The V&A Waterfront is a central part of the very beginning of the settlement of the city of Cape Town. In 1654, two years after his arrival in this relatively safe bay at the foot of Table Mountain, Jan van Riebeeck built a small jetty as part of his task to establish a refreshment station at the Cape. Fresh water and fresh produce were provided to the ships of the Dutch East India company on their arduous and lengthy journey to their outposts in Java and Batavia. The sea and the harbour lie at the heart of Cape Town’s history.
In June 1858 serious winter storms, which were a common occurrence, wrecked over 30 vessels. As a consequence, Lloyds of London refused to cover ships spending the winter in Table Bay. On a sunny day in September 17, 1860 Midshipman HRH Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son, tipped the first load of stone to start construction of the breakwater for Cape Town’s first harbour to make it a safe haven all year round for passing ships.
Harbour expansion and reclamation
The discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa meant that the first section of harbour, the Alfred Basin, was not large enough to accommodate the increased number of ships, and the Victoria Basin was built. The construction of these two harbour basins took place between 1860 and 1920, and this area of the harbour still has an array of outstanding heritage buildings from this era.
In 1938 work was started to reclaim land between the city centre and the harbour, most notably the new Duncan Dock. The Foreshore (230 hectares) made city expansion possible. In the early 20th century South Africa depended mainly on imports for many basic articles in daily use, which explains the importance of the harbour to the people who lived here.
The V&A Waterfront today
In November 1988, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (Pty) Ltd (“V&AW”) was established as a wholly-owned subsidiary by Transnet Ltd. Its aim was to redevelop the historic docklands around the Victoria and Alfred Basins as a mixed-use area with a focus on retail, tourism and residential development with a working harbour at its centre.
Led by the discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa, construction begins in Cape Town’s working harbour to extend the Alfred Basin to include the Victoria Basin.
The V&A Waterfront is established by state-owned transport corporation Transnet Limited.
Ferryman’s begins trading at the V&A Waterfront.
Official commercial trading commences at the V&A Waterfront.
The Pierhead Precinct (later renamed the Pierhead District) is added to the V&A Waterfront property. It includes restaurants, taverns, speciality shopping, the V&A Hotel, a theatre, arts and craft market, as well as the National Maritime Museum.
The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre opens, following completion of the first section of the retail and entertainment centre.
The UCT Graduate School of Business also opens, and building of the Ulundi parking garage and Portswood Ridge offices commences.
Portswood Square Office Park is completed. The BMW Pavilion, Two Oceans Aquarium, Portswood Hotel, Commodore Hotel and City Lodge open on V&A Waterfront property.
The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre extension is completed, and the Table Bay Hotel and Cape Grace Hotel open to the public.
The Clock Tower Precinct (later renamed the Clock Tower District) is completed. This new district includes BoE (later Nedbank) offices, the Nelson Mandela Gateway, and the Clock Tower retail and office complex.
Phase One of the V&A Marina residential development opens.
The South African head office for BP, extensions to Pick n Pay and Edgars retail space, and Phase Two of the Marina residential development are completed.
The V&A Waterfront’s new fashion wing is launched at the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre.
The Breakwater parking garage, Dock House Hotel, and the One&Only Hotel open to the public.
The boutique five-star Queen Victoria Hotel opens in June.
The Clock Tower Shopping Centre refurbishment is completed in August, and includes a refreshed retail offering and triple-A office space.
Construction begins on No. 1 Silo, which becomes the head office of Allan Gray.
A large-scale redevelopment of the Food Court in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre is completed.
Commercial and residential development on No. 1 and No. 2 Silo are completed.
The redeveloped Pick n Pay opens in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. Reconfiguration of the old Pick n Pay space begins, with Cotton On and Mr Price moving in.
Refurbishment of the old Blue Shed Craft Market begins, and is renamed ‘The Watershed’, intended to be the home of African craft and design at the V&A Waterfront.
The extension of the Two Oceans Aquarium is completed, which includes a new 1.5-million litre seawater tank for larger scale exhibitions at the aquarium.
The Watershed opens.
Construction begins on converting the historical grain silo at the V&A Waterfront into the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), which is to be the largest museum of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora in the past 100 years.
Renovations on Ports Edge apartments are completed.
The V&A Waterfront announces the Silo District, a new mixed-use district that will include residential, commercial and retail space.