Tour delegates impressed by fast-evolving Jabulani node

Tour delegates impressed by fast-evolving Jabulani nodeThe group of potential investors and interested business people cross over from the stretch of unused land adjacent to the Soweto Theatre towards Inhlanzane train station. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)

Delegates from the private sector declared themselves impressed by the progress and opportunities on display during a tour of the fast-evolving Jabulani node in Soweto on Thursday, 5 May.

Inhlanzane train stationThe group were impressed by the orderliness and cleanliness of Inhlanzane train station. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)The tour was hosted by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and attracted a group of representatives from Grant Thornton and Boston College. It was the latest in a series of tours, aimed at potential investors and tourist operators, of some of the City's strategic development nodes.

Transit-oriented development to the fore

The Jabulani node is one of the City's signature projects for using transit-oriented development (TOD) as a catalyst for attracting investment into an area while improving the quality of life of local residents.

It has good transport connections with central Johannesburg, and is close to an industrial hub where many Soweto residents work.

Over R150-million has been spent on TOD projects in Jabulani to date, including the recently completed link road between Bolani and Koma roads. Construction was co-ordinated by the JDA and included a "complete street" redesign to ease pedestrian and public transport access in the area.

The tour of the area was led by the JDA's internal communications and special projects manager, Alice Moloto, and Themba Xakaza, project manager at construction company Inkanyeli Projects. Inkanyeli Projects is in a joint venture with Calgro M3 that is responsible for a developing Jabulani's central business district.

'This could be the next Sandton'

The pedestrian bridge alongside Inhlanzane train stationOn the pedestrian bridge alongside Inhlanzane train station. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)The first stop-over on the tour was the mostly unused land opposite the increasingly popular Soweto Theatre, where the delegates were briefed on the City's plans for transforming the space and the linkages to it.

Xakaza explained that the land had been earmarked for a mixed-use development incorporating 25 000 square metres of retail space, 10 000 square metres of office space, and 4 000 mixed-income residential units.

Asked when construction on the project was due to begin, he said the decision on when to break ground was on hold pending the completion of a traffic impact study of the area that was currently being conducted by the JDA.

"Today is about challenging people's perceptions of Jabulani, showing how it will massively change for the better, and emphasising that the best is yet to come." said Xakaza. "We are working with JDA to make this space look like the next Sandton."

Xakaza assured the investors that the new development would not affect ongoing developments in the vicinity of Jabulani Mall, as they would not be competing for the same market.

Overcoming investor misconceptions of Soweto

The view from the bridgeThe view from the bridge over Jabulani. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)The biggest challenge at this point, he said, was to overcome investors misconception of Soweto as still being a high-risk area for business.

From Soweto Theatre, the group progressed to Inhlanzane train station, where they took a walk-about and were struck by the prevailing smartness and orderliness of the facility.

They then proceed to another vacant parcel of land next to Jabulani Mall that has earmarked for further retail and commercial development.

The challenge they were facing here, Xakaza said, was with coming up with an appropriate design for the relatively small size of the land. The space is currently being used by informal traders and as a thoroughfare by passers-by.

Tour delegates also learned about the growth of the residential property market in Jabulani. "It's a great time for investing money into Jabulani, whether in residential or commercial," Xakaza said.

One of the delegates, Lee-Ann Bac from Grant Thorton, said she was impressed by the "exciting" offering the area represented - and thankful for the opportunity afforded by the JDA to see such opportunities first-hand.

"It is a great way of exposing people to what is happening in the city, and very inspiring to see what the City is doing to uplift communities," Bac said. Potential investors, she said, would otherwise "never get to know of the opportunities in the city".