Port Elizabeth 2010

‘Hope’ for Central Port Elizabeth

A tear of HOPE for our beloved Central…………

Umzantsi Afrika Tours, Port Elizabeth – 26 July 2010

submitted by Alan Montgomery

IRISH property magnate Ken Denton is selling off more than 15 of his Nelson Mandela Bay properties in the historic heartland of Central in what has been referred to by estate agents as his biggest property purge since arriving in the city in 1998.

According to estate agents in the city, Denton has recently given several of them an “unofficial mandate” to market the properties he wants to move – many of which have drawn strong criticism because of their sorry state.But because he has not stated a selling price, these vary depending on which agent is doing the marketing.

The Herald has a list of 15 properties owned by the Denton Group which he apparently wants moved, two of which are already noted as “sales in progress”.

While the official line from the group is that nothing is up for sale, it conceded it “may consider selective disposal” of properties in “certain circumstances”.

“Mr Denton is currently away. However … he has confirmed the properties (The Herald) referred to are not for sale and not in the process of being sold. We are interested in growing our property portfolio in PE mainly by development or redevelopment of existing stock.”

But a list from an established estate agency clearly shows 13 properties available for sale, two of which are in the process of being sold. This was confirmed to The Herald by other estate agents.

The move comes despite the controversial mogul promising never to sell any of his historic properties, many of which are national monuments that have been the focus of criticism from tourism bodies and municipal officials because they have been allowed to fall into a disrepair.

Included in the list which agents are marketing are:

  • Steve Biko House in Stand Street, with an asking price of R5.6-million;
  • The Campanile Hotel in Strand Street, for R4.43-million, as well as the adjoining boarding house (R735200) and Drannock (R607100);
  • The Trocadero block of flats in Parliament Street, where students were allegedly unlawfully and forcefully evicted in November by the group, for R1.37-million;
  • Prospect Hill’s Echo House, which agents have said is in dire condition, littered with rubbish and at one stage home to squatters, for R129900; and
  • Lockhead, in Strand Street, for R2.14-million.

Estate agents, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of deals, said Denton decided whether the buyers they brought in were offering “an acceptable price” for the buildings.

Already in the process of being sold, according to the list, is Chapel Street’s Highview block of flats, and the building described by some as being in a “shocking state”, the Sunnyside block in Bird Street.

Not on the list is the old Baakens Street Post Office complex, which is also in need of repair, but which agents say Denton is not keen to get rid of. Since 2006 the Denton Group has been mooting the revamp of the complex, but it has been dogged by delayed applications to, and responses from, the Provincial Heritage Resource Authority.

The sales come in the wake of Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile’s special heritage task team which audited dilapidated buildings around the city – including many in Central belonging to Denton – and submitted their findings in a recent report to the council. According to some municipal officials, the sale “could be a way of escaping action by the city”.

A council resolution, taken last week, stated: “We intend to take legal action to deal decisively with unscrupulous property owners who are holding our heritage to ransom. This strategy will culminate in, among others, the issuing of compliance notices, compulsory restoration orders, High Court applications and possible expropriations”.

But Denton’s statement read: “The comments regarding the municipality and the task team are irrelevant as we have no intention of selling these properties. In certain circumstance we may consider selective disposal in order to rationalise our property portfolio.”

Councillors and estate agents have welcomed the pending sales, with agents reporting keen interest from buyers in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban in snapping up some of the properties which, positioned within the city’s central business district, qualify for substantial tax breaks as part of the government’s urban renewal programme.

Central ward councillor Jeremy Davis, who was included in the mayor’s task team, said: “Hopefully, the purchase of these properties will lead to their restoration and this will consequently upgrade the area in which most of these properties can be found. Anybody buying one will no doubt return it to its previous glory, resulting in the general upgrade of this historical area, in particular Central. This, hopefully, will have a knock-on effect.

“This is a situation that was bound to happen, given time. One cannot help wondering what prompted the decision to sell,” he said.

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