Muizenberg, Western Cape

Developers to put Muizenberg, Western Cape, South Africa, back on the tourist map

Decaying Muizenberg is about to get a multimillion- rand face-lift. The seaside resort, once a popular South African residential and holiday destination, has declined over the years, turning into what some describe as a "ghetto".

Town bosses' patience wore thin over the past five years, as developers failed to deliver on plans to rejuvenate the area's dilapidated beachfront - an important step in restoring Muizenberg's status as a premier tourist destination.

But now development corporation Dormell has stepped in, promising to invest an estimated R150-million in upgrading the coastal town.

The company has bought 24 derelict properties on Muizenberg's beachfront, including the famous old Empire cinema building, and is planning to create an upmarket centre with restaurants, shops and flats.

It will submit plans to the council for approval within the next two months.

"Some buildings will be re-instated or restored, others partially demolished, and some completely demolished. The condition of, particularly the beachfront buildings, is very poor due to the many years of corrosion," said Dormell's David Kretzmar, who also worked on the development of Cape Town's V&A Waterfront centre.

Dormell has worked with city officials and heritage authorities in drawing up the plans and intends to complete the project towards the end of next year.

Veteran campaigners for the upgrading of central Muizenberg, pharmacist Gerald Musikanth and ANC Member of Parliament for the area Ben Turok, welcomed the plans.

"The area's been waiting so long for this to happen," said Musikanth, head of the False Bay Tourism and Business Association.

Both recalled happier days spent at Muizenberg's beachfront area - speaking fondly of the old Empire cinema. Built in 1942, and designed by W H Grant, who also designed the Colosseum in Cape Town, the Art Deco cinema used to be a central feature in Muizenberg.

Turok, who recalled going there in the 1940s to watch films and chase girls, said: "People remember the Empire as the heart of Muizenberg."

Sadly, over the years, the once-elegant building has become structurally dangerous and a haven for squatters.

The old cinema and adjoining flats will be demolished, Kretzmar said, but he added that the Empire's Art Deco-style entrance would probably be rebuilt.

"It was always intended to restore the entrance, but the structure is very poor and in fact dangerous. It will thus be rebuilt, serving as an entrance to an enclosed square located roughly where the old cinema itself used to be," he said.

Despite the demolition of the cinema, development partner David Jack said developers wanted to ensure that the development "builds on what was there historically".

Article From: Biénne Huisman - www.sundaytimes.co.za