Cape Town - The Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation Centre appears set to obtain a nominal lease on one of Cape Town's architectural masterpieces, the 200-year-old Granary building in Buitenkant Street.
“The city is proud to announce that council will soon be considering an exciting joint venture with... Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu,” mayor Patricia de Lille told a media briefing at the Civic Centre on Monday.
The proposal to lease one of the oldest and most important historical buildings in the city would shortly be put to council for a decision, she said.
The Granary building, which stretches back from its imposing Louis Thibault-designed facade across the block to Harrington Street, once housed the old Cape Colony's customs house.
Thibault reportedly collaborated on the building with architect Herman Schutte and sculptor Anton Anreith. The British coat-of-arms on the pediment and the flanking gold-coloured figures of Neptune and Britannia are well-known city centre landmarks.
The building, particularly the back section, is currently in a very poor state of repair.
Speaking at the announcement on Monday, Tutu Ä wearing a purple robe Äexpressed his family's “deep appreciation” to De Lille.
“We hope that if the council approves the proposal... that apart from housing our offices and the archival material, we would be able to invite other non-governmental, non-profit organisations that generally have difficulty finding accommodation.
“The property is massive, and it would be so wonderful to have a constellation of NGOs being able to be there and lending their own particular clout...” he said.
The city said in a statement said the foundation's main functions were to develop and manage partnerships and legacy-promoting programs as well as contributing to positioning Cape Town as a world capital for the intellectual and practical pursuit of local and global peace, morality and human dignity.
Responding to questions, Cape Town deputy mayor Ian Neilson said the city had budgeted R30 million for renovations to the building ahead of it being taken over by the foundation.
Asked how much the announced nominal lease would be, he responded: “A nominal lease is a nominal lease; it's not market related at all.”
Neilson said the erf size was 2531 square metres, while the building, which in some sections rises to four storeys, has 3605 square metres of floor space.
He said legal processes remained to be completed, with a report having to be sent to a sub-council before being published for public comment. After this, the city council would take a decision.
“This process will take a couple of months... but we are quite confident this will have the outcome we are looking for...”
The renovations to the building would be done in conjunction with a heritage architect.
“It's difficult to give exact time frames, but we're hoping (to be completed) in about 18 months or so, depending on... exactly what the architectural requirements will be.”
On the length of the lease, he said it would be on similar terms to the one the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust had on another property, a portion of vacant land near the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
“There's about 40 years remaining on that, at a fairly nominal lease,” Neilson said.
De Lille said she believed the proposal, if accepted by council, would serve a dual purpose.
“(It will restore) a truly unique and important heritage site, and ensure that the extraordinary legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is recognised and celebrated long in the future,” she said.