The Deep Blue catch-22

De Brasserie on Beach Road, Strand, overlooking Deep Blue. The derelict building on Strand Beach, is due for demolition, but it is the subject of controversy over an unsolicited bid to refurbish and develop it, for the benefit of the Strand.

The mystery around the future of Deep Blue on the Strand beachfront deepened after Bolander received a letter from Strand architect, Kobus Coetzee, (“Deep Blue disaster”, Bolander, March 13) in response to the article “Demolition of Deep Blue building delayed”, (Bolander, March 6), which reveals that businessman Joep van Almenkerk, owner of De Brasserie on Beach Road opposite Deep Blue, committed in writing to fund the cost of refurbishing Deep Blue and building a beach bar atop the structure.

Mr Van Almenkerk retained Mr Coetzee to develop the architectural concept for the beach bar, and to estimate the cost of the project, which Mr Coetzee put at R10 million.

“It will be constructed largely from glass, so it will not impede the view of False Bay from Beach Road,” Mr Van Almenkerk said.

Aside from the refurbishment of Deep Blue and the development of the beach bar, Mr Van Almenkerk also undertook to build Blue Flag status public toilet facilities on the ground floor of Deep Blue, at his expense, to replace the portable toilets which are used there during holiday periods.

Mr Van Almenkerk said he first raised the idea with Ward 86 councillor, Carl Punt, in October 2016, who undertook to “take the matter forward”. They met on two further occasions to discuss the proposal, but nothing ever happened, according to Mr Van Almenkerk.

Several abortive attempts to secure a meeting to discuss the proposal with Sub-council 8 manager, Erika Williams, concluded in Ms Williams advising Mr Van Almenkerk to take the matter to the City of Cape Town property management department. “I did as Ms Williams suggested, but I was referred back to the sub-council. It’s a Catch-22,” he said.

The project had the backing of the Strand Ratepayers’ Association (SRA) and the Strand Sectional Title Association (SSTA), and in correspondence with Ms Williams dated May 29 and May 30 2018, SRA chairperson, Badie Badenhorst, expressed the SRA’s support for Mr Van Almenkerk’s proposal, and also requested that the new sea wall be diverted around Deep Blue to afford it protection from sea action, and that a recreational area in the form of an amphitheatre be constructed, as well as a slipway. Ms Williams responded to this proposal, asking if she could forward it to the City’s property management department. It is unclear at this time, whether or not that happened, and if it did, what response was forthcoming.

Mr Badenhorst and SSTA’s John Niehaus met with Ms Williams, and other City officials from the property development department, transport and urban development authority, and the sport and recreation department on January 19, at the Strand council offices. Mr Badenhorst presented an amended proposal which would include the planned beach bar, “public ablution facilities, small amphitheatre, a helicopter pad and space where the local neighbourhood watches can operate from, space for life-savers and a place from which boats can be launched”.

The meeting resolved that:

Mr Badenhorst would forward a one-page summary of his proposal for consideration by the property management department, the proposal be discussed with a senior City official, and that the preservation of Deep Blue be investigated by an official in the City’s sport and recreation department.

Bolander has a copy of the minutes of this meeting.

On March 25, Mr Badenhorst wrote on behalf of the SRA to Natalie Newman of the coastal management branch of the City’s environmental management department, who on March 4 issued the notice that the demolition permit for Deep Blue had been granted. The letter summarised the proposal for developing Deep Blue, and the attendant benefits for the City of Cape Town and the Strand community. Included with the letter were the minutes of the January 19 meeting, and Mr Coetzee’s architectural concept.

In his concluding paragraph, Mr Badenhorst says: “For reasons unknown to us, and most unfortunately so, none of the attached detail were (sic) ever conveyed to the public to consider and give comment, but instead thereof, only the ‘ugly face’ of a derelict (not so much, in our opinion) building that has over more than 30 years withstood the onslaughts of nature and mankind. Blue Flag status? Not a chance without it.”

In pursuit of answers, Bolander emailed questions to the City’s media office, asking why, in response to its various enquires dating back to November last year, about the status of Deep Blue, no mention was made of development proposals, or the involvement of the SRA and Mr Van Almenkerk. The City’s media office responded by referring Bolander to Sub-Council 8 for comment, since the original proposal had been submitted to the Sub-Council.

Bolander emailed Sub- council 8 chairperson, Chantal Serfontein, Mr Punt and Ms Williams on March 26, asking:

When did Mr Van Almenkerk submit his proposal for developing Deep Blue to the sub-council?

Was the proposal placed before sub-council? If yes, was it debated, and what was the conclusion? If no, why was the proposal not placed before sub-council?

What is the current status of Mr Van Almenkerk’s proposal?

On March 27, Bolander received the following response from Ms Williams:

“Thank you for your email.  Kindly note that all correspondence with the media takes place via the City’s media office. I will refer your enquiry as well as the response to the relevant official at the media office.”

At the time of going to print, Bolander had received no further response from Ms Williams or the City’s media office. In a telephone conversation on Friday, Mr Van Almenkerk expressed his frustration with how the City had dealt with the matter, pointing out that it has been dragging on since October 2016.

“All I want is a straight answer,” he said. “I can’t keep that sort of money on ice indefinitely while I wait for the City to make up it’s mind.”

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