Plans to regenerate Brooklyn

Far Left: Residents discuss the pros and cons of Brooklyn.

Communicare says it wants to regenerate Brooklyn and has forked out just over R100 000 to start a “conversation” about how to do it.

About 50 residents discussed a make-over plan for their neighbourhood at a public meeting the social-housing non-profit company held at Reyger Court, on Tuesday October 30.

Communicare owns several Brooklyn properties that it hopes to build the project around.

Those at the meeting were asked to consider Brooklyn’s pros and cons. In the cons corner, residents said the neighbourhood had no sports facilities, was overcrowded, lacked law enforcement and Zoarvlei was neglected.

“We need to address the elephant in the room, and that’s the influx of foreign nationals who don’t follow by-laws etc. There’s a link between them and crime in the area,” said one resident.

Barbara Southworth, an urban designer and spatial planner, said the idea was to get Brooklyn away from being a “marginalised stagnating and fragile suburb” to become an “inclusive, thriving and resilient” one.

“We really believe that if government, enterprises, institutions and civil society have the same vision in mind, then Brooklyn has the potential to become a vibrant, inclusive and very special neighbourhood,” said Ms Southworth.

She showed a poster of what the area could look like “if the rough diamond was polished”.

The possibilities included Zoarvlei becoming a beautiful wetlands park and Koeberg Road being transformed into “a complete transit street”, offering various transport choices in a safe environment, and more.

Asked whether Brooklyn’s rates would go up if it was regenerated, Ms Southworth said with regeneration there was always the fear of people being left behind. The challenge was making the place attractive without pushing people out, she said.

Thabo Mashologu, Communicare’s general manager of property development, said sustainability was important because random developments that became white elephants cost a lot of money.

Before building social and affordable housing in Brooklyn, Communicare wanted to be clear on how such a development could benefit the area, he said.

“We also recognise that we cannot impose such a vision, and that its creation would need to be led by a wide base of stakeholders, including residents, business owners, non-profit organisations, schools, all tiers of government, etc.

“Our hope is that the development of an ‘owned vision’ will help us to direct our investments in such a manner that it contributes positively to the regeneration process,” said Mr Mashologu.

Communicare spokeswoman Michelle Mathee said the project to regenerate Brooklyn had caught the attention of organisations that “may be in a position to offer support”, and she listed the World Wide Fund as well as the Rockerfeller and Obama foundations as being among them.

“The cherry on top would be if stakeholders from all sectors started to take ownership of some of the seeds of regeneration that emerge from this process,” she said.