Park Station: gateway to Africa

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Johannesburg's Park Station is a hive of pan-African activity as travellers from across the continent hop on and off the many buses passing through it each day. Now the area is set to become a cultural and transit precinct, reminiscent of New York's bustling Grand Central Station.

Joburg's answer to an African-inspired take on Grand Central Station and Times Square in New York will soon be a reality with the newly revamped Park Station Precinct.

According to the City's Executive Mayor Parks Tau, the Precinct will capture the public's imagination through the Johannesburg Development Agency's (JDA) development work in the inner city.

He stated a strong need to capitalise on the welcoming role that Park Station plays since it's "the gateway to Africa" and stressed the significance of showcasing African food and culture.

The JDA will look to create a sustainable precinct with a safe play space for children, additional green spaces, markets for informal traders, managed parking, taxi facilities, public toilets, and safe walking spaces for cyclists and pedestrians.

Architect David Adjaye is set to collaborate with local architects on a design pavilion in the precinct. The bulk of the public environment upgrade work is scheduled to be completed by 2014/15. This includes lighting, landscaping, paving, street furniture, and branding to create a safe night-time activity zone around a public square in the precinct.

Construction is being phased in, with the JDA undertaking projects, such as the Inner City Commuter Links; Metro Park/Transnet Land; and the African Food and Cultural Hub in the precinct in 2013/14.

The City of Johannesburg's department of housing is also planning to build integrated mixed-use developments in the area; these will include subsidised and social housing, which will be backed by retail and commercial space.

Park Station Precinct is the primary transit exchange in the city, with more than 1 million commuters using public transport such as Rea Vaya, Gautrain, Metrorail, and taxis, among others.

In line with Johannesburg's Growth and Development Strategy (GDS2040), the JDA has prioritised public transport as part of its development plans.

This new spatial vision is based on the Corridors of Freedom -well-planned transport arteries. These Corridors are intended to link interchanges to mixed-used spaces - such as high-density accommodation - supported by office buildings, retail development and opportunities for leisure and recreation. This will allow commuters easy travelling on public transport.

The precinct surrounds Africa's largest and busiest railway service, Park Station, in the heart of the inner city. The railway line runs west to Carletonville, Randfontein and Soweto; east to Springs, Nigel and Daveyton; north to Pretoria; and south to Vereeniging.

Park Station is also the terminus of Shosholoza Meyl, the long-distance rail service to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Bloemfontein via Kimberley, Komatipoort via Nelspruit, and Musina via Polokwane.

Once the precinct is complete, visitors will experience a breathtakingly opulent quarter, rich in African splendour, offering easy movement to the rest of the province.