Breathing life into Hillbrow, Braamfontein

Posted On Wednesday, 31 July 2002 10:01 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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SA's new Constitutional Court is to be housed at the site of the 19th-century Old Fort in Braamfontein


Graeme ReidThe complex is part of an inner-city rejuvenation initiative and will breathe much needed life into the area between Hillbrow and Braamfontein.

The design will be wide open, highly visible and user friendly.

An underlying theme of each of the sub-projects is that they integrate with surrounding communities. The project will be a 24hour facility, combining residential, retail, commercial and recreational facilities.

One of the focal points of the development will be called the Great African Steps and will link one of the worst aspects of SA's history, the 'native jail' known to many as Section 4 with the best aspects of SA's democracy in the form of the Constitutional Court itself. The steps will be interspersed with African artworks.

Blue IQ is investing R357m in the first phase of the project. The balance of the initial R450m development cost is coming from the City of Johannesburg and the justice and constitutional development department. With the second phase, the total cost will rise to R710m.

Renamed Constitution Hill, the site is being developed by Blue IQ in partnership with the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and the justice and constitutional development department.

Apart from the court itself, planned developments include the construction of commercial offices; a building to house constitutional commissions; a hotel; conference, restaurant and recreation facilities; housing developments; the landscaping and refurbishment of prison buildings and the creation of museums, archives and libraries which have cultural and political significance.

The site will embody 20th century SA history it was in the Old Fort in Braamfontein that many political prisoners, including Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, were incarcerated, while a broad spectrum of victims of apartheid were held in the notorious 'native jail'. Thousands of pass-law offenders have bitter memories of the Fort and Section 4, which stopped operating as a prison in 1987.

An aim of the Constitution Hill development is to turn this historical and heritage site into a world-class tourist destination.

'For this reason, hotels, conference facilities, museums and restaurants will be developed,' says Brian Orlin, JDA project manager for Constitution Hill.

'The Old Fort was selected because of its historical importance. It was evident that the site had enormous potential for a Constitutional Court as a symbol of our new democracy, but it had to be economically viable,' says Graeme Reid, JDA 's CE.

A detailed master plan was created that envisioned a constitutional one-stop-shop co-existing alongside tourist, retail, commercial and residential facilities.

'The memory of the old apartheid system is being physically built into the new system as a reminder of the past and of the importance of our democratic order. Parts of the native jail' have been demolished and the materials kept to be used in the Constitutional Court,' says Reid.

The R87,5m contract for the construction of the Constitutional Court was awarded late last year to a consortium of Rainbow Construction and WBHO.

The Fort, the women's jail and sections 4 and 5 of the 'native jail' are being repaired and renovated to house heritage, tourism and education activities.

The development framework, the concept outline for the heritage, tourism and education component and the architectural drawings for the Constitutional Court, have all been completed.

The entire development consists of 16 sub-projects, five of which are under way.

Over and above the construction of the Constitutional Court, these sub-projects are: creating the infrastructure of open space and basement parking for 1800 cars to accommodate the commercial and retail activities; a R16m provision of office and exhibition accommodation for the Commission for Gender Equality; the R7,5m relocation of the Johannesburg mortuary; and housing for the heritage, education and tourism body.

'One of the short-term interventions is to make tourism facilities available for the World Summit on Sustainable Development,' says Orlin.

Though the project is in its early stages, Orlin says there have been expressions of interest from the private sector from retailers to hoteliers. There has also been philanthropic interest from international bodies interested in the cultural nature of the site.

'We expect that law firms will want at least a presence here.'

Last modified on Monday, 19 May 2014 11:10
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