Wits may have to relax access rules

Posted On Friday, 20 September 2002 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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New developments in and around Braamfontein may push the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) to relax its access control system.


witsDespite protests from within the university, Wits invested more than R2m to erect a wall around its premises in 1997. It may now have to demolish it to fit in with a new city planning regime that seeks an integrated approach to development.

The Braamfontein revitalisation plan released last week identified the reintegration of Wits into the Braamfontein community as a key aspect of the project.

Wits external affairs deputy vice-chancellor Thandwa Mthembu says the university is prepared to review access if there is a communal mechanism in place to ensure safety and security.

Mthembu says the wall around Wits was erected as a reaction to increased crime in Braamfontein, where there was no collective community initiative, and individual institutions had to take care of their own security.

Driven by the Johannesburg Development Agency, the plan has been sponsored by major business entities in the area including Sappi, Liberty Life, ApexHi, JD Group and Gensec.

The R200m private sector contribution will cover upgrading streets, buildings and providing more parking space.

The regeneration plan includes setting up a Braamfontein business improvement district, which will stretch from Constitutional Hill to Wits. As in other precincts, the business improvement district will be a section 21 company, and its decisions will be binding.

Preliminary proposals call for the opening up of sections of Wits. Access control will have to be relaxed in Jorrissen Street or along Jan Smuts Avenue if the plan to create a cultural precinct around the old Wits dental school and Wits Theatre is to materialise.

Wits School of Arts head David Dunn says the Braamfontein cultural precinct is designed to complement developments in Newtown, at the Civic Centre and at the Alexander Theatre, which make up Johannesburg's 'cultural arc'.

Dunn says culture is at the heart of the city's revitalisation plans. He feels the partial opening up required to create the cultural precinct should not compromise Wits' security.

Urban designer Monica Albonico says the driving principle behind the changes in Braamfontein is creation of a friendly environment for pedestrians. This requires creation of 'permeable edges' for the university.

However, it is too early to determine what should happen to the perimeter wall around Wits, she says.

Johannesburg Development Agency Yael Horowitz says the reintegration of Wits into Braamfontein is desirable but will have to be dealt with sensitively. She says the revitalisation team is working on a framework that will facilitate opening up the campus. It includes beefing up of security.

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