Substantial restoration work to the Old Granary building at 11 Buitenkant Street is under way.
The City of Cape Town-appointed contractor is being guided by a restoration architect to enhance this culturally significant building which is more than 200 years old.
The City said the rehabilitation and restoration work is earmarked for completion by early- to mid-2017, if all goes according to plan.
The building has been vacant for more than 20 years.
The plan is to restore the building externally while sensitively rehabilitating its interior spaces for use by the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation as a Peace Centre, offices, an archive and a museum.
The City’s Environmental Re-source Management and Property Management departments are overseeing the restoration work.
Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson said: “‘It is an important public heritage asset and, as such, it is essential that it is conserved for generations to come. It will also serve a public function to the benefit of the city and the broader community. We are glad that the Foundation’s long-awaited peace centre will become a reality.”
The original building was constructed between 1808 and 1813 by Jacobus Hendricks as a dwelling house and bakery. It was purchased in 1814 by the British colonial government for use as a customs house.
In 1819, it was converted into a town granary and in 1827 it was changed to a magistrate’s court. Later on it served as a postal office and was also used as offices by the Department of Public Works.
The complex of buildings on this land is therefore of high cultural, social, architectural and historic significance and form a part of the country’s heritage resources which should be protected and maintained, the City said.
Due to the many changes in the use of the Granary building over the years, a variety of layers of fabric from different periods are visible throughout the building.
Its Buitenkant and Longmarket streets facades will be preserved and not altered in any way.
The differing interior layers of the building have resulted from its varied uses in the past and offers an opportunity to sensitively add new layers to allow for its continued use in the future.
As the building is older than 60 years it is generally protected by Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 and any changes to the building must have authority from Heritage Western Cape. The building was recently nominated by Heritage Western Cape for provincial heritage site status.
Once the restoration work has been completed, the foundation will be leasing the Old Granary building from the City for a period of 40 years.
In October 2015, on Ms Tutu’s birthday, a plaque-unveiling ceremony was held at the Granary building.
A ceremonial lease was signed during the ceremony. The foundation will be taking on the full maintenance obligations of the building for the duration of the lease.
An exhibition of the foundation’s vision and legacy, the history of the building, and the restoration process is planned for the ground floor of the building.