Norwood residents get first-hand preview of Grant Avenue Precinct Plan

Norwood residents get first-hand preview of Grant Avenue Precinct PlanSome of the test phase day interventions included removing all parking along Grant Avenue to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)

Norwood residents got a first-hand preview of what Grant Avenue could look like in the near future when the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) put possible interventions for the area to test - on the street - on Sunday, 15 May.

Monica Albonico chats with JDA Marketing and Communications Officer Nomalizo XabanaMonica Albonico, an architect and consultant at ASM Architects & Urban Designers, chats with JDA Marketing and Communications Officer Nomalizo Xabana about the Grant Avenue Precinct Plan. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)The JDA has commissioned a Precinct Plan for the Grant Avenue business area. As part of this process, various engagements - including two design workshops - have taken place with community residents, property owners, businesses and other stakeholders in order to identify interventions that could improve the high street environment along Grant Avenue.

The aim of Sunday's "test phase" day was to test these possibilities physically, on the street, so as to assess their suitability for future planning and design of the precinct.

For Monica Albonico, an architect and consultant at ASM Architects & Urban Designers, the test day was vibrant and colourful thanks to the enormous support received from the community.

Residents 'starting to see a role for themselves'

The Grant Avenue Precinct Plan exhibitionThe Grant Avenue Precinct Plan exhibition featured a 3D map of some of the planned interventions for the area. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)"One the most frequent suggestions is retaining Grant Avenue as a high street, removing all of the parking spots and creating wider pedestrian walkways, which will allow for a better quality environment," Albonico said.

"Parking is a big challenge on Grant Avenue, and I think it is important that we start asking how we can optimise the use of the side street. We are proposing very light interventions with no major projects," Albonico explained.

"When the community consultation process initially started, people were sceptical and didn't want anything done because they feared that this project couldn't be delivered."

It was interesting, she said, to see how people had evolved from this mindset "and are starting to feel strongly about this project and they role that they can play.

"For me, that is the most interesting aspect, because now it is not only about what the City is going to do, but rather how business and residents can get involved as well."

Exhibition highlights public participation

Bend leading into the Grant 
Ave business areaThis bend leading into the Grant Ave business area received attention on the test day due to the fact that cars tend to come around it at high speeds. (Photo: Welcome to Grant Avenue on Facebook)An exhibition of evolving Grant Avenue Precinct Plan concepts and models was also on display, next to the Ascott Hotel on Grant Avenue, giving residents the opportunity to learn more and have their say.

The exhibition showcased residents' views, the core objectives of the Precinct Plan, the public participation programme, how stakeholders have been involved, what the plan expects to deliver, and featured a 3D map of some of the planned interventions.

"The exhibition was very much about these ideas and processes," Albonico said. "What we wanted to show them was that is not only the City's plan, but a plan for residents to have a say in.

"All these ideas in the exhibitions are from Norwoord residents. We want residents to engage with these ideas and have their say so we can start translating these ideas into plans."

'I really like the JDA's approach to this'

Residents of all ages got the opportunity to learn more and have their sayResidents of all ages got the opportunity to learn more and have their say on the Grant Avenue Precinct Plan. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)Norwood resident Collen Hlatshwayo, who has attended all the workshops and community meetings, has been impressed with the level of public participation.

"The issue of consultation with the community is critical to these types of developments because they these developments can impact greatly on the everyday person who resides in Norwood," Hlatshwayo said.

"To test these ideas physically, taking them away from dialogues and consultations and bringing them into the real world, is a good thing because people begin to interact with these ideas and they can assess whether or not they support the developments.

"I really like the JDA's approach to this because it is open, it is over the top, which what you need to get the community talking," Hlatshwayo added.

Kathy Potter, also resident in Norwood, commented: "Engagements like this show a great sense of community spirit, and also show that people can stick together and make something positive happen for the benefit of everyone.

"All the community members, religions, businesses and organisations in Norwood work together. Everyone wants the betterment of Norwood," Potter said.