With bird-watching, canoeing, walking to work and school, and retail therapy just a bridge away, this thriving city within a city integrates nature with secure urban living.
Most Capetonians drive past Century City on the N1 and, on seeing the modern business headquarters, Canal Walk shopping mall and Ratanga Junction theme park, think that’s the whole story. What they don’t see is the variety of secure residential developments, the wetland nature reserve of Intaka Island at its heart and the network of canals, footpaths and bridges that wind through this growing community, creating a safe, urban living environment that is still close to nature.
One of the prime attractions for many residents is the multi-layered security provided. The security for Century City as a whole is managed by the CCPOA (Century City Property Owners Association), with CCTV covering the public areas and number plate recognition at all entry points. Further to that, each development within the complex has its own internal security.
To me, of utmost importance is the fact that our children can get on their bicycles and ride around or walk in the streets, with us knowing they are in a safe, secure and clean environment
comments Fred Grunewald, who has two primary school-age children and has lived in Century City for 14 years.
“I travel a lot, so it gives me great peace of mind to know my family is safe while I’m away,” adds Daniel Silke, who has lived and worked here for seven years. “There’s easy access to main road arteries, and the airport is only 15 minutes away.” This accessibility is another key factor: it’s only 15 minutes to Cape Town CBD, and 10 minutes to escape the city altogether and explore the Durbanville wine valley.
But for many residents, the best thing is that everything they need for work, family life and leisure is right there. “I simply cross a bridge to reach the mall,” continues Daniel, “which eliminates the need to drive, and it’s easy to avoid using my vehicle every day.”
Recent developments have made this even easier, bringing GP practices, dentists, an Intercare day hospital and many more essential services into the complex. The integrated, mixed-use philosophy has encouraged a varied selection of small businesses, as well as big business HQs, to make their home here, so that it really is becoming a self-sufficient city within a city.
A substantial Curro primary school (with a Curro high school in the planning stages), in addition to the Endeavour Educare Centre, Abeille Ruche primary school and Abbotts College, means that families also have a choice of schooling on their doorstep. “The fact that I no longer have to navigate my way in peak-hour traffic and can walk my son to school has changed my life,” says Sedica Knight, who moved to Century City earlier this year.
A pair of peregrine falcons nesting on the high-rise luxury apartments of Knightsbridge, red bishops flitting between reeds at the edge of the canals, and coots with families of fluffy chicks are just a few of the delights for urban nature lovers. “I love taking early morning walks and runs along the canal,” continues Sedica, “and taking my little boy down to the locomotive at Central Park so he can climb and play, then visiting Intaka Island. Here, we are much closer to nature, which he enjoys.” With an annual pass for Intaka Island, residents can use the bird hides, take leisurely nature walks in a pristine natural environment, and watch flamingos on the vlei in winter, along with the many birds that breed here.
Sports and the outdoors
The athletics club makes use of the extensive network of well-maintained trails around the island and canals, and the active canoe club enjoys access to the 8,5km stretch of navigable canal. Both are based at the community clubhouse beside the large, grassy circle of Central Park, as are a touch rugby club and adventure boot camp. A natural community focus, Central Park is also home to the monthly Natural Goods market and a series of annual events, as well as casual kids’ sports.
“Very seldom do people move away once they have moved into Century City,” observes Fred. “Sure, they may move between residential complexes as their needs change [from a flat to a house, from a house to a retirement village, or from renting to buying]. But everyone seems to be embracing the principles of new urbanism offered, to live, work and play here.”
Eat like a local
Crave – a hidden gem, serving healthy lunches with shady canal views Brick Lane Eatery – great breakfasts, burgers and craft beers
Knife – excellent steakhouse dining
The Slug & Lettuce – good pub fare and atmosphere
Ruby Bar at Crystal Towers – glitzy cocktails
Jacqui O Bistro – a simple and elegant bistro
A green, state-of-the-art conference centre and hotel are under development, due to open early in 2016. The mixed-use precinct is designed around a public square that will serve as another community hub, with vibey restaurants (including a new branch of Tiger’s Milk), coffee shops, offices and open-air events.
Century City is built around the natural wetland reserve of Intaka Island, which is sustainably managed as a centre of environmental education for families and schools. The local eco-system includes more than:
125 species of birds
213 species of plants
four types of fish
A series of pumps and decorative water features cycle the water of the canals, oxygenating it and naturally filtering it through reed beds to maintain water quality.
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.