New era beckons for Noordgesig as development plan is approved

JDA Development Manager Shaakira Chohan interacts with community membersJDA Development Manager Shaakira Chohan interacts with community members at the Noordgesig Social Cluster roadshow in March. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)

The Johannesburg Development Agency's (JDA's) plan for the development of Noordgesig has been given the go-ahead by the City of Joburg, signalling the start of greater things to come for the Soweto suburb and its community.

Giving a voice to those who may feel they have noneThe engagement process, Shaakira Chohan said at the outset, aimed to give a voice 'to those who may feel they have none'. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION).The Noordgesig Social Cluster Plan was formulated with extensive input from the community, following a series of community engagements facilitated by the JDA between March and June.

The plan's approval is expected to pave way for the start of construction of a major retail plaza - probably the first ever major development in Noordgesig - later this year. This will be followed by the expansion of the Noordgesig library and hall and the creation of a multi-purpose centre.

More resources for publicly accessible spaces

The social cluster plan will devote more resources to publicly accessible spaces and will include the upgrading of the park and sporting facilities, the construction of new recreational facilities, and the laying down of pedestrian-cycling links between all of the above.

The City has allocated in the region of R41.5-million to the JDA to facilitate and oversee the implementation of the plan. The delivery of the project will be undertaken in stages over the next five to 10 years.

JDA, Akweni and GIBB staffers help community membersJDA, Akweni and GIBB staffers help community members to engage on projects planned for their area. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION).According to JDA Development Manager Shaakira Chohan, a lot of effort had gone into the plan, and everyone was looking forward to seeing it start to become a reality on the ground.

"What we are doing presently is detailing the design and undertaking things like town planning and traffic studies, because if you are reconfiguring the roads there are implications," Chohan, said, adding: "We are going to see a lot more spaces for pedestrians and cyclists than cars."

Community input 'integral to the final vision'

Chohan said the community's input had been essential to arriving at a vision of "a vibrant, active space" in Noordgesig. The engagement process, starting with a community roadshow in March and followed by several focused meetings, was far more effective than the traditional means of going into a community with an idea already fixed in mind, she said.

"It brings the community, it brings your City agencies and your service providers or your professional teams together to produce one final product, and therefore the ownership then from the community side is greater."

The youth of Noordgesig made sure they were not left outThe youth of Noordgesig made sure they were not left out of the process. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION).The consultation process was conducted in partnership with Akweni Project Management and engineering consultants GIBB. Key urban strategies that emerged included:

  • Prioritising non-motorised transport;
  • Improving connectivity between Noordgesig and its neighbours;
  • Upgrading the public environment;
  • Harnessing nodal opportunities along arterial roads;
  • Exploiting ecological and recreational opportunities in open spaces; and
  • Preserving existing heritage.

Improved leisure and recreational opportunities

Future developments will include high-density accommodation supported by retail and commercial development provision for leisure and recreational opportunities.

"There were also requests for an industrial kitchen, and the improvement and upgrading of parks and sports fields to cater for different activities," Chohan said. "There is a sense that a lot of social issues that are being experienced in the community can be resolved with the right activities."

The final draft plan was presented to the community at an open day on 3 June before being approved by the City. "The response was great, and the community were happy to see their ideas incorporated in the plan," Chohan said.

Noordgesig was identified for redevelopment due to its vibrancy, its proximity to Soweto Highway, Mooki Street and the Noordgesig bus rapid transit (BRT) station, and its strategic location along the emerging Empire-Perth Corridor of Freedom.

The 86-year-old suburb borders Orlando East and Diepkloof Zone 3, and faces a number of challenges both infrastructural and socio-economic, including a high rate of unemployment and substance abuse among its youth.