A renewed fight to save the historical and cultural significance of Bo-Kaap has been launched, amid increased concern around the commercialization of the area. This comes in response to a new development in the pipeline which could see a 19 storey, 60 meter building constructed in the neighbourhood. The building will include 249 apartments, 324 parking bays and 5000 M2 of commercial retail outlets.
Many Bo-Kaap residents are strongly against this development and are backing a campaign to resist the development.
The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association, who spearheaded the campaign titled ‘Bridges not Barriers’ has enlisted a team of professionals to draft a report detailing objections to the proposed development.
The drafting of the report is led by retired UCT Professor Fabio Todeschini, an architect, city planner, urban designer and heritage practitioner.
The Bo-Kaap, an area made up of single and double-storey buildings, some of which were built in the late 1800’s, will be in major contrast to the 19 storey development.
This development, Todeschini asserts, is in conflict with the heritage of the area.
“It is in fact between Van Riebeek Square and the Bo-Kaap itself, both of which are provincial heritage sites,” Todeschini notes.
Both Van Riebeek Square and the Bo-Kaap, in terms of old legislation, were regarded as national heritage monuments and are therefore regarded as part of the greater significance of South Africa’s history.
Todeschini states that the insertion of a building of such contrast to the area is an “affront to logic”.
He further notes that development is desirable and necessary. It, however, needs to be measured according to the location and structure of the surrounding area in terms of the policies of the City.
“It is a declared policy of the City that heritage areas, as areas that have historically defined the history of Cape Town and its peoples, are significant. The Bo-Kaap, Van Riebeek Square, and Heritage Square are such areas,” states Todeschini.
Heritage Square was previously an entire city block designated in the 1950’s for total demolition and was to be developed as a multi-storey parking garage. The policy was then changed by the City of Cape Town in order to retain the block of heritage site. Heritage Square is about 100 meters from the block in question.
Problems that the construction of the building may cause include shadows and wind tunnelling.
More significantly, the construction of a 19 storey building will greatly impact traffic congestion, specifically on Rose Street, which traffic services have currently classified as ‘F’. This ranking is considered the worst level of service.
“Imagine the congestion caused by plus-minus 500 upmarket apartment [owners], most of whom are expected to own cars,” urges Todeschini.
The history of the conservation of Bo-Kaap has been an issue since the 1930’s. There is currently a process initiated by the City to declare the Bo-Kaap as part of the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone.
Todeschini asserts that Heritage Western Cape and South African Heritage Resources Authority, largely through a lack of capacity, have not been able to bring about the protection of the area.
“Somewhere between the ten storeys of the studios and the two storeys of heritage square is the maximum height that should be determined,” Todeschini suggests.
Economically, tourism is becoming essential to Cape Town’s development. It is, therefore, evident that the construction of a 19 storey building in the Bo-Kaap will negatively affect the cosmetic appearance of the area, as well as hinder the day-to-day functioning of residents.
Anyone who feels that the construction of the 10 storey building will negatively impact the area of the Bo-Kaap may send objections and comments to the Municipal Planning Tribunal by 18 February 2016.
Alternatively, visit the Bridges not Barriers website: http://www.bridgesnotbarriers.co.za/
VOC (Thakira Desai)