The Onyx occupies a strategic site on The Heerengracht, Cape Town’s oldest thoroughfare. This grand, broad boulevard with its wide circles, expansive public spaces and formal green parks has long been central to the civic life of Cape Town, forming the main north-south avenue through the central business district, and the site of the city’s central railway station and long-distance bus hub.
The street was originally named Heerengracht, meaning ‘The Gentleman’s Canal’ in Dutch, after the canal or ‘gracht’ that ran down its centre, channeling the streams of Table Mountain down into Table Bay.
For many years the street was residential in nature, lined with large oak trees, but by 1850 it had become the commercial spine of the city, linking the fine shops and stately banks of the Mother CIty with the grand old Cape Town Pier, and the thoroughfare was renamed Adderley Street. After the reclamation of the Foreshore began in 1938 however, the lower part of the street was given its original name once more.
The harbour-end of the Heerengracht, culminating in a formal circular park, has recently seen major capital investment in the development of several significant new buildings, namely the Cape Town International Convention Centre and its extension, and the newly completed Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.
Older buildings on the Heerengracht, such as Media 24 and the Standard Bank Building, have also recently been radically refurbished to create a pristine precinct of contemporary corporate architecture on a grand scale, gleaming with glass and bold, geometric architecture, housing the head offices of many financial institutions and legal firms. The success of the CTICC, the setting for constantly changing conventions, exhibitions and concerts, has brought new life to the precinct, and seen the establishment of many new hotels, whose guests enjoy an easy walk to the ever popular V&A Waterfront.
Today, water flows once more down the formal canal running through the centralised traffic circle. And, through The Onyx, residents will return to this grand old boulevard, re-energising the streets with pedestrian life, and infusing the restaurants, coffee shops and theatres with new customers.