Johannesburg is entering a new phase in its life
- ORESTI PATRICIOS
- 07 Jun 2017 (South Africa)
I’ve been reading the Monocle Quality of Life Survey, which ranks top cities around the world in terms of “livability”. What Monocle means by “livability” is that hard-to-define quality that makes a city a desirable place to live in. What sets the list apart is that the research takes into account factors that benefit both local inhabitants and tourists. The criteria for getting a ranking also includes affordable housing, green initiatives, local public transport, the crime rate, independent book shops, a good business climate as well as more subjective issues like
Japan has another two cities on the Top 25 list — namely Kyoto and Fukuoka. Australia also boasts another two in addition to Melbourne,
Sadly, Johannesburg is not on the list. Nor is any other sub-Saharan African city. The same thing with the Telegraph’s Top 20 Cities to Buy-to-let Property. And no metropolis in Africa figures amongst the “global elite” in the AT Kearney Global Cities Index and Global Cities Outlook.
My hope is that one day, in the not too distant future, Johannesburg will feature prominently as a great place to invest in, to work in, and to live in. In
There were several reasons for this. First, we needed to be closer to the market. Johannesburg has become an increasingly vibrant, cosmopolitan space, and we want to be able to draw on that and provide more down-to-earth research and insight for our clients.
Second, there is a burgeoning tech scene in Braamfontein — for example, the Tshimologong Precinct, part of a project by the JCSE (Joburg Centre for Software Engineering) that provides incubation support for tech startups; and WeThinkCode, a school that provides two-year courses in coding. We want to be part of this evolving digital ecosystem.
Finally, we have grown to a point where we needed more space. We decided that we would rather adapt an existing building than
We acquired the old Natal Bank Building situated at 90 Albertina Sisulu Road (formerly 90 Market Street), Johannesburg in January 2016, and have been working hard for the past year to restore the grand old site to its former glory. The building was provisionally declared a national heritage site in
The architecture and interiors are unique. The design of the building is typical of the era: Neoclassical, with a broad arched window dominating the
Why the move? Cities are the beating hearts of a country. Trade, industry, commerce,
Historically, cities around the world have followed a similar pattern of urban decay, followed by rejuvenation and prosperity. I believe that Johannesburg is headed for a major comeback. It’s clear the city has entered a new phase, an era of renewal, and I want my company to be a part of this growth, and to contribute to building commerce in the inner city.
Constructed after the
The area soon developed into a precinct of “flagship” buildings,
In 1914 the Natal Bank was taken over by National Bank, which in 1926 was taken over by Barclays Bank. In 1961 it was used by a theatrical group, the Bank Players, as a storage and rehearsal
In 1978 Barclays converted it into the Barclays Bank Museum, which then became the FNB Museum. The building was provisionally declared a national monument in 1990, and it is the oldest surviving bank building in Johannesburg.
What has been important in terms of the regeneration of the site is that the building itself was completely empty, and not inhabited by anyone, which meant that refurbishing and owning the building wouldn’t put anyone out of their home. Despite being left empty for many years and although the building had started to deteriorate, the basic construction was solid.
Around the world, well-managed cities have the potential to offer employment opportunities. Firstly, thriving businesses employ more people directly. Secondly, supplies and services are sourced from businesses nearby. Supporting businesses, like food and grocery suppliers, provide a service to these
Inevitably, many people will choose to live closer to the city
Inner city rejuvenation is a double-edged sword, and critics of this gentrification point out that increases in property values force poorer people out and into worse areas. A case in point is Woodstock, in Cape Town, where people who have owned their homes for generations are now unable to pay the rates and taxes. Ironically, Woodstock was one of the only areas that managed to resist attempts by the apartheid government to enforce segregation.
What is happening in Johannesburg CBD is more complex, and I believe that in the long run will bring prosperity to all its inhabitants. Inclusivity is the key to spatially transforming Johannesburg. Landlords need to help make the city habitable by restoring buildings that have become run down. It’s important that we trade with our
Cape Town’s city manager, Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, rode the World Cup 2010 wave and transformed the city into one of the world’s top holiday destinations (according to The Guardian and The New York Times). This after the inner city had degenerated into a place that tour guides refused to enter, preferring to take tourists to the outlying areas and the
Because of a limited budget, Makalima-
Johannesburg is a very different city from Cape Town, and we’re going to have to do things differently. This is very much up to current city mayor, Herman Mashaba, who has produced a five-point plan to kick-start regeneration. Mashaba proposes an open tender system, getting rid of slumlords and illegal occupants of abandoned buildings, restoring law and order, and making a pro-poor billing system, so that the city’s poor will have access to free basic services, including electricity,
How to finance this will be a challenge for the tycoon-turned-politician, but if he can succeed in his aims of improving revenue collection and rooting out wasteful expenditure, I am optimistic that this will coincide with more businesses moving back to the city and feeding into the virtuous cycle.
Right now it feels like we’re at a “tipping point”, as more businesses make the move and Johannesburg enters a new phase in its life. That phase is to
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