Article in The Times (Cape Town)

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Squaring up to Goliath

Dec 11, 2015 | Jerome Cornelius

The Bo-Kaap has been galvanised by its opposition to a 20-storey building that would overlook the historic community.

If approved, the mixed-use development bounded by Buitengracht, Shortmarket, Longmarket and Rose streets will rise above Riebeek Square and overshadow areas of the residential suburb.

The plan is for a floor area of 30523m², of which 4000m² are allocated to shops and the rest to 250 apartments.

Osman Shaboodien, chairman of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, said: "We want to preserve Bo-Kaap's heritage. These new developments block out the view. It's like living in a fishbowl. Very soon we will be cut off completely from the city."

He said the residents planned to protest weekly until they were heard, with the first protest taking place last night.

"This has galvanised the whole idea that Bo-Kaap is a home," said Shaboodien.

Fabio Todeschini, an architect and Bo-Kaap resident, drafted objections to the development after its announcement on November 30. Two-hundred signatories have been collected.

The complaint, to be delivered to the City of Cape Town on Tuesday, states that "the development proposals are truly massive and out of place, and would obviously do very severe damage to the character of the broader context".

Moreover, they do not conform to the heritage and development controls in place.

It adds: "In fact, if you think about it, 'tall buildings' and the character of the Bo-Kaap are completely contradictory."

Todeschini said there were also concerns about safety and traffic congestion.

"The whole of the Bo-Kaap is built on blue stone, thick layers of sedimentary rock.

"When you dig basements - and they're proposing a three-storey basement - it vibrates, and not just locally.

"Many of the houses here are built of clay. Some of them will crack," he said.

The property's developer José Rodrigues of Vantage Property, said "At this early stage the proposed development is out for comment from interested and affected parties, which is part of the process, and we will only be able to comment substantively early next year."

Another Bo-Kaap architect and resident, Dominic Touwen, said: "Not only will the view will be ruined, but the 'monster' building will block the sun and encroach on the privacy of Bo-Kaap homes.

"The style of the building is completely inappropriate too. It's a Florida-style condominium block of flats."


Touwen said the city did not need more luxury apartments. "What we need is mid-income and low-income accommodation."

Mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning Johan van der Merwe said the council "carefully considers all submitted applications within a contextually specific manner". He added: " While public participation does not wholly determine the decision upon an application, it is used to help inform its outcome ."

Mark Claypole of Fabian Architects, famous for their luxury blocks of flats in Sea Point, said it was premature to comment while the plans were with the city council.