Category Archives: Heritage related

How should Long Street be pedestrianised?

The question on how Long Street should be pedestrianised has again been raised. Whereas before it came from the private sector, this time it appears to be local government who is exploring the idea. If you would like to be part of the conversation and have your thoughts included in the People’s Post Newspaper, please provide feedback on the questions below to Nicole McCain of the People’s Post (Journalist) on 021 910 6500 / 084 738 9977 and nicole.mccain@peoplespost.co.za

Note that all responses should be provided by 15:00 on Thursday 22 August to accommodate deadlines.

1. Are you in favour of the pedestrianisation of Long Street, and why?
2. What challenges do you currently experience as a resident of Long Street?
3. What concerns does the possible pedestrianisation of Long Street raise for you?
4. What form would you like to see the pedestrianisation take?
5. Do you feel you have been engaged in public discussions on the pedestrianisation?

Refurbishment of the Turkish Baths and Long Street pool …

From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 25th October 2012

Although the refurbishment of the Turkish Baths and Long Street Pool has been considered a low priority by the City, an architect has decided that the unique facility deserves more attention. Karinina Ingwersen from Oranjezicht tabled her report on the complex to the ward forum at a meeting held on Tuesday October 16 where she explained that she has re-drawn all the floor plans to give officials a better understanding of what the property consists of and what work needed to be done. “It s a unique facility and we cannot let it deteriorate any further. I drew the report to motivate the refurbishment of the Turkish Baths and Long Street Pool. “I think it is an embarrassment. Long Street is such a vibrant part of Cape Town and so I feel we must do something about the amenity which is already used by many in the community,” she said.

In her report, Ms Ingwersen outlines the issues including the basic maintenance it requires and she has made proposals on the adjustment of the layout to optimise its usage. She explained that the facility consists of six erven which are zoned general commercial and general residential. The pool was built in 1908 and the Turkish Baths were inaugurated by Councillor Sam Goldstein in May 1927. According to a plaque which dates back to 1998, the murals inside the Turkish Baths were painted by Gregg Smith. Ms Ingwersen said the architectural style of the building could be defined as Art Nouveau and Victorian. She said while the interior of the Turkish Baths had a Middle East ambience, as would be appropriate for its function and cultural originality. She said the amenity is situated in a conservation area and is protected by the National Heritage Resources Act.

Ms Ingwersen told the forum the baths and pool were in dire need of an upgrade and general maintenance would not be enough. “I really hope this helps motivate the City to do something, the longer we wait, the more derelict it will become and even more expensive to remedy,” she said. The facility first came under the spotlight nearly two years ago when former ward councillor, Belinda Walker said visitor numbers were dropping. In previous comment given to the CapeTowner, mayoral committee member for community services, Tandeka Gqada said the City was currently tiling the hot room, two steam rooms, and the floor, installing new benches in the sauna and carrying out electrical repairs at the Turkish Baths (“Turkish baths a low priority, says City”, CapeTowner, October 4). In her proposal, Ms Ingwersen said maintenance would form a big part of the overall renovation and so should be done simultaneously.

Her proposal includes ideas to create a new passage that will run from the entrance to the pool. “This will offer more controlled access. At present access for all is either through these change rooms – compromising security and privacy – or through the upper level passage and balcony onto the spectator seating, and therefore are not ideal options,’ she said. Her proposal also includes further changes to the mezzanine level, the change rooms and the general clean-up of the Turkish Baths. Ms Ingwersen estimated that the refurbishment of the facility could cost up to R10 million and questions on what basis it was ranked as a low priority. “Here is a straightforward opportunity waiting to be taken by the council: to turn around the existing overall deteriorating situation into a beneficial and vibrant place of healthy activity, where developed potential opportunities will secure a more viable financial basis.

