Cape Town’s historic Newspaper House, home to Independent Newspapers in the Western Cape, has been sold. Completed in 1836, the stately old building has been home to newspapers since the 1850s.
Arnold Maresky, CEO of Ingenuity Property Investments, a listed company, said buying the building was a “wonderful opportunity to invest in the heritage of Cape Town”. Maresky said its situation, in the leafy pedestrian thoroughfare of St George’s Mall, was an attractive proposition. “Local government is investing in upgrading the upper part of the Mall, and the walkways and pedestrianisation bring feet into the central city,” he says.
Fortunately, the building will retain part of its long association with newspapers. Independent Newspapers will lease the top three floors so the Cape Times, Cape Argus, Independent Online (IOL), the Daily Voice and its community newspapers will still be housed there. Independent Newspapers puts the staff complement at around 300. This will come as a relief to the many journalists and editors who have worked in the building over the years, and are sentimentally attached to what was the home of English journalism in the Western Cape.
“We don’t want to see the newspapers move out,” says Maresky. “Newspaper House is part of Cape Town’s uniqueness. So many other city centres have lost their hearts as business moves out. This beautiful building will maintain its association with newspapers. That heritage is important to us and to the people who work there, and have worked there. We’ll keep its name as well.”
Maresky and Independent Newspapers have been coy about what price the building fetched, but auctioneers, Auction Alliance, weren’t so discreet. Property24.com reported that Newspaper House fetched R86million.
“Our core focus is redevelopment so converting the old printing works area on the ground floor – a large industrial space – is going to be an exciting project,” says Maresky. “We’re going to create an internal walkway though the area, and it will be used as retail space. It will provide a linkage to Church Street and Mandela Rhodes Place on one side and Greenmarket Square on the other.”
Newspaper House has always exhibited photographs from its publications on the walls around the building, giving passersby the chance to browse images of news and events that have taken place in the city. On one side, enormous posters of the front pages of momentous happenings in South Africa – such as the release of Nelson Mandela and the first democratic elections – take pride of place.
“We’re looking at alternatives for the photographs,” says Maresky. “They will probably become part of the ground floor mall. We don’t want the building to lose its identity.”
Maresky said he hoped media or creative companies such as art of photo galleries, would become part of the new Newspaper House redevelopment. “We have lots of exciting ideas,” he says. “Work starts within the two weeks.”