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Monday Jul 17, 2017

Durban landmarks continue to decay

A plan to dispose of three iconic Durban buildings is on hold.

The dilapidated buildings are West Point Lodge on Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Victoria Embankment), the Palm Beach Hotel in Gillespie Street and the Durban Seaman's Institute in Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road.

The West Point Lodge.

The distinctive zigzag West Point Lodge is on a prime site and every one of the 84 L-shaped bedsit rooms on 13 floors has a view of the harbour and the Bluff.

The KZN Department of Human Settlements and Public Works bought the building in a bid to reduce the housing backlog in the city, forking out R7 million, but its value dropped after it was taken over by squatters.

Then in 2012, fire swept through the building, claiming the lives of two toddlers.

Offers to various institutions of higher learning, including the Durban University of Technology, to take over the decaying building for student accommodation were turned down, as was an offer to the eThekwini Municipality to turn West Point into social housing for qualifying beneficiaries.

After carrying out an inspection, the municipality raised concerns about the physical structural integrity of the building, said Human Settlements spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi.

There are people living in West Point, with Baloyi saying they are documented occupants and known to the department.

"They are not paying rent and are waiting to be relocated to available housing units within eThekwini Municipality housing projects, depending on their individual qualifying criteria."

The Seaman's Institute: The future of the 127-year-old building is now in the spotlight.

As for the other two Department of Public Works-owned buildings, it has been a long time since tourists holidayed in the 70-room Palm Beach Hotel, just a block away from the beachfront, and it is many a year since the 33 rooms at the Seaman's Institute provided a home-away-from-home for passing mariners.

In a bid to dispose of the properties and contribute to inner city regeneration, the KZN Department of Public Works has called for long-term lease proposals from interested bidders, who might also be keen to buy.

The properties were re-advertised last month, with the closing date for bids being today.

"However, subsequent to the advertisement, we have received representations from residents of Ward 26, where the buildings are located," said Baloyi.

They are objecting to the buildings being disposed of and want them to be made available to local residents.

They want to be able to rent and buy into the three properties. Baloyi said there were "difficulties with this approach" because of financial implications.

"However, we have put the process on hold, while we engage with residents," he said.

The Palm Beach Hotel.

eThekwini Municipality representatives were part of the talks.

"We hope to reach common ground within the next few weeks," he said.

Daily News

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