After years of wrangling, applications, land restitution and objections, the Solomon Family Trust will open the new Constantia Emporium on Tuesday November 26.
The 15 000 m2 shopping centre has 26 shops including Checkers, Woolworths, Clicks, MTN, various restaurants, banks, ATMs and office spaces.
Construction began in August last year.
“This is the new South Africa that we all dreamed of,” said Rashaad Solomon, a member of the Solomon Family Trust, as he walked around the complex, which is in the final stages of construction before its opening to the public.
A number of black families were forcefully removed from Constantia by the apartheid regime, but so far only two families have been given land back – the Solomon family is one of them. They had occupied the land for 65 years before they were forcefully removed. (“Victory for Solomon family,” Constantiaberg Bulletin, January 31).
Rashaad, who was born on the land in 1945, said he still remembered the day he and his family were forcefully evicted from their farm under the Group Areas Act. They were placed in Crawford/Rondebosch East.
“The unjust apartheid laws disturbed and dispersed a lot of families on this land to various parts of the peninsula. Getting this land back and going forward with this development has put the family back together. Now we are united in promoting this brand in Constantia,” said Rashaad.
Shrif “Solli” Solomon, another representative of the family, said there were about 80 beneficiaries who would benefit from the shopping centre, which will be leased to stores, including the anchor tenant, Shoprite Checkers.
The family had decided a shopping centre would be most beneficial after exploring various options for the land, he said.
“We still get to own the land while leasing it out to these shops. We also get to establish ourselves as a responsible community member in Constantia.”
The shopping centre will feature old photographs of the family’s farm before it was taken from them.
Workers at Soil for Life in Constantia, who were passing the centre, said they were looking forward to seeing a Checkers in the neighbourhood as they would be able to get cheaper meals during their lunch breaks.
The Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA) took the Solomon Family Trust to court last year, saying the shopping centre did not match the look and feel of Constantia as it was too large, and an “unattractive monstrous development” (“Exploring SA’s most expensive street,” Bulletin, June 27)
CRRA chairwoman Sheila Camerer said the association had always stated its support for the restitution of the “Solomon site” to its rightful owners, and it respected their right to develop the land in an “appropriate” manner.
The CRRA, she said, believed the “large, vacant site presented a unique opportunity for the establishment of a quality new neighbourhood, accommodating a range of housing types and associated uses, including convenience retail, restaurants and open spaces”.
She said the association had, at the time, been prepared to work with the Solomon Family on a development proposal to “benefit all”, but they had gone ahead with a “big box” shopping centre.
“The CRRA objected to the proposal on the grounds that it did not comply with the City’s own planning policies and did not satisfy the desirability criteria listed in the Municipal Planning By-Law,” she said.
However, the City’s Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) approved the planning application, and the CRRA appeal was rejected by the then mayor, Patricia de Lille.
The CRRA then took the family to the Western Cape High Court, where it lost.
Solli said they would like to move on from the past.
“All we want is to be recognised as a contributing business in Constantia.”