Cement

Every time there is a shop vacated in Obz, something renovated, a new premises built… we hope (against reason) for something subtle, communal, maybe even lovely. Something that captures even a small whiff of the spirit of this diverse and historic neighborhood, and reflects it back with a smile, or a wink.

Every time, we’re disappointed. Take the Old Lion Match Factory in Lower Main Road. Here’s a golden chance to reinvigorate the heart of Observatory with a world-class mixed purpose development – some shops, maybe a bar or restaurant, another small supermarket would be nice… There’s even space for flats and a few offices, loads of parking. At least four old historic buildings, kind of industrial red-brick. This, at least, is what they propose. It makes sense, because this is what we need to turn our suburb around.

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But then they go and let the entire block to a single tenant. A call centre. And now we have their scores of ferret-like employees, skiving and skulking on stoeps and driveways, scratching at their phones.

I’m getting tired of missed potential. I’m getting tired of sloppy cement, left to harden in the streets.Look at this place, above the old Spar in Station Road. The owners, Telamon Properties, don’t give a damn.

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To them, it’s finished. The facade,  a pathetic, unconsidered amalgamation of the former collonade and the new addition, is like a cement shit: a great big gash of lumpy hard greyness. It’s just been left like that by the builders. So what. Move on.

We’ve just lost our pharmacy. Three new retail spaces that have been formed in its absence. What will fill them? The recent additions next door in Station Road – a sterile Mr Video, a little poop-shack of an internet cafe, the plastic death of a Chinese shop and a cheap airtime privy don’t inspire much.

Then there’s the infamous development on top of the new Spar. Where a wall fell from above and flattened a car a few months ago. Develpment was suspended, but the cement spires remain, like some brutal urban Atlantis. Note the untenanted space below… months old now. Lovely.

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Cement is the blood of progress, the ooze of development. It’s a caustic, unforgiving sludge, but we love it, we cherish it. It is the substance that we hurl at the future, that slips down the glass face of our dreams, and fastens around our feet.

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