Pre­serv­ing legacy

Cape Times - - Opinion -

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

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