WITH reference to Xolani Koyana’s article “Church council welcomes development plan” (March 11), Koyana interviewed me on March 9 and quotes me extensively, so Iwish to place some of the quotes in context to give a more complete picture.
The argument about development on the historic block bordered by Strand, Buitengracht, Waterkant and Bree streets, which by all accounts is unique in South Africa, have been published in several Cape Town daily newspapers in the last four weeks.
This is a very healthy debate and must be encouraged.
Interestingly, Koyana was the first journalist to ask the opinion of the Lutheran Congregation who own the major portion of the block and are very much affected.
Nobody would be more delighted than the Lutheran Church if the historical fabric of the block could be preserved at its existing two and three-storey levels.
It would be a real bonus for Cape Town and a great achievement for historical building conservation in South Africa.
But it is extremely difficult to dream these dreams without the commercial reality.
Casey Augoustides has outlined the very sad history of the site under discussion and how it was allowed to fall into disrepair in the last century without any private or public intervention or assistance.
To restore what is left and rebuild what has been lost is, in my opinion, a most worthwhile undertaking.
And that is my understanding of the plans that are envisaged for the old Melck Warehouse.
To pay for this and make it economically viable, a modern office block will be sitting over the back portion of the restored warehouse.
This is not ideal but the main traditional views of the full Strand Street facades will be preserved in their entirety.
I have not heard of any better solutions.
When we were informed that architect Gawie Fagan, with whom I have worked extensively on the restoration of the Castle and the Lutheran Church complex, had been commissioned to design this development I was convinced the difficult task was in good hands and I have no reason to change my opinion.
Martin Melck generously donated the portion which is today the Lutheran Church complex in the 18th century and it has been in the possession of the Lutheran Congregation ever since.
It never was an easy undertaking to maintain these buildings over the centuries and it certainly would not have been possible without the Lutheran Church developing the back portion of the property facing Waterkant Street for commercial enterprise.
The current commercial buildings (particularly Swan Building) have recently been renovated and the income from these buildings allows the congregation to continue to keep our historical trio, the Church, Martin Melck House and the Sexton’s House, in good repair.
This was achieved within the existing framework of the buildings which have been standing on the corner of Buitengracht and Waterkant streets for the last 50 years.
Neither the provincial government nor the City of Cape Town assist in any way.
So unless there is a white knight prepared to finance the restoration of the Melck Warehouse how will we prevent it from falling into further disrepair? RALF JOHANNSEN CHAIRMAN, CHURCH COUNCIL STRAND STREET LUTHERAN CHURCH CAPE TOWN