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Landmark heritage development set to transform downtown Cape Town

Landmark heritage development set to transform downtown Cape Town

by Sharon Sorour-Morris
31 March 2021

After a decade of plotting, planning and permissions, the striking renovation and development of The Barracks, one of the Cape Town CBD’s most well-known heritage sites, is set to integrate new and old in a unique retail and residential offering.

Work is progressing well on the R150 million development that will ultimately see a sleek, modern residential complex comprising 70 micro-apartments floating on top of an iconic heritage building in the heart of the Cape Town Central City by the end of 2021.

The Barracks (a nod to its use as a military depot and barracks during the time of the Dutch East India Company in the 1700s) will add a striking new dimension to the residential and retail offering in vibrant Bree Street.

The iconic building, originally built by Martin Melck as a warehouse to store wine and grain, has been the home of well-known CBD sports branding retailer company Mike’s Sports since 2001, when owners Mike and Casey Augoustides bought part of the building.

“The upmarket inner-city residential development – with compact studio apartments – will see new being integrated with old seamlessly through a choice of materials and in the interior design of the apartments, resulting in a very unique market offering not easily replicated elsewhere in Cape Town,” says Casey Augoustides.


The Barracks forms part of Lutheran Square and is next to Martin Melck House and the Lutheran Church.

It took the Augoustides brothers nine years of negotiation to purchase and consolidate the various pieces of the property back into one. This is the first time since 1890 that the historic building is under single ownership, and it has been restored to reflect its former shape and form when originally built by Melck in the 1700s. “The building was severely degraded through years of neglect and ad hoc alterations and was not in a good condition,” Casey Augoustides states.

The huge task of rehabilitating and restoring the building and developing it for commercial purposes then began, with the brothers enlisting the expertise of Gabriel Fagan Architects, with the late heritage specialist architect Gawie Fagan taking a keen personal interest in the project.

The building forms part of Lutheran Square and is next to Martin Melk House (the Old Lutheran Parsonage) and The Evangelical Lutheran Church, the oldest church building in South Africa which dates back to 1792. Fagan, a legend in his lifetime who died late last year, was the pro bono architect of the historic church buildings for decades.


Mike and Casey Agoustides outside the Bree Street entrance of The Barracks.

MODERN VISION

True to form, Fagan and his team “came up with a brilliant concept” to allow the 18th Century warehouse to regain heritage significance by physically separating the new build from it. “The new additions are contrasted in materiality, with a visually light modern, glazed top structure hovering above the more heavy masonry of the historic building below, and set back from Strand Street to preserve all signature views of the Lutheran Church,” Augoustides explains. “We have kept the development low and contained … it is not a high-rise … that is what makes it special and intimate.”

The plans got the nod and were approved by Heritage authorities in 2010, with further revisions only being approved by the City of Cape Town in 2016.

Augoustides says the heritage restoration project has resulted in the removal of many “inappropriate modern interventions” the building had been subjected to over the years, with the historic facades being reinstated by referencing a photograph from the Cape Archives dating back to the 1880s, as well as the rehabilitation, restoration and show-casing of all heritage fabric within the building.

On a tour of the site, Augoustides points to parts of the centuries’ old, hand-packed stone walls that have been left exposed to indicate the building’s provenance, and the penetration of stilts through the old building to support the new building above.

Mike’s Sports, one of the last manufacturing concerns in the CBD, is very much still in operation on the site, and Augoustides says the company produces between 1 500 and 2 000 sports uniforms per day.


It took the Augoustides nine years of negotiation to purchase and consolidate the various pieces of the property.

RESIDENTAIL & RETAIL OFFERING

The Augoustides’ vision for the development at street level is for it to become “the new location for boutique high-end retail in one of Cape Town’s oldest city blocks”. The building straddles Strand, Bree and Waterkant streets, which, Augoustides says, “are all important streets and arteries servicing the CBD”.

“There will be restaurants spilling out onto Waterkant Street, a coffee shop, MiCAFFÉ MILANO, on Bree Street, and another restaurant on Strand Street,” he says.

With the main entrance on Bree Street, the building has a thoroughfare linking to the Lutheran Church’s courtyard, with the aim of integrating the buildings on the block. “We are collaborating with the church, our neighbour, to ensure that our block works synergistically for the benefit of all.”

Construction has unearthed many surprises and interesting discoveries, and Augoustides acknowledges that the Covid-19 curveball has also been something of a challenge. “We remain optimistic, however, and focussed on breathing new life into one of the oldest, most interesting sites in the city centre,” he says.

The modern new structure, thoughtfully designed with its sloping façade and out-of-sight parking deck, is certainly eye-catching and, in the words of Heritage doyen Herbert Prins, “floats above the parapet line with a vertical separation so that there is no confusion between old and new … the result is an exciting experience of an 18th Century block from the street with the modern component blending in with the surrounding modern townscape”.

No doubt, The Barracks will become a defining feature of the Cape Town Central City.

IMAGES: The Barracks, CCID

Tags: The Barracks Mike’s Sports Casey Augoustides micro-apartments micro-living Cape Town CBD residential units Bree Street