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Friday Aug 16, 2013

Joburg heritage properties falling into ruin

A property developer in Joburg's inner city has been accused of allowing two heritage buildings to decline into ruin.

Shakespeare House in Commissioner Street, Joburg.

The CNA and Shakespeare buildings in Commissioner Street have been mothballed for the past 15 years but, in recent months, vandalism, graffiti and theft have been on the increase.

The Egoli Heritage Foundation says the buildings have been seriously compromised by what could be vandalism, or deliberate demolition.

These two buildings, said acting chairman of the association Herbert Prins, owe their considerable heritage status to the fact that they are both Art Deco in style and are situated in a part of the city where this form of architecture predominates and which, prior to the
Adestruction of the buildings, could have warranted their declaration as heritage sites within a heritage area.

'The Egoli Heritage Foundation is extremely disturbed and distressed by this latest rape of our architectural heritage and I am questioning what the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority intends to do about this state of affairs,' he said.

Prins said it had become a trend for many owners of heritage properties to allow a building to slide into decline and then use it as an opportunity to claim that because of the serious damage done to the structures, the buildings do not warrant conservation any more.

The neglect is used as an excuse to either do a 'makeshift job' or demolish the structures and this must stop, he said.

Prins said the law should be enforced, which means that the structures be restored to their original heritage status.

Other examples of buildings falling into decline are the Rissik Street Post Office and the Marshall Street Barracks.

In his response to accusations of negligence, chief executive of Urban Ocean, which owns the buildings, Herman Schoeman, said these were 'completely unfounded'.

'We purchased these buildings which were already mothballed and were in a bad state of repair.

'Because of the economy, it has not been financially viable to restore the buildings.

'We have, however, secured both of them at great cost. We spend R30 000 a month on security, but the thieves and vandals still manage to get into the building,' he said.

However, exterior work will be starting soon on the CNA Building.

Schoeman said the company had no intention of destroying any heritage aspects of the building. To the contrary, he said. 'We are very heritage conscious and there are many examples of this in other buildings we have renovated in the inner city, such as Corner House where we have preserved and restored as much as we could,' he said.

The Star


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