High-rise looms over Bo-Kaap

Despite a bitter two-year battle between Bo-Kaap residents and high-end developers, a glass-encased high-rise building with 117 luxury apartments and a Virgin Active gym will be constructed in the historic Cape Town neighbourhood.

Construction on the 17-storey building – called 117 on Strand – will soon start on the corner of the historic Rose and Strand streets.

Laurie Wener of property company Pam Golding told City Press that more than half of the flats in the block had already been sold off plan.

“People are signing up rapidly. We’ve had a great response,” she said.

The most expensive offering is a three-bedroom penthouse with three bathrooms and views of the Atlantic Ocean, marketed at R11 million.

The block is advertised as “a unique, world-class experience in the heart of Cape Town” with “architecture showcasing the natural splendour of one of the world’s most beautiful cities”.

But Osman Shaboodien, chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, said the city council’s decision to grant permission for the development, despite their objections, had left a bad taste in his mouth.

“We’re dealing with a tough situation,” he said. “This building is an intrusion in Bo-Kaap. It will compromise our environment and way of life.”

‘UNDER THREAT’ A view of Bo-Kaap on the slopes of Signal Hill

Bo-Kaap is known for its brightly painted two-storey homes, where elders still gather on stoeps while children play in the streets.

The traditionally Muslim suburb, sprawled on the slopes of Signal Hill overlooking Cape Town, has been rapidly gentrifying, with property prices soaring as demand to own homes here continues to rise.

Up the road from the new 117 on Strand development site in Rose Street sits Rose’s Corner Cafe and, next door, a traditional barber shop, in front of which Warida Cornelius sets up a food stand with Malay treats such as samoosas and koesisters every day.

The mother of three’s baking skills have helped pay for her children to attend university. One is now an advocate, another a psychologist and another a human resources manager. But now the barber shop has been sold, too, and the future of her stand is uncertain.

“I’m 58 years old. This barber shop has been in the same family since before I was born. I’m not sure who bought it now, but ja, everything here is changing. I’m not sure if the new owners will allow my stand here on the doorstep,” she told City Press.

Shaboodien said Bo-Kaap residents didn’t mind the neighbourhood diversifying, but newcomers had to respect their customs.

“I mean, it’s a noisy suburb. We have people coming here to sell snoek, or whatever. Our children play in the streets,” said Shaboodien.

“For example, recently, a prominent member of the community died and we had a commemorative event for her on an open piece of grass. We put up a big screen and were celebrating her life. At about 8pm, the police came over ... One of the new residents had laid a complaint! They should just have come over and engaged with us.”

WHY THE CITY APPROVED IT

Responding to questions from City Press, Johan van der Merwe, City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, said the development was in essence approved as:

  • The development aligns with the city’s planning policies for the area in that it ‘will facilitate inner-city densification’;
  •  The scale of the proposed development was considered acceptable ‘with taller parts orientated along the commercial main road, which is Strand Street, and the smaller less intense components situated towards the back of the development, abutting the Bo-Kaap residential neighbourhood’; and
  • Various conditions were imposed to ‘mitigate possible visual impacts and to ensure active interfaces at street level’. 
Van der Merwe also notes that the proposal received heritage-impact approval from Heritage Western Cape. 


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