WRANGLE. Developers want to build flats on the site of the former St Monica's Old Age Home, but residents say it has heritage significance for them. Picture: BHEKI RADEBE/ANA
WRANGLE. Developers want to build flats on the site of the former St Monica's Old Age Home, but residents say it has heritage significance for them. Picture: BHEKI RADEBE/ANA

Residents furious over demolition plan in Bo-Kaap

By TSHEGO LEPULE Time of article published Dec 3, 2017

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BO-KAAP residents are mad about the planned demolition of a building they say has heritage significance for them to make way for an apartment block.

Netcovax developers, looking to begin construction at the site that used to house St Monica’s Old Age Home in Lion Street, made an application to Heritage Western Cape to determine the historical significance of some of the buildings that are older than 60 years.

Heritage Western Cape will then make a ruling on whether to approve remodelling or demolition of any buildings on the site.

A meeting in the area earlier this week between residents and consultants, brought in to determine the significance of each building on the site, disintegrated into chaos as irate residents accused them of belittling their heritage.

“These developers are coming into Bo-Kaap and are raping this community with these big buildings,” said an angry resident. “Many of us here were born at that hospital and for it to be turned into a big building with lots more people is not right.

“More and more properties are being bought up and we are getting letters in our mail almost every other month notifying us of this and that that has to do with some developer who bought land.

“In a few years time Bo-Kaap will no longer be recognisable because it will have been turned into something that it is not and the people who were born here will be driven out.”

Chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association Osman Safodien said the community was on edge as more developers were coming in. He said what upset residents the most about the St Monica site was that their voices continued to count for less as buildings with histories were also targets.

“The building has a history dating back to 1940... it was given by the city to the St Paul’s Anglican Diocese, who then gave it to an NGO.

"As time went on it was used as a maternity hospital, so many people walking around here were born there. The building has some history to it. And when it was an old age home, it was decided that the building would be sold and they were given permission to sell it on the open market,” he said.

“Next to it is a piece of land that was leased by St Monica for a vegetable garden and it was also sold.

“One of the major concerns we have is that Bo-Kaap is a very congested area, the houses don’t have garages and everybody stands on the roads. In that area the road is already congested, there is a school in the vicinity and traffic there is a nightmare.

“The other thing is what it does to the character of the area. You find these big developments taking place everywhere. There is one in Strand Street, one in Buitengracht Street and Rose Street.

“The pace at which (developments) are happening and the support they get from the authorities is frightening. We will lose the impact of Bo-Kaap in the next few years if the momentum is not stopped.

“Development and change are inevitable but I think we need to balance things. There will be places where you can have high density development and there will be places where you can’t. Salt River, Observatory, Woodstock are places where we need to retain the character of the Cape Town of yesteryear."

Julian Reynolds of Netcovax said: “We were quite careful when we started the project. We employed consultants who came to asses the heritage significance of the area. We had an urban planner who was also born and bred in the area to look at what is the best type of development. We got a plan from him that is very responsible. We took a decision to retain the front building (old maternity ward), which is the only building with any heritage significance, the others are totally insignificant and are in a terrible state.

"I would be surprised if they have a coherent argument as to why the area should not be developed. Development, if done responsibly, should not be mistrusted.”

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