The ANC-run eThekwini municipality in KwaZulu-Natal says it has set aside a budget of R28 million to be used to demolish the China Emporium building in the city centre.
The building became an eyesore after it caught fire in January last year, and it was then abandoned by its owners and tenants.
In a statement on Wednesday after a meeting of the executive committee (exco), the city said the owners of the building have failed to abide by a court ruling to demolish it, hence the move.
It added that the R28 million to be used will be levied on Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd, the owners who were ordered in September last year to demolish it but failed.
The city labelled the building near the campus of the Durban University of Technology a health hazard and an eyesore.
A structural engineer’s report received days after the fire recommended that the entire building be demolished, it said.
Furthermore, the city said the decision to expedite the demolition came after careful consideration of multiple challenges arising from the compromised structure's continued existence.
Among the issues are illegal dumping, unsanctioned public use, the risk of structural collapse as the building is unstable, traffic congestion, business disruptions due to prolonged road closures, and reputational concerns, which have compelled the municipality to take swift action.
"In September 2022, the building owner, Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd was directed to demolish the structure within six months.
"This was not done, and as such, Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd is technically in breach of the court order which empowers the municipality to demolish the building and recover the costs from the building owner.
"This means the municipality equally has a legal obligation to act," the city said in the statement.
Since it has an obligation to create a safe environment, the decision to do the demolition was then taken.
"In a proactive and resolute stride towards enhancing public safety and ushering in new investment opportunities, the Municipality’s Executive Committee (EXCO) has given its resounding approval to expedite the demolition of the fire-damaged structure.
"This critical decision aligns with the city's unwavering commitment to creating a secure urban environment and fostering economic growth," it added.