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The end of an era for Helderzicht Library

SOMERSET WEST – The Helderzicht Public Library has been sold to the highest bidder and the property transaction will be completed pending final approval from council.

City of Cape Town spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibhongo said the sale transpired after the initial auction was derailed but successfully rescheduled.

The library was to be auctioned off on 17 September last year, but due to unforeseen circumstances the auction did not take place. It was thwarted by protests relating to a building in Woodstock, which took place at the auction venue, the Hellenic Community Centre in Mouille Point on the day of the public sale. The entire auction was called off, to be rescheduled at a later date, one the community appears to have been unaware of.

On enquiry last week, Tyhalibhongo said the auction took place at Sea Point Civic Centre on 16 October and details were advertised in advance by the auctioneer in various print publications, including The Cape Argus (on 5, 6, 12 and 13 October), Die Burger (on 5 and 12 October) and Bolander (on 9 October). Despite an old poster with details of the initial auction still up outside the library, Tyhalibhongo said auction boards were placed on site and all details were available on the auctioneer’s digital platforms prior to the auction.

When asked how much the library was sold for, Tyhalibhongo said: “The highest auction bid received for the property on which the disused library building stands was/is within the determined market value for the specific property.”

The library opened as a service point operating for 14 hours a week back in 1990. The doors of the “library”, which served the Helderzicht, Paardevlei, Garden Village and Lourensia Park communities, has been closed for more than a decade now.

DistrictMail previously reported that the library, located at 19 February Street, closed in 2009 after its librarian took up another position. With staff cutbacks due to budget tightening within the City’s libraries and information services division, there was no easy way to fill the part-time position left open at the library.

In addition the wooden structure required maintenance work that is beyond the reach of the City’s budget to ensure it is safe to use, and would have had to be fitted with a computer system to link it to the City’s library network and provide community services like internet and email.

Another spanner in the works was the library’s location, for it is situated on a road that was reserved for the alignment as part of the SA National Roads Agency’s proposed Winelands Tolling Project ruled against in September four years ago.

The library’s permanent closure went before the local subcouncil in April 2012 and realised following council’s approval in 2016.

Answering the question that called for the auction of the 491 m² property and dilapidated structure, local ward councillor Gregory Peck explained the City can and will only sell or lease viable land it owns, when it is not needed for carrying out a basic level of municipal service, and is done via a competitive (public tender) process carried out in terms of relevant municipal acts and regulations.

Before the line department (Library and Information Services) requested that the property and its dilapidated structure be disposed of, Peck said, the Michael Parks Foundation was granted the right to purchase the parcel of City-owned land at a reduced price in 2018, on condition it be developed for use by the non-profit organisation within the following couple of years.

When the offer was not accepted, enquiries were made by a community member looking to revive an old application for land to accommodate a church. Eventually the City opted for the land, zoned as single residential, to be auctioned off by ClareMart Auctioneers.

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