Observatory Main Road high-rise may go ahead despite protest

An artist's impression of the proposed apartment block in Observatory.

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)
8th March 2015

A proposal to construct a high-rise development facing on to Observatory Main Road has residents in the trendy, historic suburb hot under the collar.

Rawson Developers intend to build The Paragon at the corner of Bowden and Main roads to provide accommodation for the students and young professionals Observatory attracts.

They originally planned a nine-storey construction for the L-shaped site.

However residents objected and a petition protesting against this plan attracted 1 300 signatures. A Facebook page was launched to voice residents’ concerns.

Marc Turok, the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) chairman, said: “Our stance is that Observatory and its people should be treated with respect by developers and the city officials. We have rights no less important than those who wish to come and transform our area.

“Local people should be informed about changes in zoning and other development matters affecting our area.

“It should not be inflicted on us without proper consultation with no right to comment.”

He pointed out that many Observatory properties were part of the Urban Conservation Area and protected because of their architectural heritage quality.

Observatory resident Phyllis Orner said: “When residents heard about it in November, we contacted city officials and the OCA, to find out what our rights were in respect to the proposed building. We were not satisfied with the city’s response and started a petition and held community meetings to garner support in letting us as the community have a say in the process.”

The developer has since revised its plan in response to the concerns.

According to Trevor Weston-Green of Rawson Developers the Eden Road side of the development is now five storeys high (ground plus four). The Main Road side remains nine storeys while the Bowden and Main Road side is now planned to be 11 storeys with duplex units facing Main Road on the corner.

“We made these changes after receiving a letter of concerns and recommendations from OCA on behalf of the residents, so the site can interact with the overlay of Urban Conservation Area very well,” said Weston-Green.

The civic association had recommended that the building height on Eden Road be reduced to four storeys with the fifth storey set back and that this be taken around the corner and the residential accommodation on Eden Road brought down to street level.

It also suggested that the building be broken up more with vertical divisions.

The civic association is not satisfied with the developer’s revised plans.

Turok said the intention had not been to remove storeys from one side only to create an even higher rise building on the Bowden Road side.

“It seems the OCA have gone against their letter, saying the new development is worse than before, which is a comment we reject as many of their recommendations have been taken into account and the changes to the building have been extensively workshopped with the city,” said Weston-Green.

Mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning Johan van der Merwe said the city was processing the building plan application as required by the provisions of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, No 103 of 1977.

“In this instance, the comments of the public have been considered. A building plan application that satisfies the requirement of the act is therefore eligible for approval.

“The public is consulted during the planning application process when a change in land use rights is applied for, which is not the case here,” said Van der Merwe.


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