“It will be a successful project to be proud of, a social upliftment confirmation and a far better financially rewarding enterprise. The proverbial feather in the cap. “Future maintenance will be remarkably reduced to a minimum. “Hopefully this report will serve as convincing incentive and motivation to secure adequate fund allocation for a well-deserving project,” she said. Ward councillor Dave Bryant said while he welcomed the report he didn’t think the City would be able to fund it but that it shouldn’t deter the community from raising funds. “I think it’s great that she has put this plan together but I think at the moment it’s a bit out of the reach for the City. It was very interesting and we will soon set up a meeting to discuss the report with her,” Mr Bryant said.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

Long Street: an inspiration and home to Pieter-Dirk Uys …

From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 31st June 2012

Sitting on the balcony of the Carnival Court Backpackers on the upper end of Long Street, the sun shines through an array of modern high-rise buildings and warms the cold air. With its Victorian architecture and railings, the building tells a long story of its residents and bustling Long Street. Built in 1902, the building situated at 255 Long Street, was designed by English architect George Ransome and was used as a boarding house for many years.

“It was actually built as luxury apartments for the ‘well-to-do’,” said owner Christoph von Walter. Mr Von Walter, who acquired the building in 1993, said he could still remember the funny yet colourful characters and “professional ladies” who occupied the building, adding to the ambience of the street. The four-storey building which consists of many dorm-like rooms with communal shower facilities, now operates as a backpackers lodge.

“I used to run a shirt-making factory in Buiten Street and in 1993 I saw that this building had potential. I bought the building which was owned by the district surgeon of Paarl, and remember when I took over as landlord, the building was filled with many colourful characters and professional ladies. But as we started cleaning the building up, many of the tenants left,” he said. In the 1970s, the building and its residents became the subject of many people’s conversations.

According to author, actor and activist Pieter-Dirk Uys, “the show was never over in Long Street”. This is how he described the bustling street in his book Between the Devil and the Deep: A Memoir of Acting and Reacting. Mr Uys, well known for his persona Evita Bezuidenhout, lived in the area from 1972 to 1975 while working at the Space Theatre. “I lived in a selection of places – in Bloem Street with a front door that could never close. Carnival Court up in the roof. Then across on the corner of Long and Buiten, first on the top floor, and then on the first floor above the fish and chips shop that sent us huge cockroaches.

“From that balcony we looked across to Carnival Court and the intersection of Long and Buiten where so much action took place,” he said. In his play, Karnaval, Mr Uys takes a look at the goings-on in the boarding house today known as the Carnival Court Backpackers. The play is set on New Year’s Eve in 1975 on the first floor of the boarding house as the residents get ready for a night out while discussing, among other things, the party happening across the road.

In his book, he wrote: “Sitting in our kaftans on the verandah of our rented flat above the fish and chips shop, Maralin, Grethe Fox and I would look over at the balconies of Carnival Court and the activity among the residents. “Those ‘girlies’ and their friends inspired my play Karnaval. I didn’t have to use much imagination. I just had to look out of the window.” The play opened on July 12, 1976 but after only 10 performances, it was banned by the censors.

Asked what inspired him to write the play, Mr Uys said the story of Carnival Court needed to be told. “Young people from the platteland, boarding in the city and falling foul of the laws of land and church. “Their sense of humour. And their comments about us watching them from the other side of the road. Now I look at the play and it’s surreal – a story about white people in Long Street – with the exception of the coloured youth referred to as honourary white. “I shared drinks with them at the Mountview Bar, shouted across the road for them to shut up and they shouted back.

“I invited them all to a preview of the play, quite nervous that they would be upset that I had so shamelessly presented their lives. “They were moved to tears,” he said. Mr Von Walter explained that the building has undergone many renovations over the years aimed at restoring its heritage. “The bottom part of the building, which today houses Long Street Café, used to be home to the legendary Cranford’s Book Shop.

“Over the years it was also a Russian restaurant called Cossack’s; we had a chef from Moscow and the restaurant experience was topped by swinging chandeliers,” he said. Mr Von Walter said after many of the building’s tenants vacated it during the 1990s, it became a hostel for student accommodation . “But later backpacking started to take off in Cape Town so it was converted into a party hostel for travelling students,” he said. Today Carnival Court which consists of rooms, a bar and recreational areas is known for attracting students from all over world who wish to experience the vibey Long Street.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

A majority seemed to favour pedestrianising the street between …

From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 27th October 2011

The iconic Long Street may be permanently pedestrianised. In September, residents and businesses started to tweet about the possibility and the Long Street Residents’ Association (LSRA) subsequently sent out a survey to find out what residents thought. According to the survey, which 17 people completed, just over 50% believe it’s a good idea.

