River Club project still waterlogged

Director of the controversial River Club development in Observatory, Jody Aufrichtig, is determined to make his dream come true despite numerous failed attempts to have the project approved.

Aufrichtig says the delay, perpetuated by only a few in the community, has resulted in a huge financial loss for the company.

He says the application and assessments by the City of Cape Town and the Heritage Western Cape are almost done.

He hopes the first phase of the project will start in 2021. Once begun, it will run for up to six years, with “guaranteed job creation”.

The battle to get this project off the ground began more than six years ago.

The River Club forms part of the wider Two Rivers Urban Park and represents a microcosm of Cape history.

Aufrichtig says a handful of residents refuse to see the economic value of the project to the community and are determined to stand in his way. (“Redevelopment opposed”, People’s Post, 22 February 2018).

He says he has headed various projects in the city. Not once did he ignore heritage concerns or by-pass due process.

Speaking on the River Club project, he says the company has invested a lot to ensure the heritage, the view, the ecology and all relevant environmental life is preserved.

“Every business needs to grow. For years we have been engaging with the community, revising our plans, only to find the same people objecting to it. It has been frustrating,” says Aufrichtig.

He gave the Old Biscuit Mill in Salt River, the Woodstock Exchange and the Daddy Hotel in the central business district (CBD) as examples of previous projects where the company took the look and standards of the surrounding areas into consideration.

Aufrichtig says plans for the mixed-use River Club redevelopment includes a four-star green building and design principal, 150 000m² of floor area for retailers and offices, a recreational space to support the (then) rehabilitated riverbank to promote the enjoyment of the Raapenberg Wetland and Bird sanctuary, a private school, a heritage centre, inclusive housing and the upgrade of surrounding infrastructure and public transport.

“The redevelopment will create more than 5 239 jobs during the construction period to the total value of R1.6 billion. 

“It will also contribute 13 700 indirect and induced jobs. 

“Up to 860 people will be employed upon the completion of construction,” he explains.

Michelle Couzyn-Rademeyer, head of legal services at Zenprop Property Holdings, hopes the public will see the good that this project will bring and the efforts that have been made to build in such a way to safeguard the significance of the area’s heritage. 

Tauriq Jenkins of the Observatory Civic Association slams Aufrichtig’s statements. 

Jenkins says: “We are not aware of any finality with regards to the development. 

“If Aufrichtig is serious about saying that the plans will soon be implemented, then he must be intending to bypass all the legal requirements for public participation.”

As residents, they still feel the proposal put forward by the developer is the “most extreme dense development considered in their scoping report”. 

Jenkins says it will only maximise the developer’s profit at the expense of the environment, the heritage resources of the area, and the relationship with local communities.

“We remain steadfast in protecting our sacred heritage as well as the legitimate and highly sensitive environmental concerns,” he says.

Dr Mxolisi Dlamuka, chief executive officer for Heritage Western Cape, says the heritage impact assessment application falls within the National Environmental Management Act and the process is still at the pre-application basic assessment report stage.

Priya Reddy, the City’s spokesperson, says an application was submitted to the City’s development management department in August 2018 and was then advertised for public comment. 

She says the land use application is pending on the outcome of an Environmental Impact Assessment and heritage impact assessment process. 

“No decision has been made on the application as yet,” says Reddy.

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