Cape Town’s gay and lesbian community fear that rampant property development in the Waterkant village adjacent to the historic Bo-Kaap will change the gay-friendly face of Cape Town.

The fashionable area, known as a bastion of the gay community, with buildings dating back to 1840, has colourful and semi-detached restored houses painted in pink, green, yellow, blue and purple walls, but increased development has seen a number of gay-orientated businesses close.

Vista Kalipa, media co-ordinator of the Triangle Project, a gay advocacy group, said the area had come to symbolise a gay space in Cape Town. He said almost every cosmopolitan city in the world had what was known as a “gay village”.

“Now with all the new developments in the area, certain gay establishments have had to move out of the area, which in the end is destroying that whole notion of a gay village.”

Kalipa said Cape Town was a popular destination with tourists, especially during the month of the Cape Town Pride festival.

“Now it’ll be sad for them to come back and be faced with new developments, which are not part of the gay village.”

Well-known tourism consultant Sheryl Ozinsky said the village had a dominantly gay brand and gay- friendly city businesses and corporates needed to ensure that gay businesses survived and were welcomed in the city. She said the village was the only area in city that “has waved a flag for gay and lesbian events” in Cape Town.

“Cape Town needs a gay heart, because international gay tourists want to feel welcomed when visiting the country,” said Ozinsky.

Marilena Philips, a manager at Mario’s Restaurant in the area, said she was “frustrated” that property developers wanted to make money out of gay people and had not acknowledged the traditions of the area.

“Developers want to make a buck. I think they should smell the coffee,” said Philips.

But Green Point City Improvement District (CID) manager Marc Truss denied that developers were affecting anyone and said instead they were enhancing the area as more restaurants would be built.

Property development company Cape Quarter marketing manager Nicci Colussi said the Cape Quarter had contributed to the village and had generated opportunities for tenants, employees and patrons.

She said Cape Quarter, behind a shopping centre in the area, valued the local area and its population and would only develop in such a manner that enhanced the area, providing opportunities for potential gay tenants, employees and patrons.

Brenda Nkuna

Originally published on Property 24

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