Long Street resident, Piers Allen, who has lived in the area for more than 15 years wasn’t sure if he supported the idea. “I hope it would quieten the street and, from vehicular noise, this is likely. “However, I worry that the party aspect of the street, the night economy, the way the clubs and people spill onto the road treating it as an open-air night club, might simply get worse if traffic no longer drives along it. “This noise and ‘busyness’ disturbs me more than the car noise. However, the ridiculous disco club buses that drive around town – making the glass in our windows shake – and which are obscenely intrusive, would no longer bother us. That would be a great plus. “The flood of slow-cruising taxis and visiting cars, which block all lanes from late at night till the early hours, would also go,” he said. Mr Allen said he would recommend that it be tried for a year. He also said Long Street should be pedestrianised from Wale Street to Buitensingel.

While there is no formal proposal to pedestrianise, a majority seemed to favour pedestrianising the street between Wale and Buitensingel and hardly ever mentioned the lower end towards the Foreshore. Russell Wightman who lives in Bree Street, said he believed it would be a big mistake. “Long Street along with Adderley, Loop, Bree, Buitengracht streets are the main arteries of the city. “They lead people from one end to the other. Already all these streets are clogged; to remove one of them might actually cause a bigger problem. “What might work is to close the street to vehicles from 10am to 3pm. “A project of this size would need a lot of planning and would cost a lot of money. “Long Street is almost always closed to vehicles when big events are held but that works because it’s temporary,” he said.

Thomas Atkinson, manager of Long Street Backpackers said he was split on the issue. One the one hand it would encourage more people to walk through the city and on the other hand it could become a problem for businesses, he said “It would be nice to have fewer cars and less traffic through the street but what about businesses and deliveries?” he asked. Councillor Dave Bryant, said he was aware of the blogs and tweets on the topic and said while he didn’t have an opinion he would be willing to have public meetings to discuss it. “I don’t have a particular stance, but should residents and businesses feel very strongly about the issue, I can certainly host public meetings where people could explore the idea. “There are many concerns and aspects that would have to be taken into consideration,” Mr Bryant said.

Jody Aufrichtig, one of the partners and owners of Indigo Properties which owns several buildings in Long Street said he believed it was a great idea. He said he and his partners, Nick Ferguson and Barry Harlen made a proposal to the City six years ago to have Long Street closed from 7pm on a Friday to Sunday. “The idea was that there would be booms that would drop and no cars would be allowed in the area. “Our aim was to create an entertainment hub, where party goers could enjoy a pedestrianised street while spending a night out on the town. “We spent R250 000 on our proposal and got the support of other property owners. The City wouldn’t co-operate and it fell through. I am glad that there are talks about this again and I am more than willing to head this project but this will need co-operation from all roleplayers including the City,” he said Mr Aufrichtig told the CapeTowner that he believed the pedestrianisation of Long Street could have a positive impact on nightlife as well as tourism. “The benefit for businesses is tremendous and we could see significant growth in the area,” he said.

Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Roads and Stormwater said no proposal for the pedestrianisation of Long Street is currently being considered. “Should such a proposal be put forward, a technical and feasibility investigation would be required that covers aspects such as land use, pedestrian volumes, access and mobility function, public transport function, route function within the broader road network, parking capacity, loading demand, available alternative routing. “As the feasibility of the pedestrianisation of Long Street would require significant technical input, it is not possible to indicate at this stage whether the City supports such an initiative or not. “Long and Waterkant Streets play different functions within the CBD road network. “Waterkant Street provides more localised access and Long Street provides both direct access, but also play a more important role in terms of providing connectivity (a mobility function) in the city. “This is evident through the presence of buses, minibus and sedan taxis and delivery vehicles throughout the day,” he said. Mr Herron said the following points were important to note:

