Big plans for tower precinct

emoyini_topThe City hopes to improve the liveability of the Hillbrow Tower precinct over the next five years

The Hillbrow Tower is a Joburg landmark, visible from miles around. With this in mind, the JDA is working alongside Art at Work to turn the area into 'the largest public art development in the country'.

The redevelopment of the Hillbrow Tower precinct would create an art hub in the inner city, according to Johannesburg Development Agency chief executive officer Thanduxolo Mendrew.

Mendrew was interviewed about the project this morning by John Robbie on Talk Radio 702. It is a public-private joint venture with Lesley Perkes, the chief executive of art project management company Art at Work. The City hopes to improve the liveability of the Hillbrow Tower precinct over the next five years. Located close to transport routes, arts and culture hubs, the area is being redeveloped to improve pedestrian linkages and access around refurbished public spaces.

"Lesley Perkes envisions the tower as a public artwork at the centre of an art precinct designed to encourage art and culture as an economic activity," Mendrew explained. "This will have a knock-on effect with the roll out of affordable housing and retail in the inner city."

The precinct – bound by Clarendon and Willie streets in the north, Joe Slovo Drive in the east, Smit Street in the south and Hospital Street in the west – would benefit from investment in new street furniture, improved road infrastructure and on-street parking, improved street lighting, and the planting of trees.

In line with Joburg's Inner City Transformation Roadmap, R150-million was spent between 2008 and 2014 to develop the precinct. The investment in public art, facilities for artists and traders, and on recreational services and public safety was designed to create employment and make the area sustainable and liveable.

Mendrew explained that the City had taken the area around Paris's Eiffel Tower as inspiration. "Within three years, the precinct around the Hillbrow Tower will match the development around the Eiffel Tower. Our aim is to provide facilities to regenerate the area. Once completed, it will be the largest public art development in the country."

The Hillbrow Tower is a landmark that could be a significant tourist draw-card if the Telkom-owned building was open to the public. There has been an ongoing push by civil society groups to do just that. Mendrew acknowledged the attraction and added that "we see it as the anchor of the precinct."