Senator Park is a problem no more

2015-09-29 06:00
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, and Wayne Aldridge of the City’s problem building unit close the case on Senator Park. 

Bruce Sutherland/ City of Cape Town

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, and Wayne Aldridge of the City’s problem building unit close the case on Senator Park. PHOTO: Bruce Sutherland/ City of Cape Town

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Senator Park has finally been restored after years of being considered one of the most notorious properties in Cape Town.

The Senator Park block of flats in the city centre was formally removed from the City of Cape Town’s list of problem buildings last week, after an inspection by officials to check that the building owners complied with the relevant bylaw.

Senator Park had a reputation as being one of the most notorious problem buildings and had dominated headlines as a haven for criminals, says JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security.

The building was stripped of doors, windows, light fittings and fire safety equipment, making it unfit for occupation. But illegal occupants lived in many of the flats and refused to allow the owners access.

Restoring Senator Park became one of the City’s priorities in 2010, Smith says.

The first order of business was securing an eviction order. All occupants, save for five families, were removed from the building in 2011.

A developer then moved on site to refurbish the building.

The problem building unit inspected the building at the request of the developer in 2013 but found that while progress had been made in refurbishing private dwellings, there were still a number of things that violated the bylaw. This included a stairwell that had been damaged by a fire, outdated fire safety equipment and the continued state of disrepair of the general living area, Smith explains.

“Senator Park has been a challenge, but on the upside it has proven invaluable in terms of how to go about dealing with similar situations in future. In fact, the lessons we learned here allowed us to tackle a problem building in the Bellville area within a matter of months,” Smith says.

171 problem buildingsAt the end of last month, the problem building unit had a caseload of 1652 complaints in various stages of investigation. Of those, 171 cases have been declared problem buildings.

Ten property owners have been prosecuted so far, and eight of the cases have been finalised. Owners have paid a total of R12 500 in fines.

In one case, relating to a property in Sea Point, five people found to be illegally occupying a building, which had been declared a problem building, were sentenced to seven-day jail terms

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