Tramway takes new direction

MATTHEW HIRSCH

A piece of land in Sea Point- that was once the scene of forced removals under the Group Areas Act, is now set to be one of the most expensive developments in Cape Town.

In 2001 the land, situated between Ilford Street and Tramway Road on the Bantry Bay/Fresnaye border, was awarded to the Tramway Road Trust by the City of Cape Town as part of a restitution claim, on condition that it be redeveloped to benefit the beneficiaries.

The land then remained vacant as various development proposals fell through, including that of a retirement village.

In 2013 the Atlantic Sun reported that the Tramway Road Community Trust was considering selling the land (“Dead end for Tramway Road development”, Atlantic Sun, June 27 2013) so that it could repay a R14 million debt to Investec. In May 2014 Spear Property Trust bought the property for R51 million.

Now, development is set to start on one of the most expensive residential properties in Cape Town, Bantry Hills, which could end up being worth R750 million.

In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the date when District Six was declared a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act, the memories of the forced removals from Sea Point are still painful for some.

Ed Collins, one of the claimants of the land, said that talking about it brought up a lot of emotion.

Mr Collins, who now lives in Kuils River with his daughter and wife, after leaving Sea Point more than 50 years ago, said it still made him sad. “I feel very hurt (about the new development). They took that land from the people. But I am tired of fighting now,” he said.

Mr Collins said there had been some disagreements among the claimants about whether to sell the land or not. There were 34 beneficiary families.

Mr Collins said he still misses the community that was there.

“There is a lot of nostalgia and a lot of emotion when I think about it. What must I think if I see that building driving to Camps Bay? Of course I will be hurt. The land was awarded back to the Tramway Trust group who decided on selling it to developers in 2014 after a series of failed developments.

“There were people who did not want to sell but we were advised that if we didn’t sell, we would end up with nothing. It is heartsore.”

Mark Arendse, who lives in Athlone and works on the Tramway Road Trust, said selling the land was the right decision under the circumstances.

“If you look at what happened in District Six, the people ended up with nothing and they are still fighting for houses.”

When asked about the development being one of the most expensive residential ones in Cape Town, he said: “I think it is a bit of hot air being blown.”

Mr Arendse said his father, now 90 years old, was one of the old claimants. Mr Arendse also said that he had been working on the trust for the past four years. “It’s not the same Sea Point anymore, we have to move on.

“At the end of the day at least the claimants got something from the sale.”

He said there were only a few of the claimants who didn’t want to sell the land. Mr Arendse also admitted that the loan claimants had taken from Investec was risky. “Members of the trust had no previous experience in the workings of a development like that. There were expensive lessons learnt but also valuable lessons.”

Mike Flax, the former chief executive officer of JSE-listed Spearhead, who is managing the Bantry Hills development, said: “We have been planning this 14 000m2 development for some time, and are excited that it is finally under way. It will certainly be one of the most iconic residential developments on the Atlantic Seaboard.”

Mr Flax said construction was due to start in May this year.

Mr Flax said when the trust agreed to sell the property to the developers for R51 million, each beneficiary family received over R2 million. “It is a great success story for the beneficiaries who have no further involvement.”

He said Bantry Hills has already attracted extensive interest with over half of the 60 uniquely designed apartments being sold to international buyers, with an average value of R12 million.

“The recent announcement by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan that transfer duty rates will increase for properties over R10 million has created much demand for such developments.”

Mr Flax said they have already sold over half of the apartments to buyers from New York, Mumbai, London and Copenhagen. He said there has also been a lot of interest from South African families who are relocating to the Western Cape.

The City of Cape Town’s deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, told the Atlantic Sun via email that the land was not owned by the City, but by the restitution beneficiaries. “The trustees obtained council approval to sell the land. We understand that they have done so and distributed the net proceeds to the beneficiaries.”