Greater Ellis Park has been transformed: once a rundown and tired old suburb, it is now an eye-catching, accessible hub linking sport, education, residential and transport sectors.
Upgrades began in 2008 and were almost all successfully finished in 2009 in time for Johannesburg to host the Confederations Cup, the forerunner event to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
Costing R2-billion, the upgrades included walkways and pedestrian routes; infrastructure for the World Cup, including pop-up kiosks, ablution facilities and underground bins; and extensive landscaping.
Paving, lighting, street furniture, art and a water feature completed the picture. Over R500-million was set aside just to upgrade engineering and electrical, sanitation and water infrastructure.
The Ellis Park Olympic swimming pool also received extensive upgrades, and in Bertrams, the cricket oval at Maurice Freeman Park, once a dusty soccer field, has brought this sport to the inner city for the first time.
Mostly residential in composition, Bertrams received only minor cosmetic work – the outsides of five of the original miners’ houses on Erin Street were upgraded. These houses were significant in the Miners’ Strike of 1922.
And nearby in Doornfontein, Transport Square and Doornfontein Station were given major facelifts.
The Greater Ellis Park precinct is a multi-nodal area, functioning as a sports, industrial, residential and educational precinct. It is home to three international sports complexes – Johannesburg Stadium; Ellis Park Stadium, now known as Coca-Cola Park; and the city’s premier Olympic-size swimming pool. Education-wise, it is home to the University of Johannesburg Doornfontein campus.
There are also various light to medium industries in the Ellis Park and Doornfontein areas. The residential suburb of Bertrams, located directly next to Coca-Cola Park, is also an important historical site, with many of the old miners’ houses still doing duty as family homes.
Ellis Park Central Square
Work on the central square was started in March 2008 and completed a year later. Before its refurbishment, the area was dominated by a tar road cutting through the sports precinct, and various large kiosk-like structures serving little purpose.
But it has been upgraded substantially, turning it into a proper public square. There are commercial display areas and entertainment zones which were used very successfully during the football Confederations Cup in 2009 and the World Cup a year later.
Paving, landscaping and lighting were all upgraded. The pedestrian walkway itself is now garden-like in appearance, with indigenous plants and a spectacular water feature running almost the entire length of the square.
The Johannesburg Development Agency also constructed a new, easy to maintain ablution block, a pop-up kiosk and three underground bins in the square.
An astonishing sculpture by artist Doung Anwar Jahangeer, called Invented Mythologies, has been erected in the centre of the square, outside Johannesburg Stadium.
Immediately on leaving Ellis Park Central Square, the upgraded miners’ houses can be seen. On the outside wall of the last house in the row, on the corner of Bertrams and Erin roads, is a beautiful mosaic mural depicting the 1922 Miners’ Strike. Upgrades to the houses – restricted to their exteriors – included painting and structural improvements.
Although not a JDA project, the changes to the existing Ellis Park Stadium adjacent to the square are worth noting, as these were a key development in the upgrade of the whole precinct.
The major revamp of the structure of Ellis Park Stadium was initiated by the City and private stakeholders, and included the addition of seating and a new roof over the west, south and north stands.
New change rooms, VIP, media and medical facilities and a new entrance façade to the north stand were also built. A new, five-level car park was also added; it can accommodate 1 200 cars.
Coca-Cola Park can now seat 62 000 spectators.
A new 20m-wide subway at Doornfontein Station constructed at a cost of more than R26-million has improved access from this transport hub to the stadium. The station itself received a major upgrade to extend platforms, to make it more user-friendly for disabled commuters and to create controlled access facilities.
Now standing two storeys high, the station upgrade alone cost over R74-million.
The Doornfontein Station precinct and New Doornfontein urban upgrade was enhanced with the construction of two pedestrian tunnels, creating a corridor between Doornfontein Station, Transport Square adjacent to it and Ellis Park.
Upgrades to various streets leading to Doornfontein Station have also improved vehicular and pedestrian access to the precinct. Public environment improvements involved new paving and better street lighting, new street furniture, road overlay and road markings in Curry, Sherwell, Buxton, Nind, Pearse and Height streets. The same improvements were done in Park, Appolonia, Miller, Voorhout and First to Fourth roads.
Next to Doornfontein Station is Transport Square, upgraded by the JDA to convert what used to be a vacant piece of land, overgrown with weeds and strewn with litter, into what is now a small but beautiful transport facility, much enhanced with the addition of seven concrete cows grazing in the square.
The cows refer to the time when the square was used as an informal butchery. There is under-cover seating for commuters, taxi bays and an ablution block.
Sports and recreation
The Ellis Park Swimming Pool is Joburg’s primary aquatic facility. Its ablution facilities were upgraded completely by the JDA, which also installed a lift for disabled spectators, a new public address and scoring system and CCTV cameras.
The Bertrams Cricket Oval has risen from a previously untidy soccer field called the Maurice Freeman Park. It now has tall stadium lights, a clubhouse, ablution facilities and change rooms and is the first such facility for inner city dwellers.
Across the road, the JDA has also overseen the transformation of Fuller Park. It now offers children in the surrounding suburbs swings, a five-a-side soccer field, basketball courts, a chessboard and refurbished play equipment.
Likewise, the rundown Bertrams Park in Ascot Road is now a green play haven for children from this poor area, with the same trimmings added: a miniature basketball court, a five-a-side soccer field, swings and slides, and toilets. Colourful graffiti adorns the walls.
Finally, End Street Park was divided into two sections for development – a play space for smaller children and an area for the bigger children, with a walkway between the two. Two five-a-side soccer fields are set up alongside one another. The park is fully enclosed with artistic fencing.