Press release from the City of Cape Town

It’s been a marathon nine-month revamp for City Hall, the Grand Old Dame who has undergone a nip and tuck to restore her to her former beauty. Standing tall and proud for 113 years with the majestic Table Mountain in the background, this makeover is the first major refurbishment of the facility since 1947.

City Hall has served as the venue for both nationally and internationally important events through its years of service to the residents of Cape Town. The Council Chamber, at its heart,  was where matters of local importance were debated and decisions taken that were to shape Cape Town into the city as we know it today.

Main facade of City Hall (The Heritage Portal)

The bulk of the work in the City Hall’s makeover is in the final stages with the finishing touches currently being made to the auditorium. The current phase includes extensive work in the auditorium and surrounding function rooms.

The seating in the auditorium has been replaced, the floors have been stabilized and restored, a mechanical ventilation system, public address system and evacuation system have been installed, and all the mouldings, stage and backstage area have been restored.

The revamp of the facility started a few months ago and repainting of the main entrance hall, refurbishment of the slate roof, and repairs to the organ were completed in the previous financial year.

Exciting plans are afoot to position the surrounding precinct and the City Hall as an ideal musical events venue, in addition to being the home of the Malay Choirs and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. The City of Cape Town is also in the process of a major upgrade of the Grand Parade to increase the precinct’s attraction as an events venue.

‘City Hall is one of our oldest and most central public spaces, with a rich history that resonates with Capetonians as well as visitors to our city. These extensive renovations will provide the facility with a new lease on life. Additionally, the proposals to honour Madiba’s legacy with permanent installations here will add to the City Hall’s appeal as an attraction for locals and visitors,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee for Assets and Facilities Management, Councillor Stuart Diamond.

Planned work for next year includes the upgrading of the ground floor offices and bathrooms, and the fencing of the rear entrance to City Hall.

‘As a key strategic asset of the City, its upkeep and maintenance had to be done with the utmost care to preserve the integrity of this heritage building and the equipment within. The refurbishment will enhance the aesthetics of the building and, given its proximity to the Grand Parade, the Old Drill Hall and Castle of Good Hope, will establish this precinct as the historical and cultural heart of Cape Town,’ said Councillor Diamond.

The City is planning to host a multi-cultural event in September to launch the refurbished auditorium to a number of stakeholders. A range of cultural performances by previous users of the facility will be the highlight of the launch. The purpose of this event will be to showcase and market the venue as a multi-cultural and functional space. The choice of artists must celebrate our diversity of cultures in Cape Town as an inclusive city. It will also be an opportune time to acknowledge and celebrate the excellent work of the project team.

The work of the City Hall Steering Committee is in progress. Stakeholder engagement sessions have been held with big businesses within the precinct to undertstand the opportunities and challenges. Additionally, the steering committee (made up of internal and external role players) is driving the refurbishment plan in a coordinated manner to ensure that the facility is brought up to standard within the current building codes without compromising its heritage significance.

The Conservation Management Plan is with Heritage Western Cape for approval. The refurbishment will help to determine and implement appropriate civic uses and tenants for the facility. In turn, this will help to boost the economic sustainability of this key strategic asset.

Safety was also a key motivating factor for the renovations, due to the age of the building. The repairs will ensure that the City Hall is compliant with the national safety regulations that are stipulated in the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act.

The construction of this imposing building in 1905 put Cape Town on an equal footing with the other capital cities in the world. Since then it has been a focal point in the life of the city. It has hosted all major events that took place in the city. For many years the Grand Hall was the only civic venue of significant capacity, and was the performance venue of the Malay Choir; orchestral concerts; musical competitions such as variety shows; boxing competitions; and civic banquets and functions. Today, it continues to host various community programmes.

Older photo of the Grand Hall (The Heritage Portal)

While the City Hall provided space for the arts and music, it was also for nearly 70 years the headquarters of the administration of Cape Town with all decisions relating to the city being made there. It was designed in two portions, the administrative wing and the Grand Hall wing.

Copyright 2024 – Cape Town Heritage Trust