Areas and Places

New development on Atlantic Seaboard boasts military relic

An exterior view of Alpha One on Cape Town's Atlantic Seaboard.
An exterior view of Alpha One on Cape Town's Atlantic Seaboard.

Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard is set to welcome a new luxury residential development. Currently under construction, Alpha One is a six-storey boutique development situated on the slopes of Signal Hill between High Level Road and Ocean View Drive.

On what is one of the last possible prime building sites on the Atlantic Seaboard, the development will feature sixteen premium apartments, all with uninterrupted views.

Once the location of a 19th century fortified battery, a rare military relic – a ‘disappearing gun’ was unearthed from below a derelict swimming pool which stood on the site. Buried for almost 100 years, this ‘disappearing gun’ was brought to the Cape in 1885 during a brief period of tension between Britain and Russia. Britain, fearing that Russian aggression may threaten all their colonies, installed breech loading canons around the Cape, including three huge and mysterious ‘disappearing guns’.

The battery during excavations.

Extremely rare, ‘disappearing guns’ are a uniquely British feat of mid-Victorian engineering. They had the ability to hide from enemy fire by lowering down into a gun pit with hydraulic lifting mechanisms. After being fired, they would disappear back into a vault under a protective shield.

The ‘disappearing gun’ in Sea Point never saw military action. The gun was fired once a month as per army regulations, but it was not popular among the locals due to the noise. After numerous complaints, the land was eventually sold by the Department of Defence in the 1920’s. Following the sale, the battery’s existence disappeared as the site was covered by residential buildings.

Simon Bridges, Managing Director of Elemental, a boutique property development company (and the owners of Alpha One) says that the project began in August 2018: “We were aware of the remnants of the Sea Point Battery under the site but did not know the extent, or indeed what would be found remaining. Once the structures above ground were demolished, we brought in an archaeological team, as well as geotechnical engineers, to ensure that the battery structure was safely unearthed and documented, without damaging it.”

An archaeological dig commenced,” says Bridges, “a painstaking three-month process whereby the gun emplacement was exposed and then the extremely hard clay was dug out by hand, with experts carefully documenting and archiving what was uncovered.  Our preservation and restoration plan, which was approved by Heritage Western Cape, saw the historical battery remnants being incorporated into the new development – in fact the entire design of the building centres around the battery.” 

Other specialists brought on board include Mixed Ideas, a company who specializes in working with, and restoring, metal. Mixed Ideas restored the gun placement and recycled some of the pieces to create the logo for Alpha One.

AvH Construction (Pty) Ltd. are the builders on the project, and they have used their experience and knowledge to carry out this challenging multi-faceted project.

The now restored ‘disappearing gun’ forms an integral part of the new building and it features front and centre as a glass enclosed exhibition in the communal central lounge and wine tasting area.

Bridges says that a network of underground tunnels and ammunition storage rooms was also unearthed, and these are being restored and re-purposed into a wine cellar, with dedicated tasting areas and private wine lockups for each Alpha One resident. 

During the excavations we exposed surviving paintwork on one of the tunnel entrances which gave this mysterious military site a name: the battery had been known as Alpha One and it was only fitting to keep this name for the new development.”

Alexa Horne, MD of Dogon Group Properties, marketing and sales agents for Alpha One, explains that Alpha One is unrivalled in location, enjoying an expansive and elevated ocean facing setting that allows every apartment, on every level of the building, to have uninterrupted sea views from both the bedroom and living areas, as well as from the terraces that stretch the length of each unit. 

Added to this, Alpha One features a communal roof top leisure deck with a swimming pool, lounge and braai area that boasts some of the best 360 degree views in Cape Town, looking over the ocean towards Robben Island and also enjoying stunning mountain views.”

Lloyd Evans and Natacha Neuburger, the Dogon sales agents for Alpha One, advise that once completed the two and three bedroomed apartments at Alpha One, which are priced from R7.9 Million up to R17.250 Million (Incl. VAT, with no transfer duty) will feature oak flooring throughout, integrated SMEG appliances, underfloor heating in the bathrooms, high-speed fibre and Wi-Fi, full smart home integration, 24 hour security with biometric access and remote CCTV surveillance, LED lighting, and rainwater harvesting – to name but a few details.  Alpha One will also have its own off-grid back-up power generation capacity and multiple parking bays for residents.

We are extremely excited to be involved in the marketing and sales of the apartments at Alpha One.  There are hardly any spaces left on the Atlantic Seaboard for development – making Alpha One a rare find.  Not only does the elevated location of this luxury building set it apart from others, but its design, with innovative communal living spaces, as well as the seamless integration of its historical past make Alpha One a definite one of a  kind,” concludes Evans and Neuburger.