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Row brews over R1bn complex in BoKaap

Cape Town - 160210 - Cicely Blumberg refuses to sell her buildings in the Bo-Kaap in order for a multi-storey development to go up in their place. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - 160210 - Cicely Blumberg refuses to sell her buildings in the Bo-Kaap in order for a multi-storey development to go up in their place. Picture: David Ritchie

Published Feb 11, 2016


Cape Town - A proposal for a R1 billion residential and commercial complex at the foot of the Bo-Kaap has residents, property owners and businesses up in arms.

The 19-storey, 60m-high building would be built on prime property overlooking the city’s heritage precinct of Heritage and Riebeeck squares.

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Bounded by Buitengracht, Rose, Shortmarket and Longmarket streets, the proposed development would include 249 apartments, 324 parking bays and about 5 000m2 of commercial and retail outlets on the ground floor.

The key objections to the development from Bo-Kaap residents, is its excessive height and bulk, and the impact the building will have on the area’s heritage value.

Its façade in Buitengracht Street would be roughly equal in height to the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, sloping down to about 30m high in Rose Street.

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Residents said it would affect their privacy, cast shadows over their houses, block views and further entrench the barrier between the Bo-Kaap and the city centre.

The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, which is driving the objection process, has slammed the city council for not protecting the area’s rich heritage.

“It’s development at all costs for the city. It’s one thing to say you want to preserve heritage and what it brings for tourism, but the characteristics of the city are being destroyed,” said the association’s chairman Osman Shaboodien.

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The association has launched the “Build bridges not barriers” campaign through which several hundred residents and other sympathetic parties have registered their objections.

Around 200 residents and interested parties met again on Tuesday night to encourage interested parties to lodge their objections before the February 18 deadline.

Shaboodien said the association was prepared to take the matter to court if need be.

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The developer and director of Vantage Properties, José Rodrigues, said: “We are in the middle of the process now but all the comments and objections received will be considered and responded to in due course.”

The mayoral committee member for energy, environment and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe, said no decision had yet been made on whether the development will be given the green light.

“The city carefully considers all submitted applications within a contextually specific manner, and public participation is sought if and when required by applicable legislation,” he said.

Cicely Blumberg, who owns several properties in the area, said if allowed to proceed, construction work would almost certainly cause one of her buildings on Shortmarket Street to cave in.

Built in 1790, the building houses the Streetwires Artist Collective and, like many other properties in the area, does not have a cement foundation.

Blumberg has refused to sell her property to Vantage Properties and said she wanted to preserve the heritage of the area.

“A development of this magnitude is really terribly destructive.

“If the policy is to gentrify the city, in this case, it’s misguided.”

Owner of Italsud Motors, Tony L’Abbate said his workshop in Shortmarket Street would be severely affected by construction in the area.

“Clients will not want to come here where there are cement trucks and cranes,” he said.

The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association has enlisted a team of professionals led by UCT architecture professor emeritus Fabio Todeschini to draft a response to the development proposal.

“Bo-Kaap residents and visitors will feel like they are in a fish bowl when walking around the streets – watched over by the residents of the proposed development,” they said in their report.

The three-storey deep basement parking garage had the potential to cause severe damage to the surrounding buildings during construction, and the height of the building in the path of the wind would increase turbulence, the team said.

Shaboodien said the kind of housing that would be created was not in line with the city council’s social housing and densification policies.

More high-end property would be created, exacerbating gentrification in the area and driving up rates for families who had lived in the area forgenerations.

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