building in the redevelopment phase, in order to strengthen the building’s core structure and allow for the insertion of the modern four-story residential component,” explains dhk.

The apartments boast high-end features such as MIELE appliances in kitchens and Hansgrohe sanitary fittings.

“Any new development is exciting when you see it emerge from concept to reality,” says Rogerson. “When Cape Quarter Square was developed, it overshadowed what was then called the Cape Quarter Piazza. As a result, the Piazza lost its identity, and we soon realised that we needed to re-invent it so that it would once again form part of and add value to the precinct.” Tower Property Fund Limited acquired the Cape Quarter Piazza, Cape Quarter Square and 32 Napier Street in 2013, together making up the Cape Quarter Precinct. They have focused on a greening strategy across the precinct to make it more water and energy efficient, and Cape Quarter Square boasts a PV solar panel system, recycling, and other initiatives which have contributed to it achieving a 4-star Green Star GBCSA rating.

The improved saleability and risk mitigation associated with green buildings have consistently shown improved rentals and valuations worldwide.

There is no doubt that the Old Cape Quarter is going to breathe significant new life into the complex, its modern architecture complementing the old town charm and fusing sophistication, creativity and culture into a vibrant destination in the heart of the city. Perhaps most importantly, the building occupants will reap the rewards of the environmental benefits imbued into the design – lowered costs, boosted comfort, and the overarching contribution towards a more sustainable society.