Property Flash


June 14 2024 13:00

Blok, a property developer with a difference and 18 projects under its belt, has launched an initiative to improve urban design and mobility in Cape Town.

The group which builds modern, slick and majestic apartment developments, recognises that it has to do more than merely invest in real estate; it must take steps to make living in the Mother City as desirable as property price trends suggest.

A Cycle Tour highlighted safe cycling around Cape Town


Cape Town has developed at knots in the past 20 to 30 years as a mix of visionary people took steps to draw people from across the globe to embrace the tourism and unique lifestyle, arguably the most beautiful place on the planet can offer. Among these is Blok, led by CEO and founder Jacques van Embden, who has chosen to pioneer city living.

Founded in 2014, Blok has spent a decade creating micro and studio apartments which draw a diverse mix of investors and residents who desire to live around the Atlantic Seaboard from Green Point to Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Fresnaye and increasingly the centre of the city.

“For a city to be live-able , you need to achieve safety, a strong sense of community, rich culture and an abundance in opportunities. By ensuring our buildings have mixed-use programmed in them and that we invest into the public – private edge of a building, we can upgrade its impact on the broader area. We are passionate about making a space more interesting, cultural and textural,” van Embden says.

“Through great owner-run tenancy on the ground floor of each development with good building management and oversight, we can ensure that each building and its surrounding area is well managed which typically ensures cleanliness and overall community enjoyment,” he says.


With these goals in mind, the Blok team collaborated with Young Urbanists and Urban-Think Tank, two non-profit groups. Young Urbanists is a civil society group which “creates a platform for open dialogue, engagement and action aimed at challenging the apartheid legacies faced in our cities”. Urban-Think Tank meanwhile promotes new practices of architecture and urbanism.

The three recently held a set of events in association with Decorex Cape Town, a lifestyle event which draws tens of thousands of people to Cape Town’s International Convention Centre (CTICC).

Empower House stand – Decorex

On the evening of Wednesday June 12, Blok, Young Urbanists and Urban-Think Tank held a networking event to embolden their partnership as they defined why such initiatives are key to the health and soul of Cape Town. Van Embden and Young Urbanists managing director, Roland Postma explained how they had found one another holding common visions for the city. Blok showcased varied and well-designed urban interventions that they have created. These included the pedestrian thoroughfare by the recently opened TENONV, as well as the pedestrian crossing art mural, situated outside Blok’s development, EIGHTYONM. How future urban interventions could be encapsulated was also discussed with is partnership set for success over the long haul.

TENBONV thoroughfare

“The Young Urbanists and Urban-Think Tank are a critical part of raising awareness about how important quality urban spaces are and they deliver this in a broad fashion. We are thrilled to have worked together,” says van Embden.

Van Embden says if we want to improve mobility across the city, we need to start with density. “Density helps a fortune followed by by secure routes for non-motorised transport,” he says.

82ONM pedestrian crossing

The second partnership event was held on the afternoon of Thursday June 6 featuring a topical panel discussion about managing and improving mobility. Postma moderated the discussion between van Embden and the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordhin Hill-Lewis. The two support the kinds of interventions which are ambitious but necessary in a thriving city.

A fine Saturday morning

Mayor Hill-Lewis is driven to improve transport options safety and overall mobility across the city of Cape Town.

“We have to be bold if we are realistic about changing how people move around our city and its surrounds. If people can be more easily mobile, the possibility of them accessing work opportunities and of attaining a higher quality of life are enhanced,” van Embden says.

Driving safe cycling

The third collaborative event was a vibey cycle tour across some of Cape Town’s coolest roads. This cycling experience involved a guided tour by the Bicycle Mayor, starting from 173 Bree Street, Rook Cycles to Sea Point and back. The trip showcased Blok’s developments along the Atlantic Seaboard and safe cycling initiatives along the route. These included the pedestrian crossing urban intervention on Sea Point Main Road, which was developed by Blok in collaboration with Our Future Cities and artist, Al Luke.

Property Flash attended this stellar tour which highlighted how much of the city enables safe cycling already in high-value commercial areas like the V&A Waterfront and parts of the Sea Point precinct. As long people treat cyclists with respect and vice versa and traffic signals and rules are abided by, this safe cycling can continue. In fact, safe cycling strategies like these can be replicated elsewhere in the greater city area.

Van Embden stresses that we are on the right track with respect to cycling culture and how functional it is to cycle.

“There are some pockets where this is really successful and certain routes where it needs some work The city has their next focus on how to connect these routes and improve the ones that are failing. Both of these will be critical to creating a network versus a node,” explains van Embden.

Postma agrees. “In a young democracy like ours, it’s very important for civil society and the private sector to work together when it comes to working with government and other entities when it comes to establish better outcomes in the built environment. As an organisation which was developed officially in 2019, we really value partnerships like Blok in the built environment to do better,” says Postma.

“We might not always agree on everything but we have to work together to push the boundaries of new developments and neighbourhood designs, in order to put people first as opposed to private cars,” he says.

“We have the golden show that it makes commercial sense. We can have inclusivity and we can have safer streets through buildings that respond to our needs when we create spaces for pedestrians.” Art can be used to promote safety and health with the assistance of the city.

What’s next?

Watch this space as Blok and Young Urbanists intend on collaborating on urban interventions spaces such as urban art and pedestrian crossings across the city. 

The Bicycle Mayor of Cape Town

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