Cape Town - The City of Cape Town’s Municipal Planning Tribunal has given the thumbs up for the construction of what Bo-Kaap residents have termed a “monster building” on the fringes of the historic neighbourhood.
The R1 billion, 60m-high apartment and retail block, would become the largest of its kind in the area in both height and bulk, filling a city block between Longmarket and Shortmarket streets with 249 residential units and over 300 parking bays.
Objectors from the surrounding properties between Buitengracht and Rose streets told the tribunal at a hearing on Tuesday that the proposed development was “unfriendly”, “objectionable”, “undesirable” and not in keeping with the area.
They raised concerns over the protection of the Bo-Kaap’s heritage, increased traffic congestion, the severing of pedestrian linkages to Riebeeck and Heritage squares and the gentrification of the area by those who would be able to afford the luxury apartments.
But despite more than 1 000 objections from the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, the owners of surrounding properties, adjacent apartment blocks The Studios and 35 on Rose, the tribunal said its decision was compliant with city policies on zoning, land use and heritage.
“It will be very imposing and will impact hugely on the profile in that part of the city, but the developer is exercising his rights,” said the chairman of the tribunal, David Daniels.
The Bo-Kaap Civic Association said it would appeal the tribunal’s ruling.
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has the final say on allowing the development to proceed after considering any appeals and following consultation with her technical advisory panel.
After two hours of public submissions to the tribunal, Daniels said while the proposed building was “not ideal”, the tribunal’s “hands were tied”.
“This is not the right place to influence what can or cannot be built.
“There is nothing in this proposal that disjuncts with the land use permitted in that zoning,” he said.
The chairman of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, Osman Shaboodien, said the development would set a precedent for future development in the area and that heritage rights were being overridden by zoning rights.
There was a “misconception” that the strip between Rose and Buitengracht streets did not form part of the Bo-Kaap and it was “convenient” to describe it as part of the CBD, he said.
“These apartments won’t be sold to the people of Bo-Kaap. It’s an elitist development that will have an impact on our livelihood.”
But developer Jose Rodrigues said his team would transform the current nondescript, industrial space into an attractive development that would cater to the local community while also offering first-class accommodation.
The body corporate of The Studios, an apartment next door to the proposed development, said their natural light, privacy and views would be affected.
Town planner Tommy Brummer on behalf of Rodrigues, said the bulk of the 26 000m² development would be situated on the Buitengracht Street end.
The building would be terraced from 38m downwards towards Rose Street, so as to limit its impact and to fit in better with the surrounding buildings.
Brummer said “careful consideration” had been given to working around a small property which its owner, Cecily Blumberg, did not want to sell.
Ward councillor Dave Bryant asked the tribunal to defer its decision if necessary, to adopt a “pragmatic” approach to the matter given the “strong emotional response” to the heritage impact.
Members of the tribunal said densification of the central city had to be encouraged.