Kid’s home shut down

2014-06-04 00:00

A CHILDREN’S holiday home on the Durban beachfront has officially shut its doors after more than 40 years in operation.

But the non-profit organisation running the home has viewed this as a new beginning rather than an end to an era, recognising that Durban has changed dramatically over the same period and that the home was no longer suitable for children aged between eight to 13 years old.

Developers and the eThekwini Metro view the closure as an opportunity to offer more prime beachfront real estate in what is fast becoming a high value tourism node adjacent to the King’s Park sports precinct, which is being positioned as a global sports and entertainment destination.

The Star Seaside Fund has operated as a children’s holiday home on the corner of Molyneu and Playfair roads — named after philanthropist John Playfair who initially set up the home — since 1970 at a rental of just R2 per annum.

At the council’s Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee meeting yesterday, a request for the termination of the lease by the fund was accepted, bringing formal closure to the home. The lease was expected to expire in September 2020.

The home, once exclusively reserved for underprivileged white children from the Transvaal during the repressive apartheid era, has played host to over 140 000 poor children and now draws large numbers of youngsters from Gauteng townships.

Seaside Fund marketing manager Barbara McGorian said the move to a home in Hibberdene was necessary.

“The site was not in an ideal position and the children would only visit the beach a handful of days. The new home on the South Coast is on the beach. The building was also falling apart,” said McGorian.

She said the children’s wellbeing and safety needed to be considered. They stopped using the home in 2012.

The property, which was even recommended to be used as housing for indigent families, is surrounded by middle to upper income flats, ranging in price between R300 000 and R850 000. According to property search engine Lightstone, the area has seen a steady growth in property valuation over the past seven years. It is behind the Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani Hotel.

According to a municipal valuation, the 6 500 square metre property is valued at R5,59 million.

The organisation is supported by volunteers. The cost of funding a nine-day holiday per child to the coast costs around R2 500. This is funded entirely from donations.

“We bring about 1 000 children a year to the coast, as well as pensioners. Each trip costs R200 000. We receive a number of sponsorships in kind and cash,” said McGorian.

According to the city report, it was initially recommended that the site be used for transient families displaced from informal settlements and awaiting new homes.

“In view of the property’s close proximity to the beachfront hotels and upmarket residential developments, it is considered the proposed use [as a transient location] is inappropriate,” said the report.

Durban developer Kevin Dunkley called the property “prime”.

“There is no doubt that the property will have a lot of interest. It all depends on how it is zoned. It is in a good position and looks onto other greenfield sites,” said Dunkley.

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