Row over de­mo­li­tion of Bo Kaap’s Noon Gun restaurant

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - YAZEED KAMALDIEN

THE BAT­TLE for the Bo Kaap con­tin­ues with res­i­dents now up in arms about a property de­vel­oper who wants to de­mol­ish the de­funct Noon Gun Tea Room and Restaurant at the top of Long­mar­ket Street.

The Noon Gun was part of a pri­vately owned house on the lower slopes of Sig­nal Hill.

Two years ago the Mis­bach fam­ily sold the house to property de­vel­oper Cedar Falls, which also bought ad­ja­cent va­cant land.

Cedar Falls wants to de­mol­ish the house and build 12 cot­tages on the plot.

The site of­fers un­ob­structed views of Table Moun­tain and central Cape Town as well as to­wards the V&A Wa­ter­front.

Jac­que­line Pok­ing, sec­re­tary of the Bo Kaap Ratepayers and Civic As­so­ci­a­tion, said they op­posed the de­mo­li­tion, which they re­gard as part of on­go­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion that is eras­ing the area’s his­tory and her­itage. “The fam­ily who owned the house told us it is 150 years old. They bought the property in 1944.

“The rea­son peo­ple want to throw down build­ings is be­cause it’s old and it’s fall­ing apart.

“But we want to pre­serve Bo Kaap as far as pos­si­ble.

“If this build­ing and other houses like this go, the more build­ings are thrown down, we lose our his­tory.”

Pok­ing said the civic as­so­ci­a­tion wanted to “pre­serve our com­mu­nity”.

They had scru­ti­nised the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment plans for the site and it “looks like they are cre­at­ing a gated com­mu­nity in Bo Kaap”.

“That is very strange to this area. Part of Bo Kaap’s his­tory is that we in­ter­act with each other. Peo­ple talk to each other on the stoep. A lot of the time de­vel­op­ers cre­ate is­lands and don’t in­ter­act at all with the com­mu­nity.

“They go in and lock them­selves away,” said Pok­ing.

“The way new places are de­vel­oped there’s a big wall and no de­sign that allows for com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“It doesn’t al­low in­ter­ac­tion and it erodes the com­mu­nity.”

Gail Behr, one of the fi­nan­cial part­ners at Cedar Falls, said the Noon Gun build­ing was of no value and had to be de­mol­ished.

“The build­ing is in a very poor state. There’s noth­ing worth sav­ing here.

“Sec­tions of it are il­le­gal and built on gov­ern­ment land. We want to de­mol­ish the whole thing.”

She de­nied they in­tended build­ing a gated es­tate, but added: “If peo­ple are go­ing to be hor­ri­ble to me I’m go­ing to put up a gate.”

Behr said: “Be­cause of the way we are treated, we start to think we are not wel­come in the com­mu­nity and we should just fence our­selves off and not en­gage with the com­mu­nity. It breaks my heart.”

Ar­chi­tect Katlego Motene, who de­signed the cot­tages for Cedar Falls, said the aes­thetic would be “in line with the Bo Kaap”.

“We want to make it look like it was al­ways here. We will use old wooden doors.”

Pok­ing said the civic as­so­ci­a­tion was con­stantly lock­ing horns with de­vel­op­ers who were chang­ing the face of Bo Kaap.

She said more than 20% of Bo Kaap had been sold since 1994 and the area’s perime­ter clos­est to the city now hosted a num­ber of ho­tels, cof­fee shops and art gal­leries.

“Bo Kaap is es­sen­tially a res­i­den­tial area for fam­i­lies. It is an old area. It has a sense of com­mu­nity and fam­ily.

“You don’t find that in a lot of other places. These fam­i­lies have been con­stantly here,” said Pok­ing.

She said the civic as­so­ci­a­tion had tried dis­cour­ag­ing peo­ple from sell­ing their homes to property de­vel­op­ers. “We ask our com­mu­nity to al­ways con­sider be­fore sell­ing. But we un­der­stand some peo­ple need to sell for what­ever rea­son. We just don’t want to lose the her­itage of the com­mu­nity.”

Behr ac­cused the civic as­so­ci­a­tion of run­ning a “witch hunt”.

“I’m so sick of this. They need to tell peo­ple not to sell their prop­er­ties if they don’t want other peo­ple to come in here.

“If the com­mu­nity thinks this (Noon Gun) is a thing of beauty, buy it back from us.

“It’s de­mon­is­ing us. I’m too white for the area but we are a democ­racy and you can live wher­ever you want. “Why not em­brace us?” Pok­ing re­sponded that the mat­ter was not about race but her­itage.

Her­itage Western Cape, a pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment en­tity, has stopped Cedar Falls from go­ing ahead with de­mol­ish­ing the Noon Gun and has or­dered a pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion process.

Pok­ing said they ap­pealed to the pub­lic to share pho­tos, sto­ries and mem­o­ries of the Noon Gun in a bid to strengthen the ar­gu­ment that it is of value to the com­mu­nity.

Cape Town-based lob­by­ists De­vel­op­ment Ac­tion Group (DAG) said it would sup­port the civic as­so­ci­a­tion’s ob­jec­tion to the de­mo­li­tion. DAG project of­fi­cer Naeemah Sa­dien, who runs an urban gov­er­nance pro­gramme called Re-imag­in­ing Wood­stock and Salt River, said they were chal­leng­ing the “in­fa­mous ‘de­vel­oper at­ti­tude’ to de­vel­op­ment in in­ner city Cape Town”.

“It is in­con­sid­er­ate to lived-cul­ture while claim­ing to have the com­mu­nity’s interest at heart,” said Sa­dien.

PIC­TURES: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

The Noon Gun restaurant of­fers un­ob­structed views of Table Moun­tain and central Cape Town. It is cur­rently a con­tested site as its new own­ers want to de­mol­ish it while the Bo Kaap Civic As­so­ci­a­tion wants it to stay.

Jac­que­line Pok­ing, sec­re­tary of the Bo Kaap Ratepayers and Civic As­so­ci­a­tion Ar­chi­tect Katlego Motene on the Noon Gun restaurant bal­cony.

Brett Her­ron

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