Breathing life into the Athlone CBD

The Athlone Revival Festival committee includes, from left, Armeen Galant, Lameez Galant, Lisa Morkel, David Morkel, and Bolla the entertainer.

A group of people concerned about the state of the Athlone CBD will be hosting a revival festival for the area with the hope of restoring it to its former glory.

The festival, on Sunday April 30, will feature headline acts and entertainers from the community, but it will also serve as a communication platform with a serious message.

The organisers would like to focus on some of the social issues impacting the community – drug addiction, abuse and homelessness.

David Morkel, who serves on the event’s organising committee, said they would be dedicating an area of the festival to information stalls for issues impacting the community. “Another key theme for us is entrepreneurship. We encourage the community to have stalls at the festival and we are also having a section dedicated to children under 18 who have products to sell.”

Mr Morkel said he and his sister, Lisa, literally grew up in the Athlone CBD, as their late father started their family business, Braude’s Pharmacy, many years ago. “We have seen the changes over the years. We have seen the total decline, and businesses defintely died down. “

He added that the state of the Athlone CBD was because of the “persistent social and economic problems”, causing some businesses to relocate and in the process, the buildings have degraded.

But, according to Mr Morkel, all is not lost.“There have been great success stories where upgrading has led to economic upliftment. An example is the Kromboom Road corridor, where the sleepy residential areas have been transformed into thriving businesses.”

He said there are many historic buildings and beautiful architecture in the Athlone CBD. “These beautiful facades are taken for granted by locals, but should be showcased to visitors.”

He said despite its appearance, Athlone offers great services and products at value prices.“Thebusiness owners have come together to try to improve the environment with a focus on security, cleaning and making the environment more attractive. A private parking area has been established and other parking options are being discussed. This is a long journey, but the team moves forward tirelessly.”

Despite its challenges, there are also many permanent tenants in the area. The City of Cape Town, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) the Athlone Magistrate’sCourt, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and three banking institutions are based there.

There is also a plethora of other businesses, such as three pharmacies, medical and dental facilities, a large supermarket, and butcheries.

The Kismet Centre, which used to house an upmarket cinema, now offers an upmarket club and bistro after hours.

There is also a dance school, supported by renowned Cape Town dancers.

The Athlone Revival Festival on Sunday April 30 begins with a 3km or 5km fun run, followed by a free community exercise class. Thereafter, there will be free entertainment for visitors, which includes a line-up of well-known singers and comedians, and martial arts displays among activities.

Stallholder applications and fun run entry forms can be obtained from Braude’s Pharmacy or Athlone Pharmacy or found on Facebook: search for athlonerevivalfestival

The fun run fee is R20 for adults and R10 for those under 18.

All funds raised will be donated to charities in the area.