The owners of the derelict buildings at 192 Loop Street say they are in an ongoing battle with Heritage Western Cape to have it demolished.
The plan is to put up a mixed-use development, which incorporates the buildings’ heritage, with a commercial component on street level.
The director of Spitzkop Karoo Properties, Christian Corti, who owns the property, said the application to demolish the building was still ongoing because of its heritage value.
They had applied for permission to demolish the buildings two years ago. It is believed that the cottages, which used to house Madame Zingara and the Ivory Room, date back to the 17th Century, and used to be part of the “old-style” Bo-Kaap houses.
In 2006, Madame Zingara suffered a fire and closed the doors of their restaurant.
According to Mr Corti, the plan was for the owners of Madame Zingara to stay on as tenants and repair the building, but the plan didn’t come together and the then Madame Zingara went into liquidation. “They weren’t paying rent anymore, so we were left with no money and a dilapidated building.”
Since then, the property has been vacant and fell into disrepair, with surrounding businesses complaining about all sorts of issues at the premises, including squatters, fires, waste and vermin.
Another fire broke out three years ago, further damaging the premises (“Fire breaks out at derelict building”, CapeTowner, November 17, 2016).
There was also a theory from surrounding businesses that the building was purposefully left open so that it could be vandalised to the extent that heritage authorities would have no choice but to agree to demolition.
However, Mr Corti said this was not true. He said it was difficult to find a feasible project due to the heritage aspect.
“We understand the importance of heritage, but we are also developers.
“We have an extensive team including quantity surveyors, architects and consultants working on the project, so we are actively engaged.”
He said they were not denying that there are concerns, however, they were doing what they could.
“Money was spent on securing the buildings – boarding it up and then bricking it up – and cleaning. We also tried to remove the roof sheeting as it was a safety hazard, but we were served with a stop-order from Heritage Western Cape.”
He said they are now waiting for approval from two departments at Heritage Western Cape.
“We are happy to maintain some of the parts which are of value, and we have come to an agreement of some sort.”
And while the owners are battling to get a demolition order, surrounding business are left with all sorts of issues emanating from the site.
Steven Whiteman, who runs a business close by, said for over 10 years, he has been battling with issues which range from people sleeping in the buildings, fires, drug paraphernalia, rats and a build-up of waste and faeces.
He said everything that could have been stolen off the buildings were taken – it is nothing but an empty shell.
“The building is an eyesore. There was no progress for the past 10 years, except authorities coming through here time and time again, and street people sleeping here.”
Mr Whiteman showed the CapeTowner an email sent to the owners, detailing issues they’ve experienced, and asking them to assist in remedying the buildings. The reply from the owners were: “We will send someone to clean up during the week.”
He said people have even been threatened by those loitering at the buildings and demanding money. “We’ve been broken into on four occasions. The owner has no hand on the buildings.”
Mr Whiteman said the building was beautiful and should be restored to something like a museum. “These buildings need to be preserved and not left in a state.”
Manager of a nearby boutique, Pachlynn Bruintjies, said it was really sad that the buildings had been left to fall into the state it was in. “It’s an eyesore. It has the potential to be something beautiful.”
Ward councillor for the area, Dave Bryant, said the site was put on the problem buildings list last year after an investigation and a site visit. “The buildings were in a serious state of disrepair, and we’ve received many complaints about the property from residences and businesses, mainly from a health perspective.”
Mr Bryant said while on the site visit, they had walked over faeces and waste. “We ordered the owner to secure the property, and he boarded it up. However, it was broken down, and we then asked him to brick it up, which he did.”
He said the owners wanted the site to be developed, however, the buildings have heritage value. It is believed to date back to the 17th century, and formed part of Bo-Kaap.
Mr Corti said while they were waiting for the application process, they have committed to cleaning the property regularly and updating neighbours when possible. He also dismissed rumours that they were responsible for the demolition of Rhodes House, which was a heritage building in Queen Victoria Street.
“We had bought the building after it was demolished, so the two cases cannot be linked.”
Heritage Western Cape CEO Mxolisi Dlamuka confirmed they have received an application for the redevelopment of the site.
“The matter was put forward to our Impact Assessment Committee, whereby the committee resolved to undertake a site inspection. A report- back will be given when the matter is tabled at the committee meeting, scheduled for this week.”