(CNN) — Abandoned workshops and empty warehouses are getting a new lease of life in Cape Town. Spaces that once housed production lines are now becoming creative hotspots for artists, designers and musicians living in a city that holds the title of World Design Capital for 2014.
This urban regeneration might be most true in one of Cape Town’s oldest suburbs: Woodstock.
Visitors to the area can see the busy harbor to the north and the majestic Table Mountain to the south. But most people wandering around the area aren’t here for the views — with its craft stores, art markets, theaters and award-winning restaurants, this is a hot address for young urbanites.
This sector is an important component of South Africa’s economy. The visual arts contribute nearly $90 million to the country’s GDP and provide employment to almost 18,000 people, according to the Department of Arts and Culture.
But the craft sector is even more significant when it comes to generating income. The sector contributes about $985 million annually to GDP and employs approximately 38,000 people.
Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile has announced a number of partnerships with local community leaders and artists in a bid to stimulate creativity in communities and help beautify areas. Overall, the program is projected to create 5,000 short-term jobs between 2013 and 2015.
Her goal is to stimulate the industry and the majority of the work is happening in Woodstock. The regeneration of the area is one of the reasons that the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design has crowed Cape Town the World Design Capital — a title the city will hold until the end of the year.
Past title holders that have received recognition for driving urban development through design include Finland’s capital city Helsinki and Seoul in South Korea. Cape Town is the first city on the African continent to have been given the title, which was first bestowed on Torino in Italy in 2008.
“There has been a fantastic response,” says Otten. “There has been an uplifting of the city as people are really making public spaces better.”
But there is a sense that the real benefits won’t be immediately obvious. “I think this is far more intrinsic and deeper than anybody anticipates and it’s only going to be in years to come that we really see the critical impact that world design capital has had on Cape Town,” says McGowan.
As the end of 2014 comes into sight, and with it the close of Cape Town’s reign as World Design Capital, citizens will hope the year in the spotlight will have a lasting impact on the city’s public spaces.