Cape Town - A reclaimed Constantia farm from the early 1900s, which was at the centre of a protracted land restitution battle, looks set to become a R250 million Shoprite Checkers shopping complex.
But residents of the area are unimpressed, saying another retail development was not needed.
Bounded by Kendal, Spaanschemat River Road and Ladies Mile and the M3, the two properties which made up the farm, span an area of 14 562m².
More recently it has served as waste drop-off point for the city.
The proposed retail development would cover an area of 7 811m², with a maximum height of 15m.
The Solomon family, who farmed the land from 1902, occupied the farm for 65 years before they were removed under the Group Areas Act.
They developed the land into a self-sustaining, commercially productive land unit - growing flowers, vegetables and fruit for export - and raised livestock and poultry.
The Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA) is now conducting an online opinion poll about future plans for the site, but so far, those who have commented on its Facebook page have not warmed to the proposal.
They say the development would cause traffic chaos and that the retail chain was not suited to Constantia.
“What do we want another shopping centre for... and right in the middle of a residentially zoned area!! Traffic will also be too much for the area to absorb... And please don’t try and fool us by saying it’ll be upmarket... there’s absolutely nothing upmarket about Shoprite!!!,” commented Adrian Stevens.
Added Kirsten Ralph: “Shoprite does not fit in the profile of the area. Go back and do your homework people.”
Others seemed oblivious to the fact that the two erven belong to the Solomons family as a result of a restitution claim, suggesting that the area be preserved for public use.
“So unnecessary... what we need to do is preserve the rural feel of Constantia... they should rather build beautiful stables and a stunning arena for horses!!” said Annette Cowley-Nel.
Replied Nick Legg: “It is all very well for people who don’t own the land to propose community projects of whatever nature. Perhaps they should club together and buy the land from the owner.
“Then they could have a say in what sort of equestrian or leisure centre should be established.”
The Solomon family initiated the restitution process in 1996 and, 10 years later, the Land Claims Court concluded a Deed of Settlement with the Hadjie Abdullah Solomon Family Trust and the Hadjie Ismael Solomon Family Trust.
In a statement contained in the motivation document, the family said it was looking to unlock the economic opportunities it had been denied.
“As it is impossible to fully restore the historic character of the land, the family has carefully considered the type and nature of redevelopment which will be able to function as a financially viable standalone entity and to serve as a catalyst for the development of the remaining restitution sites,” said Rashad Solomon, the founder and chairman of the trust.
By the time the family left the property, it contained an 11-roomed Victorian-style house, a seven-roomed colonial-style house, eight family houses and workers cottages and outbuildings.
The leasing of the shopping centre would provide the Solomon family with a sustainable income to cross-subsidise their residential development on their land east of the M3.
It is hoped that the city council will restore the mixed land use rights on the reclaimed land and approve the consolidation of the two erven.
According to the motivation report, the development would “kick-start the re-establishment of Constantia’s historical economic hub” and “make a positive contribution to the economic empowerment in Cape Town”.
The buildings would have a modern farm, homestead architecture.
A new traffic circle is proposed at the Ladies Mile/Spaanschemat River Road intersection.
During the construction phase, an estimated 150 jobs will be created and the shopping centre is expected to employ up to 350 staff once fully operational.
The CRRA chairman did not want to comment on the plans, but on its website the association said based on the outcome of its opinion poll, it would propose alternative uses for the site, list the pros and cons of the proposal and submit a formal letter of comment to the city.
It would also call for a presentation by the developers and the professional team to explain the proposal in more detail and to answer questions.
But one resident, Etienne Braun said the poll was pointless and that the proposal was surely a done deal.