Row over demolition of Bo Kaap’s Noon Gun restaurant
THE battle for the Bo Kaap continues with residents now up in arms about a property developer who wants to demolish the defunct Noon Gun Tea Room and Restaurant at the top of Longmarket Street.
The Noon Gun was part of a privately owned house on the lower slopes of Signal Hill.
Two years ago the Misbach family sold the house to property developer Cedar Falls, which also bought adjacent vacant land.
Cedar Falls wants to demolish the house and build 12 cottages on the plot.
The site offers unobstructed views of Table Mountain and central Cape Town as well as towards the V&A Waterfront.
Jacqueline Poking, secretary of the Bo Kaap Ratepayers and Civic Association, said they opposed the demolition, which they regard as part of ongoing gentrification that is erasing the area’s history and heritage. “The family who owned the house told us it is 150 years old. They bought the property in 1944.
“The reason people want to throw down buildings is because it’s old and it’s falling apart.
“But we want to preserve Bo Kaap as far as possible.
“If this building and other houses like this go, the more buildings are thrown down, we lose our history.”
Poking said the civic association wanted to “preserve our community”.
They had scrutinised the proposed development plans for the site and it “looks like they are creating a gated community in Bo Kaap”.
“That is very strange to this area. Part of Bo Kaap’s history is that we interact with each other. People talk to each other on the stoep. A lot of the time developers create islands and don’t interact at all with the community.
“They go in and lock themselves away,” said Poking.
“The way new places are developed there’s a big wall and no design that allows for communication.
“It doesn’t allow interaction and it erodes the community.”
Gail Behr, one of the financial partners at Cedar Falls, said the Noon Gun building was of no value and had to be demolished.
“The building is in a very poor state. There’s nothing worth saving here.
“Sections of it are illegal and built on government land. We want to demolish the whole thing.”
She denied they intended building a gated estate, but added: “If people are going to be horrible to me I’m going to put up a gate.”
Behr said: “Because of the way we are treated, we start to think we are not welcome in the community and we should just fence ourselves off and not engage with the community. It breaks my heart.”
Architect Katlego Motene, who designed the cottages for Cedar Falls, said the aesthetic would be “in line with the Bo Kaap”.
“We want to make it look like it was always here. We will use old wooden doors.”
Poking said the civic association was constantly locking horns with developers who were changing the face of Bo Kaap.
She said more than 20% of Bo Kaap had been sold since 1994 and the area’s perimeter closest to the city now hosted a number of hotels, coffee shops and art galleries.
“Bo Kaap is essentially a residential area for families. It is an old area. It has a sense of community and family.
“You don’t find that in a lot of other places. These families have been constantly here,” said Poking.
She said the civic association had tried discouraging people from selling their homes to property developers. “We ask our community to always consider before selling. But we understand some people need to sell for whatever reason. We just don’t want to lose the heritage of the community.”
Behr accused the civic association of running a “witch hunt”.
“I’m so sick of this. They need to tell people not to sell their properties if they don’t want other people to come in here.
“If the community thinks this (Noon Gun) is a thing of beauty, buy it back from us.
“It’s demonising us. I’m too white for the area but we are a democracy and you can live wherever you want.
“Why not embrace us?”
Poking responded that the matter was not about race but heritage.
Heritage Western Cape, a provincial government entity, has stopped Cedar Falls from going ahead with demolishing the Noon Gun and has ordered a public participation process.
Poking said they appealed to the public to share photos, stories and memories of the Noon Gun in a bid to strengthen the argument that it is of value to the community.
Cape Town-based lobbyists Development Action Group (DAG) said it would support the civic association’s objection to the demolition. DAG project officer Naeemah Sadien, who runs an urban governance programme called Re-imagining Woodstock and Salt River, said they were challenging the “infamous ‘developer attitude’ to development in inner city Cape Town”.
“It is inconsiderate to lived-culture while claiming to have the community’s interest at heart,” said Sadien.