A resident of Lavender Hill and Retreat for more than 40 years, Owen Simons is confident that the sale of the old Quibell building – otherwise known as the Princess Bioscope – will help drive economic activity.
People’s Post reported on the activity around the building on Tuesday 9 February (“End credits for old bioscope”). Following the article, Simons reached out to shed more light on the project.
“I have fond memories of happy times at the Bioscope, especially the matinées – mainly Saturday afternoons. The excitement of the big screen; finding the best seat in the house – usually at the back in anticipation of the lights going out – was electric,” Simons says.
Further describing his experiences in and around the building, he adds: “At the time there were mostly karate and cowboy movies. Naturally, on our way home, we would all practice all the moves we’d seen on-screen on one another.”
Having visited the bioscope with his brothers and their friends, Simons explains that there was always a sense of family in the community.
“I remember the neighbouring aunties chatting to us as we streamed out of the movie-house, clearly to keep us in check, but also to see that we are safe. Such was the spirit of caring for another’s child, then.”
With the building falling to ruin over the years after it closed down – attracting vagrants and illegal activity – the purchase of the building is a welcome development, says Simons.
As an intern property consultant at Property.co.za, and one of the driving forces behind the sale of the property, Simons says this project is much needed.
“As a life-long resident of the Greater Retreat area, I very much like the upgrading of Retreat Road. It is my personal hope that all areas of the Greater Retreat are intertwined into one economy; prosperous and uplifted.
“(While) it is the prerogative of the buyer to elaborate on their plans, I can say that the original plans were to build a storage facility. Instead, the architect is in the process of drawing up plans for an apartment block,” he explains.
To make this a reality, however, the stakeholders will have to engage on the issue of homelessness at the building.
“The auctioneer, Mark Gadd of Property.co.za; the buyers; as well as myself were very sensitive to the homeless people. We have thus, right from the start, been talking to the long-standing persons, who have made this their home, about the plans, as much as we were allowed to.
“They have told us they understood, and ‘will move when the time comes’. The owners, as I understand, will be making contact with the City’s re-integration officer to assist the homeless. Mark has also been instrumental in the safekeeping of the building in the past year,” says Simons.
With the property recently being registered in the name of the new owners, he can divulge that work on the block should begin “soon” after the end of April.
“It is worth noting that both the seller, Proxy (based in Durban), and the new owners wish to thank all of the neighbours immediately surrounding the ex-Quibell building for their support and caring,” Simons adds.
From a resident’s perspective, he notes: “Getting the building sold along with my colleague, Mark Gadd, I foresee Retreat Road becoming the economic hub it is meant to be.”