– Long Street has pavements with adequate width on both sides.
– The frequent signalised intersections reduce traffic speed.
– The St George’s Mall area already provides for a pedestrian friendly environment in the CBD.
– Long Street provides an important linkage function both to and through the CBD.
– Long Street has a combined one directional couplet function with Loop Street.
– Altering the function of Long Street will impact on the role and function of other roads.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

Any significant investment into property is a bonus for the …

From the CapeTowner, by Loyiso Mpalantshane, 28th April 2011

The decision to close down Senator Park, the city’s notorious block of flats is the answer to the prayers of many a city resident – and is long overdue. This was the unanimous opinion of both business owners and residents living near the apartment block when the CapeTowner visited the flats on Tuesday April 26, following news last week that the Western Cape High Court had issued its owners with an order to upgrade the building on Wednesday April 20. Tenants living in the 170-room apartment – situated between Keerom and Long streets – are expected to pack up their belongings before July, when upgrade work will start.

Residents interviewed advised the CapeTowner not to enter the premises while others said it was used as a hideout by thieves, prostitutes and drug peddlers. No one would agree to have their picture taken. Jean-Claude Kasongo, who lives in nearby Leeuwen Street, says although one of his friends rents a room in the building, he is glad that owners of the building have decided to move the tenants out. Mr Kasongo even accused police officers of contributing towards the crime allegedly tipping off drug dealers about pending raids so they can hide their “stuff”. “This is our prayer. Let the place be closed down. I think it is necessary to remove the tenants because it is a disaster waiting to happen one day. People have already died here and one day you are going to see a big crime happening there. “People steal from shops and run inside Senator Park. One day a guy came in there asking for Mr John and criminals took him upstairs. They robbed him of everything he had,” Mr Kasongo said.

Shopkeeper Lesley Woodrush said: “I hear they say once you go in there your cellphone will be gone. It is not a good sight especially this side of town where there is a lot of tourists. It’s a good idea to close it down,” he said. Tasso Evangelinos, of the Central City Improvement District (CCID), said giving the building a facelift would have positive economical spin-offs for the surrounding buildings – which was included in documentation submitted to the High Court. They also included newspaper clippings of reports about people falling out of windows and police raids at the building. “We are glad the matter has been finalised. Any significant investment into property is a bonus for the CBD. The knock-on effect is that the refurbishment will certainly affect the property value of buildings in the surrounding areas and encourage more investments and upgrades,” he said. Labour lawyer, Michael Bargraim – who owns four flats at Senator Park – said troubles with the building had started about 10 years ago and added that court officials with eviction orders feared some tenants who refused to pay rent. Mr Bargraim said a decision to save the building had already been taken in 2004. He said the situation was so bad that no law-abiding person wished to live “any longer” in Senator Park. “Unfortunately all the tenants will have to be evicted. They will have enough time and notice in which to move. My information is that the majority of the tenants do not in fact pay rent, hence are illegal residents. “The body corporate needs to be applauded because they have done an enormous amount of work which even the police couldn’t get right. The situation was completely untenable and could not continue,” he said.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

There was an elderly masseuse at the Turkish baths, but after she …

From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 3rd February 2011

The Long Street Turkish baths came under the spotlight at the Good Hope Sub-council meeting, after a City of Cape Town report showed that they were under-used. The Department of Community Services said in the report that the facility required revitalisation. There was an elderly masseuse at the Turkish baths, but after she left visitor numbers dropped, the report said. Councillor Belinda Walker made several suggestions to improve the facility. She recommended that the City considered “outsourcing” and finding a commercial entity interested in managing it and that they should consider extending the operating times to accommodate the surrounding community.

And while the Turkish baths are underused, the Long Street Swimming Pool in the same building seemed to attract more visitors. Statistics for the swimming pool showed that 8 400 people visited it in January last year generating a revenue of more than R35 000. In March it attracted 6 842 visitors and 5 378 visitors in April. During the period from June to August, more than 20 000 people used the swimming pool, including people who sign up to use the facility every month. Long Street residents and the surrounding area have raised concerns about the appearance of the swimming pool and the Turkish baths and have said they should be improved.

