Millions for Casbah rejuvenation
On Monday, the sale agreement between the buyers, the Juma Masjid Trust, and the sellers, Porbandar Educational Trust, was signed at the offices of Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys in uMhlanga. The building that houses the 92-year-old arcade was sold for R18million.
Advocate ABMahomed, the chairperson of the Juma Masjid Trust, said their plans to revitalise the arcade included a tourist-friendly, high-end spice emporium.
He said the spice emporium would be similar to the popular Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, and that he was liaising with experts in this regard.
“We plan to invest between R30 and R50million in this project, so we can offer a one-of-a-kind experience to the community. We hope the arcade reverts to its original form of being a beautiful market with thousands of daily commuters.”
Mahomed said they wanted other stakeholders on-board, including KZN premier Sihle Zikalala and Durban mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, as the arcade was expected to be a tourist hot spot.
The arcade, which has more than 55shops, is part of the historic Grey Street Precinct.
It was built in 1927 and over the decades became a destination where fond memories were made.
Mohamed, the trust chairman for 30years, said when the Porbandar Educational Trust decided to sell the property, they grabbed the opportunity due to the historical ties that existed between the two organisations.
He said the Porbandar Educational Trust would have secured investors if they advertised on the open property market.
“But the question was, would those investors have paid attention to historic continuity? We seized the opportunity, but with the understanding that we would maintain the ethos and architecture, and revitalise it.”
Mohamed said they aimed to complete the revamp by 2021, ahead of the masjid’s 150th anniversary.
The Juma Masjid, also referred to as the Grey Street Mosque, has a history going back to 1881, when the land was bought by Aboobaker Amod Jhaveri and Hajee Mohamed, two of the-then Natal Colony’s first Asian traders. A tiny brick and mortar structure which stood on the site was converted into the mosque.
AB Moosa, the managing trustee of the Porbandar Educational Trust, said: “For myself and the descendants of the other founding trustees, we believe it was the right decision. Our forefathers played integral parts in both the arcade and the mosque. It feels as if it’s now going back home because of the historical links.”
His great-grandfather, Moosa Hajee Cassim Sayani, was one of the co-founders of the almost 130-year-old Porbandar Educational Trust, which built the two-storey building that houses the arcade.
Sayani was also one of two financial contributors to the Juma Masjid.
Moosa’s late grandfather, AB Moosa senior, and his late father Moosa Moosa were long-serving trustees of the Porbandar Educational Trust.
Buddy Govender, the co-founder of the Grey Street Casbah Facebook group and a former resident, welcomed the revamp.
“The arcade has great historical significance and forms part of a beautiful and iconic part of Durban. It will, however, be good to see the development and a spice market is a noble intention, which will be a tourist attraction.”
Satish Dhupelia, who lived in nearby Dr Goolam (Prince Edward) Street, added: “The Durban CBD has deteriorated in some areas, but there is hope with the plans for rejuvenation. I am excited, as I have fond memories of walking through the arcade.
“This should also be a motivation to other businesses to take back their city and revamp their stores, which will bring that bustle of commuters that it once did.
“The city and police also need to come on board to ensure a safer environment for business owners and patrons.”