As part of its work to promote design in Cape Town, Creative Cape Town is project managing the development of The Fringe: Cape Town’s Design and Innovation District – previously known as the East City Design Initiative. The design and informatics hub in Cape Town’s east city was conceptualised in 2007 when a range of local stakeholders began to engage government on the need for an environment to support innovation and development in the design, media and ICT (information and communications technology) sectors.
After an interim business feasibility study by research firm Kaiser Associates showed how the setting up of such a district could impact upon sector growth, the decision was taken to formulate an institutional vehicle to drive it forward.
The vision for The Fringe has been to create “the premier African environment for design, media and ICT innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship”. The project is heavily supported by the Provincial Government of the Western Cape’s department of economic development and tourism through its Cape Catalyst Initiative, in recognition of the importance of the creative sector in growing the provincial economy through relevant infrastructure. The project is also supported by a number of departments in the City of Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) faculty of informatics and design, and other civil society bodies. It is currently being project managed by the Cape Town Partnership through its Creative Cape Town programme and formed an important element of Cape Town’s winning World Design Capital 20124 bid.
The Fringe’s key boundaries are Roeland and Darling streets, Buitenkant and Canterbury streets, and a strip of land, connecting the area to CPUT from Longmarket through to Tenant Street. It borders onto the proposed District Six development, and the area’s too-long neglected “edge” or “fringe” relationship to the central city has given the project its name. The area’s development will by necessity be a careful mix of public and private investments – the details of which are being researched currently.
The Fringe is based on an urban “science park” model, as defined by the International Association of Science Parks: “an organisation managed by specialised professionals, whose main aim is to increase the wealth of its community by promoting the culture of innovation and the competitiveness of its associated businesses and knowledge-based institutions”. It is understood that this requires a strong relationship between “universities, R&D institutions, companies and markets” leading to “incubation and spin‐off processes; and provides other value‐added services together with high‐quality space and facilities” – and therefore economic growth. Successful models the area will be benchmarked against include 22@Barcelona, the Toronto Fashion Incubator and Design London, amongst others.
The area proposed for The Fringe is already a lively environment. It is currently home to two sector bodies – the Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI) and the Cape Fashion Council (both set up with government and private sector involvement to further sector development in the province). The organisations have jointly opened a new facility in Harrington Street that houses a Creative Enterprises Training Unit. The area is also home to Open Innovation Studios, a social entrepreneurship environment as well as a range of small and medium‐sized design and ICT firms. Most importantly the presence nearby of various design‐related educational institutions – in particular CPUT’s faculty of informatics and design – makes this an environment ready for the science park model.
An important element of modern day science parks are cafes, bars and other venues for networking and gathering – the area is already has many of these: The Field Office, Charly’s Bakery, Dias Tavern, The Fugard Theatre, District Six Museum and its Homecoming Centre, 38 Special, The Assembly, Que Pasa, the Book Lounge, and the Kimberley Hotel, to name a few. Proposals for relevant public space improvements have also been made, in the interest of increasing opportunities and interest in the area.
The Fringe website – www.thefringe.org.za – will be a central point for information, working as a community notice board for projects in the area.