Bridging the gap to good times.

Posted On Friday, 31 January 2003 10:01 Published by
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Johannesburg - The makeover at the heart of Africa's richest city, with its downtown buzz of hawkers, blaring taxis and infamous Hillbrow flatland, is well on its way.

Johannesburg - The makeover at the heart of Africa's richest city, with its downtown buzz of hawkers, blaring taxis and infamous Hillbrow flatland, is well on its way.

The migration of business to the northern suburbs is being addressed, and business is slowly heading back downtown.

More than 200 closed circuit cameras, which are co-sponsored by Business Against Crime, have been installed in the inner city and reports say that in the past 18 months serious crime there fell 80 percent.

Part of the success is because of the Johannesburg Metro Police department's undertaking to respond to a crime report within 60 seconds.

The city also has the Better Building Programme, aimed at stopping the degeneration of the city's buildings while projects or buyers are identified.

Selected streets have been pedestrianised to create safe, clean markets for hawkers who used to be preyed on by thieves and by thugs demanding protection money. Even the notorious housing tower Ponte has been rejuvenated.

A new landmark and tourist development called Constitution Hill is centred in the Braamfontein and Hillbrow area.

The R710 million development will be the site of South Africa's new constitutional court, an office park and a hotel - all transformed from a prison complex infamously called the Fort.

These buildings will not have a conventional air conditioning system but will rely on water and rocks for cooling. The local design beat other entries submitted by international firms. The court will sit in its new home for the first time in February next year.

In the Newtown precinct, the Mary Fitzgerald Square has been completed and the imposing old Turbine Hall has been revamped into an events space, which has already hosted fashion shows and exhibitions.

The idea behind Newtown is to create a vibrant arts-centred district. It is home to the Newton Film School, dance workshops, the Market Theatre Photographic Workshop and the renowned Market Theatre.

Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) marketing executive
Tshepo Nkosi says Newtown can't keep up with the demand for office space. 'It is already oversubscribed and property developers are planning to put up new buildings to meet the demand.

'Our strategy has been to hold events, like music concerts and performances, so that people can see that it is safe and secure, a place to come and visit and have a good time.'

Kaya FM and the Gauteng Tourism Authority will be moving to Newtown in the next 18 months. Terry Tselane, the chief executive of the tourism authority, says its move is a show of commitment to urban renewal.

Charlene Deacon, the chief executive of Kaya FM, has wanted to be in Newtown since her first day in Johannesburg. 'I took the wrong turn off the highway and wound up in the middle of town and thought, 'This is where I want to be,'' she says.

'If we want to be 'the heart and soul of Jozi', we have got to be there.'

Over R250 million is being spent on Newtown. New ramps for the M1, the M1/Carr Street interchange and the imposing Nelson Mandela Bridge are being built to improve access to the inner city, which has more than 800 000 daily commuters flowing through it.

The Nelson Mandela Bridge is being built in conjunction with Blue IQ - the multibillion-rand initiative of the Gauteng provincial government to invest in economic infrastructure development - and the SA National Roads Agency at a cost of R38 million.

It is not only about improving access to the inner city: the developers hope its eye-catching structure will become an icon for the city's skyline.

More than 2 000 new housing units catering to a range of income groups are planned for Newtown, and about 400 homes are already complete and fully let. The Johannesburg Housing Agency will have spent a total of about R336 million when the Brickfield residential development is complete. Brickfield will have 1400 flats for lower-and middle-income earners.

Partner agencies involved in Newtown's renewal are Blue IQ, the Metropolitan Trading Company, the JDA, the City of Johannesburg, the SA National Roads Agency and the Central Johannesburg Partnership.

The Faraday 'muti market' is also being upgraded to bring the informal traders in line with the city's bylaws.

Kliptown, a suburb of Soweto, has a range of programmes for upgrading the area. They fall under the Greater Klipspruit Development Project and include rehabilitating the polluted Klipspruit river, which is a popular hangout for children who live nearby.

Aubrey Manganye, the Kliptown project director for the JDA, says it has identified key development projects ranging from economic development and environmental rehabilitation to the building of the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication on the site where the Freedom Charter was signed.

A museum is planned and there will also be a public space and workshops for artists at the site.

Blue IQ is spending about R299 million in Kliptown. So far progress has been made in building two of the three phases of the north-south road in the area. Housing project teams have been appointed, and 7 000 units ranging from flats to freestanding houses are planned.

A tourism corridor programme for Soweto is also in the pipeline, incorporating the Hector Petersen Monument and one of former president Nelson Mandela's homes.

___________________________

JOHANNESBURG FACT BOX

Population: About 8 million.

What makes Gauteng province South Africa's industrial and financial centre: It accounts for 38 percent of national gross domestic product - about R288 billion - 70 percent of the labour force, and 60 percent of research and development spend.

Main industries: Manufacturing and mining.

Areas of renewal: Newtown precinct, Braamfontein/Hillbrow and Kliptown in Soweto.

Agencies responsible for the development programmes: The Johannesburg Development Agency, Gauteng's Blue IQ, the SA National Roads Agency, the Kliptown Community Forum, the City of Johannesburg, the department of justice and constitutional development, the Metropolitan Trading Company and the Central Johannesburg Partnership.


Publisher: Business Report
Source: Business Report

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