Connecting history

The vision of a historical precinct in the CBD – including the Castle of Good Hope, Grand Parade, Old Drill Hall, City Hall and Old Granary – is closer to becoming a reality as the R27m upgrade of City Hall gets underway next month.

Ward councillor Dave Bryant says the area is already in a heritage protection overlay zone but the intention is to create a more interconnected space to encourage users to interact with the heritage fabric of the area.

“There has been an ongoing rejuvenation of the precinct over the past few years. The work being undertaken on the City Hall and Grand Parade is intended to take this process to the next level.” he says.

Stuart Diamond, Mayco member for assets and facilities management, says the refurbishment of City Hall will enhance the aesthetics of the building.

“Given its proximity to the Grand Parade, Old Drill Hall and Castle of Good Hope, it will establish this precinct as the historical and cultural heart of Cape Town. This is the vision for the City Hall precinct.”

Built in 1905, the iconic City Hall building is in need of urgent repairs and upgrades due to the ageing infrastructure.

The upgrade will include extensive renovations to the auditorium and ensure compliance in terms of the national safety regulations (“City Hall to close for upgrade”, People’s Post, 18 July).

“The building is more than 100 years old; therefore the repairs and restoration work have become quite urgent. The only way the work can be done is to close the venue to allow the restorers to undertake the work uninterrupted and with great care,” Diamond previously told People’s Post.

Currently the focus is on improvements to the City Hall and the Grand Parade along with the full restoration of the Old Granary, explains Bryant.

The Old Granary building, which is over 200 years old, has been undergoing extensive restoration (“Facelift for Granary building”, People’s Post, 22 August 2016).

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation is expected to take over the lease of the building as a peace centre, offices, archive and museum. The building, which was built between 1808 and 1823, initially served as a house and bakery. It later became the town granary, then a magistrate’s court, a post office and government offices.

“The intention is to loosely connect the main five heritage spaces in the area so that users can easily access and interact with these spaces in a more coordinated manner,” Bryant says.

Diamond adds: “City Hall is one of our oldest and most central public spaces with a rich history that resonates with residents across the city and the rest of South Africa. Additionally, the development of a heritage precinct will help to draw locals and visitors to this iconic space. In turn, this will help to boost the economic sustainability of this key strategic asset.”

Added to this, a planned memorial and exhibition to honour late president Nelson Mandela will form part of a national liberation heritage route, Diamond explains.

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