Resident Russell Wightman, said he agreed with extending the operating hours of the facility.“It should be improved and it needs to be open longer. The City can spend a little on upgrading it as well, the lockers in the changing rooms are a mess. “I paid a year in advance intending to do some training there but was often put off by people booking lanes and closures due to events that do not include everyone, especially those who paid upfront,” he said. Mr Wightman said that while he visited the swimming pool, he did not like the Turkish baths. “It doesn’t seem very clean. We need someone who will put some love into it,” he said. Peter Lewis said he enjoyed using the swimming pool and said if it was open later more residents would use it. “I am convinced that more residents, workers, and students would use the baths if this were the case. I use it from time to time and love it.

Resident Sabine Palfi, who has lived in the city for 10 years said she has used the swimming pool once as swimming doesn’t “appeal to her”. However, she said the exterior of the building needed to be revamped. “The entrance could be more inviting. From the outside it looks grubby.It may also help if people knew more about it,” she said. Resident Byron Qually said while he didn’t use it often, he agreed its appearance could be improved. “I enjoy passing through the foyer, which seems to retain most of the heritage details and embellishments. Although the pool itself is refreshing, it is sad that the original changing-booths and other architectural details have been removed. It would be great if they could be reconstructed, as they also have a charm which could really differentiate the pool from more contemporary gyms, almost like the wooden huts have come to symbolise Muizenberg and St James. The tar pavement outside the baths really should be upgraded to the red brick which is being placed throughout the city,” he said.

Hilda Bornman, who owns a flat directly opposite the back door of the Long Street Baths said the noise was unbearable. She said most residents where she lived used the swimming pool in the complex. “Every day we deal with the arrival at of workers at 6am which include noisy gate, car engines revving, loud voices, doors slamming, music blaring from the cars. Very loud cheering, whistling, sometimes even drums, when there is a gala at the pool, until very late in the evening. “Noisy children during weekends playing outside the pool area. “The accoustics in that area are not good at all. All the tenants and owners who live in the flats near the pool constantly complain about the noise we have to put up with. We have not officially complained because we do know that the pool has to pay for itself,” she said.

Gert Bam, City director for Sports, Recreation and Amenities said the exterior of the building was painted 20 years ago. When asked whether the building had been refurbished in the past five years, Mr Bam said: “Only emergency and minor repairs and maintenance took place during the last five years. For example, repairs to the seating and the filtration plants and the installation of safety and security gates. The interior was painted three years ago. Any major repairs will require that the pool is closed for at least 12 months”. He said because the swimming pool and the Turkish baths were in a heritage building no major refurbishments can take place without prior approval from Heritage Western Cape. “Only swimming galas, synchronised swimming, water polo and underwater hockey and squad training sessions are allowed at this swimming pool. These events take place mostly during winter every week. “The public are not allowed access to the pool when competitions take place. “The public are notified – a notice is placed on the board at least seven days before the event takes place,” Mr Bam said.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

The minstrels parade is an integral part of the city. It is a uniquely Cape Town …

From the CapeTowner, by Sellecca Lang / Monique Duval, 9th December 2010

The Provincial Department of Arts and Culture has stopped the traditional Nuwejaar street march from going into Bo-Kaap and ending at the Cape Town Stadium on Monday January 3 next year. But some of the minstrel and choirs teams are up in arms because the date and route has changed from the agreement with the City. They have given Dr Ivan Meyer, MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport, until yesterday, Wednesday December 8 to respond, or they will be taking the matter to court. The initial agreement between the City and Bo-Kaap residents was to allow the annual parade to move from the city, through Bo-Kaap and end at the Cape Town Stadium and was due to take place on Monday January 3 (“Back to Bo-Kaap routes”, CapeTowner, November 18) However the City and the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs released a statement last week stating that not only would the parade not go through Bo-Kaap, it will take place on Saturday January 1. The route, which it has followed since 2008, will see the parade move from Keizergracht, Darling Street, left into Adderley Street through Wale Street and turn right into Bree Street and the marchers will disperse from there. There are 46 000 participants and this year nearly 100 000 spectators watched the spectacle.

