Second phase of Valkenberg upgrade completed

The new bulk storage facility after the upgrades.

The second phase of the Department of Transport and Public Works’ R150 million upgrade of Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital has been completed.

This phase of the refurbishment of the historic hospital buildings started in February last year and cost R57 million.

Several upgrades were done to the building, including the provision of new accommodation for support services at the hospital, which includes administration, records, archives, bulk stores, laundry, cleaning services and the staff clinic.

The project also included extensive refurbishment of the existing hall and adjacent boardroom.

Spokesman Byron la Hoe, said the restoration of heritage buildings constructed in the early 1900s had presented many challenges.

“Investigations were required to establish the condition of structural timbers and extensive remedial work was carried out to address beetle infestation and damp rot in the roof structures and floors. The impact of the ongoing drought on the landscaping was another challenge,” he said.

New trees and water-wise plants have been planted to provide shade for parking and complete the historic precinct and its surrounds.

The buildings are naturally ventilated using the historic Boyle ventilator system, which was fully restored and put back into operation.

“Other historical mechanical equipment, including an old coal-fired Cochran boiler, Weir pumps and an autoclave have been retained as significant artefacts, Mr La Hoe added.

Observatory’s Qulthum Daniels regularly volunteers at the hospital and jogs or takes her dogs for walks through the hospital grounds.

“It’s so lovely to see this historic site getting a much needed face-lift.

“That dark and daunting look is being lifted, and maybe now people will be attracted to the hospital and offer assistance.”

Commenting on the landscaping upgrades, Ms Daniels said: “They have really turned the space into a beautiful place for recovery. That old look is finally gone and it does look rejuvenated.”

Rondebosch resident Sebastian Collison, runs a business near the newly refurbished hospital. “It’s fantastic,” he said.

“Everything about this project is a positive. That area is looking much more rejuvenated and refreshed.

“On top of that, this whole project has empowered people and created jobs.”

Mr Collison especially likes the idea of work being created for the unemployed.

“Our country should use opportunities like these to give our people a chance. There are people with plenty of talents out there, but they need a platform to showcase their talents.

“The unemployment rate is very high is this country, and there are plenty more state-owned properties that require attention – let’s give the unemployed opportunities through these state-owned properties,” he added.

The department has further committed itself to providing short-term working opportunities and to develop emerging contractors.

Mr La Hoe said more than
R9 million had been spent on targeted contractor businesses and R2.9 million on local labour.

In addition, a total of 30 people had received on-site training in painting, carpentry and joinery.