Grant Avenue Precinct Plan a step closer to realisation

Monica Albonico presents the final recommendations for the Grant Avenue PrecinctMonica Albonico, an architect and consultant at ASM Architects & Urban Designers, presents the final recommendations for the Grant Avenue Precinct. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)

Grant Avenue, Norwood may have lost some ground in the trendy high street stakes against the likes of Parkhurst's 4th Avenue, Melville's resurgent 7th Street, and ultra-hip newcomer the Maboneng Precinct.

Norwood residents, business and property owners at the final presentationNorwood residents, business and property owners at the final presentation of the precinct plan. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)But the Johannesburg Development Agency's (JDA's) Grant Avenue Precinct Plan aims to restore Norwood's shine - and more - by rejuvenating and transforming the suburb's famous business area.

The aim is to retain Grant Avenue's distinctive character while improving it in line with the needs of its diverse, growing community and the realities of a city in transition.

On Wednesday evening, 29 June, the JDA presented its final recommendations for the redevelopment of the precinct to Norwood residents, property owners, businesses and other stakeholders.

The recommendations came out of an intensive process of community engagement, spanning more than two months and including two design workshops, a number of public meetings and a "test day" on which a number of proposed interventions for Grant Avenue were given a trial run.

Additional input was drawn from an urban management framework, an economic study, and data on transport and urban planning.

Final recommendations

JDA Executive Manager for Development Facilitation Christo BotesThe success of the extensive participatory process for Norwood 'has been bringing various stakeholders from different backgrounds to see a single vision' - JDA Executive Manager for Development Facilitation Christo Botes. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)The final Precinct Plan recommends a number of interventions to make the Grant Avenue environment more walkable and liveable, including traffic calming and parking optimisation, improved pedestrian walkways and crossings, new street lighting, and the introduction of public artworks, landscaping and outdoor furniture.

A public interface will be created for Norwood Police Station, Norwood Park will be upgraded, and the first phase of the Norwood Square project will be initiated.

Ivy Road, Louis Road and Patterson Park Road will also be upgraded to make them more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, and steps will be taken to align the suburb better for public transport, in particular for the Rea Vaya BRT route that will soon be operating along Louis Botha Avenue.

Addressing community members at the presentation, Matt Jackson from the JDA's development facilitation unit said the next step would be to take the recommendations to the City for approval and adoption as official policy, opening the way for capital raising for the proposed projects.

Monica Albonico, an architect and consultant from ASM Architects & Urban Designers, explained that some projects would require capital investment, which the community will have to wait for, while others could get started sooner.

Effective area management forum 'essential'

Key to the success of the precinct plan, she said, would be the formation of an effective area management forum.

"A lot of these proposals will be coming together with the assistance of a management forum, which will hopefully be formalised into a legal vehicle which will work with the City."

According to Albonico, this management body, together with the community, will then be responsible for aspects of urban management, including:

  • A parking strategy for Norwood Square and other areas;
  • Cleaning, branding and marketing of the area;
  • Shop-front guidelines;
  • A bylaws booklet; and
  • Social development programmes, including recycling and car guard training programmes.

Speaking after her presentation, Albonico said: "I think in general the final recommendations have been well supported by the community. There are some challenges, but the key for the community is for everyone to work together to come up with solutions that benefit everyone."

JDA Executive Manager for Development Facilitation Christo Botes said the success of the extensive participatory process for Norwood "has been bringing various stakeholders from different backgrounds to see a single vision."

The community was starting to feel excitement around the plan and its potential, he said, adding: "This presentation was a big breakthrough as we identified champions coming from the stakeholders."