CBD revitalisation

Posted On Wednesday, 07 February 2001 03:01 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Implosions will open spaces and help restore vibrancy', says Neil Fraser

Neil FraserThe solution to the renewal of Johannesburg's central business district (CBD) is simple but drastic implode old high-rise buildings, says Neil Fraser, executive director of the Central Johannesburg Partnership.
Such an exercise will create open spaces, improving the city and restoring its vibrancy.
'Apart from Joubert and Attwel Parks, the Civic Spine and Oppenheimer Gardens, there are no real lungs in the city. Besides, many of its buildings are hopelessly outdated, with an average age of about 50 years.'
Fraser's organisation is a nonprofit coalition of city property owners and businessmen, set up to improve the CBD.
Gerald Olitzki of Olitzki Property Holdings proposes a citywithin-a-city concept which he says could be the answer to central Johannesburg's renewal.
His company, in conjunction with the Van der Byl Square consortium Metropolitan Life, Absa, Gensec and CGU has upgraded Gandhi Square (formerly Van der Byl Square), and developed the Fox Street spine as far as the Carlton Centre with the Fox Street consortium, which has Transnet, Liberty Life, and Absa among its members.
Olitzki says further developments and upgrading of specific city districts in time will form a revitalised city-within-a-city.

Property economist Neville Berkowitz believes Johannesburg must look back to move forward. The city started off as a self-contained mining camp and its renewal could well lie in returning to its original economic and social way of life. 'In 1886, Johannesburg was a mining camp. People worked in the gold mines, the predominant industry at the time, traded, practised their professions and lived, all within or close to the confines of the camp and later the town.
'Latter-day gold miners' are needed now to revitalise the city. They must be the new entrepreneurs, professionals, traders, employees and residents who should live, shop and enjoy their leisure activities within the central city.'
Johannesburg essentially is becoming an 'African' city and should be marketed as such, Berkowitz says.

Fraser says many cities around the world are overbuilt. Technology enables people to work anywhere, reducing the need for central city offices.
There is now far more emphasis on retaining the core of the city, getting rid of superfluous buildings and creating more green space. 'In keeping with this trend we hope to breathe new life into Johannesburg, precinct by precinct, until the core of the city is reclaimed and rehabilitated,' Fraser says.
He says a strategic plan has identified a series of precincts, each with a predominant or unique business or industrial characteristic.

The city-within-a-city already shows significant progress. A walkway in Fox Street between Eloff and Kruis streets, providing safe access from Gandhi Square to the Carlton Centre, is complete, Olitzki says. The walkway will be incorporated into the central improvement district and security and cleaning services will be provided.
The city-within-a-city will eventually incorporate the Standard Bank complex, Anglo American's head office, BankCity, the Carlton Centre and Absa Campus, and the legal precinct. The legislative precinct is in the centre, and the precinct also incorporates the city hall, the library gardens and the library, which backs on to Sauer Street. vOlitzki says although the perimeters of the city-within-acity will not be fenced, it will resemble a medieval walled city to some extent. Borders will be demarcated by trees and shrubs.
Security guards will be posted at all access points to the citywithin- a-city, which will be safe and clean. 'I see a return of many of the people who left, especially the whites. I expect a blackwhite ratio of 80:20, which is representative of the country's demograpic make-up.'

Berkowitz says the city should be sold to the people who want to live and work there. 'It is no use trying to convince those who have left to return. The exodus from the central business district is irreversible.
'Harking back to the Johannesburg of three or four decades ago won't help. The only way to go is forward.'
This, Berkowitz says, means creating a city that will attract people from all over Africa. Johannesburg could become the city of sub-Saharan Africa.
'Now is the time for land speculators and for those who see opportunities in other words, the latter-day gold miners to move in and buy properties at bargain prices, which could see them double their money,' he says.
However, a new property value system is needed. Berkowitz says there is no point taking into account what a building was worth 10 or 20 years ago. When a building is past its useful life, demolition should be considered.

Last modified on Monday, 19 May 2014 13:37

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