Osman Shaboodien of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, who heads up the consultation between all 115 teams across the City, said they were very disappointed. “We have given a proposal to provincial government saying that some of the minstrel groups are contesting January 1 (Saturday) and secondly, the question about Bo-Kaap. We are giving them 24 hours to respond to our request,” he said. Mr Shaboodien said the street parade traditionally took place on January 2 but because the date falls on a Sunday, the teams do not want to march because of the churches in the area. In discussions with the representatives of the teams, the City suggested that the parade be held as a one-day event with all the teams ending at the stadium. But when Province stepped in, the date was changed to January 1, which was one of the original dates suggested. Mr Shaboodien said the press releases gave the impression that everyone agreed to the changes but the new date will only suit the smaller teams because of transport. “Council came up with the idea.They threw in the carrot and then everybody liked the idea… Province cracked the whip. This is more about power and politics. They took it out of the hands of City. They are meddling with City council stuff,” he said. The four teams in Bo-Kaap will still be allowed to march in the area. “We can negotiate January 1 but that we cannot go into Bo-Kaap is non-negotiable,” said Mr Shaboodien. He said since the province joined the meetings, there have been no talks about going to the stadium.

Greg Wagner, the MEC’s media liaison officer, said the only official communications were the three joint media releases. “Any other information remains unofficial and was as a result of preliminary discussions before any decisions were made,” he said. Mr Wagner said the parade cannot go to the stadium for the new year because of the short-timing and the logistics. “To ensure the successful staging of these events, a number of logistics must be considered, including traffic flow, safety and security of participants and spectators, business opening hours, available resources and emergency services personnel, impact on local residents, and preserving this living heritage, among others,” said Mr Wagner. “We are looking at the stadium for the future. It won’t be possible for this year… But it hasn’t been ruled out (for the future),” he said. Mr Wagner said the province was always involved in planning because it provides funding and services to the teams. “The two spheres of government have always supported the minstrels. This year, Province and City decided to work as one team, pool resources, funding and to invest in the long-term growth and quality of the event,” he said. The rental of the stadium for all three tiers is R500 000 and for two tiers is R350 000. He said added costs include services such as security and cleansing, traffic and transport, utility charges, the duration of the event and how many shifts will be needed, the protection of the pitch with and fencing. He said the City and Province contribute annually to the services. “The City’s budget for municipal and contractor services for the 2011 road march is approximately R1.7 million,” said Mr Wagner. Mr Wagner said there were economic benefits for the community. “The R900 000 external services and goods the City procures for the event, benefits smaller businesses. Every participants’ uniform is worth an average of R350, so there are opportunities in material supplies, uniform manufacturing as well as catering and transport,” he said.

Residents have welcomed the event. Bob Goebel, chairperson on the Green Point Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, said they welcomed the street parade to the stadium. Bree Street resident Russell Wightman said: “Although I was not informed, I certainly don’t mind. The minstrels parade is a tradition in the city and I’m sure many residents will join the celebrations.” Long Street resident and convenor of the Long Street Residents’ Association (LSRA), Byron Qually said the association was not informed of the new route. The area covered by the association includes all residential properties from Queen Victoria Street to Buitengracht. “The minstrels parade is an integral part of the city. It is a uniquely Cape Town event that is inclusive and open to all. This cultural event will see many Capetonian come to the city to celebrate its heritage unlike other events which are aimed at making money,” said Mr Qually. He said residents needed to be informed of how the parade would be managed and of road closures. Mr Qually said in the past few months many events seemed to be concentrated in the upper Long Street are and he was glad that the minstrels parade would give exposure to other parts of the city. Dave Bryant, executive support officer for ward Councillor Belinda Walker, said Ms Walker was present during the discussions and that she supported the current route. “She supported the route as the initial plan to have 46 000 people walking through Rose Street just wasn’t practical. What we aim to do is turn this event into an international one as it is the biggest cultural event to take place in the city. With all the various groups involved it is often complicated to formalise such an event,” Mr Bryant said. He said the detailed traffic plan which includes the road closures will be released soon.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.