Restoration of Melck Warehouses – Strand Street Cape Town

C.J. Everett
P.O. Box 26356,
Hout Bay, 7872
20 December 2015
Ms Juliet Leslie,
Planning and Building Management,
PO Box 4529,
Cape Town 8000
Juliet.Leslie@capetown.gov.za
Dear Madam
Restoration and redevelopment of Melck Warehouses – Strand Street Cape Town – Right of Appeal
in terms of the Municipal Systems Act No 32 Of 2000: Application for Council’s Approval to
develop in a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone, Approval to permit Canopy/Balcony Projections in
Waterkant Street and Council’s Agreement to Permit Development closer than 5 m from a
Metropolitan Road: Erf 774009, Strand Street, Cape Town
Thank you for your Registered Letter advising me of my Right of Appeal against the Council Decision,
which was sent to me as a registered Interested and Affected Party as immediate past Chairman of
the Hout Bay and Llandudno Heritage Trust.
I emphasise that I write this letter in my private capacity, but I wish to advise that I will not in any
way appeal against the Council’s decision and I express my unequivocal support for the
development. I disagree totally with the opposition to the restoration of the old warehouse
buildings and the redevelopment of the site by building a set back section above it.
It is clear that it is a building of significant heritage importance – one of the few remaining Dutch
period warehouses in the city forming part of a city block of which at least the rest of the southern
section on Strand Street is a well-preserved 18th century city landscape. Due to its neglect over the
years, loss of fabric on the ground floor and only partially intact second storey structures, (both of
which will be substantially restored under the present proposals), the building certainly does not at
present complement or enhance the rest of the buildings on Strand Street.
I have been watching the project for a considerable period and have inspected it in detail from the
outside, as well as been through the documentation provided by the developers and the arguments
from the opposition to the project, which I find petty, pedantic and irrational. It appears that they
would prefer a degraded existing building over a restored building with some additional “detached”
development. I have always felt that the proposals for the Lutheran Church warehouses are sensible
and sensitive and the new section will be largely imperceptible from the angle that matters for a
building of this size – street level. The small tower block is well set back – probably completely
invisible from street level in Strand Street and if it is visible, it will be seen against the backdrop of
the more modern buildings behind it like Safren House. The side view from Bree Street, unlike that
on Strand Street, has less neighbouring historic context, but the restored proposals are far more
pleasing than its present state. The more modern aspects of the façade on the pedestrianised Fanwalk
fit comfortably with the new buildings there.
I have previously written to the City of Cape Town, in my personal capacity, commending it. This
proposal is far better than many other developments in Cape Town where for the most part the
historic structure is essentially demolished, street facades kept as artificial relics totally out of
context, and new structures bulked behind them to the maximum, overpowering any historic feel of
the site. I believe that the alternative to development will inevitably allow ongoing degradation of
the buildings, as there is no incentive to the owners to preserve them on a prime city site without an
adequate commercial return. As it stands the building is a degraded mess with doorways punched
through at random, others carelessly bricked up and ugly industrial signage and modern
excrescences. If no more money is put into it, that is the way it will stay and suffer more of the same
neglect that will eventually lead to its abandonment or further arbitrary modifications. It is at
present a disfigured commercial wasteland, and is unrecognizable as a building with any Heritage
value at all. Heritage conservation requires a viable business plan to succeed and the warehouse has
no viability as a purely charitable restoration project on its own. Restoration to an 18th Century
warehouse just as a showpiece is clearly not a viable option.
The no-development option will result in its continuing deterioration until it reaches a stage where it
will finally fall into total decay and probably eventually be demolished.
I regularly visit the UK and am convinced that the approach taken by the British National Trust there
is the right one – painstaking restoration, coupled with re-utilisation – if possible in their original
function, but if not then in a wide variety of other ways. The approach is often characterised by the
phrase “Use it or lose it”. Block the development and we will eventually lose the lot.
The new proposals can restore much of the sense of place of the old warehouse and create a
building which can live again. I find them attractive, sensible and worthy of vocal support rather than
condemnation.
Yours faithfully
C.J. Everett
Pr.Eng, BSc Eng

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