Property developers get a new take on the inner city

Citiq's innovative Mill Junction development in NewtownCitiq's innovative Mill Junction development in Newtown. (Photos by Rudo Mungoshi)

Local property developers were pleasantly surprised by the creativity and design flair on show during a tour of some of the latest residential developments in Johannesburg's inner city.

JDA Executive Manager for Development Facilitation Christo BotesJDA Executive Manager for Development Facilitation Christo Botes briefs the tour group in Mill Junction.The tour, led by Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) Executive Manager for Development Facilitation Christo Botes and Development Facilitation Manager Nicolette Pingo, took place on Friday, 21 November.

The aim of the tour, Pingo explained, was "to show investors examples of innovative designs in the inner city and encourage them partner with the City of Joburg to create liveable spaces."

Trendy container living into reconverted silos

The first stop-over was at Mill Junction on the north-western edge of Newtown, where repurposed shipping containers were combined with disused grain silos to create trendy, affordable rental accommodation targeting students.

Citiq acquired the property for R4-million, and spent approximately R30-million on the development, which comprises 375 individual apartments in addition to a host of study facilities, libraries, lounges and computer rooms.

The discussion continues at Park StationThe discussion continues at Park Station.The JDA contributed to the initiative by repaving sidewalks, placing bollards on street corners and installing new lighting to create a more liveable, pedestrian-friendly environment.

Braamfontein leads in Smart City initiative

From Mill Junction, the delegation crossed the Nelson Mandela Bridge into Braamfontein, where they were shown a number of buildings that had been variously renovated or converted into residential units, also primarily targeting students.

Botes pointed out that the whole of Braamfontein now enjoys free wi-fi coverage, courtesy of the City of Joburg's Smart City initiative. Residents, visitors, students and entrepreneurs can help themselves to 300 megabytes of data per device per day, enabling them to check their e-mail and update their social networks on the go, free of charge.

Afhco's Atkinson House development in MarshalltownAfhco's Atkinson House development in Marshalltown.He added that global technology giant IBM had embarked on a 10-year, R700-million investment in Wits University's Tshimologong Precinct tech hub in Braamfontein. IBM, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), will invest the money in a research laboratory focusing on big data and mobile technology, as part of a wider "digital urban renewal" project being spearheaded by the university.

Towards a world-class African transport hub

The tour group then proceeded to Park Station Precinct, home to the city's primary transport exchange and the largest and busiest railway station on the continent. Since 2010/11, the JDA's Inner City Commuter Links project has transformed the precinct into a people-friendly urban environment with safe walking space, managed parking, markets for informal traders, and improved circulation around taxi, bus and rail facilities.

Further development of the precinct is under way, with a new African Food and Culture Hub, to be located around a new public square on Eloff Street, in the advanced planning and consultation stages. In five years' time, Botes said, the precinct would be on a par with OR Tambo International Airport.

tour innercity7 300Afhco's planning and urban development practitioner, Tiiso Masipa, accompanied by JDA Development Facilitation Manager Nicolette Pingo, briefs the tour group in Atkinson House.He added that the JDA was currently working with rail parastatal Transnet on redeveloping old stations along various lines. "For the moment we are working with Transnet at Jeppe, Braamfontein, Ellis Park and New Canada stations. All of these areas have BRT facilities or major intermodal facilities."

Creativity makes for affordability in Marshalltown

The final stop-over was at Atkinson House, a new affordable housing development catering for lower-income earners in Marshalltown on the southern side of the inner city.

Formerly a car service centre owned by Chrysler, the property was bought by Afhco Property Management in 2012 and redeveloped with financial assistance from the French Development Agency.

The tour group was shown around by Afhco's planning and urban development practitioner, Tiiso Masipa, who said the building comprised 485 studio units ranging from 11 to 25 square metres, with rentals starting at R1 405 per month.

Taking the tour of Atkinson HouseTaking the tour of Atkinson House."Our main focus was to provide low-income earners with quality housing in the inner city without subjecting them to RDP houses in remote areas," Masipa said.

Each unit comes with granite kitchen tops, cupboards, wardrobes, fitted blinds and - in order to keep rentals as low as possible - prepaid electricity and cold water supply, with hot water restricted to communal bathrooms.

The building is equipped with a recreational room with DSTV, pool tables and a lounge area, and 24-hour security is supplemented by CCTV and fingerprint access control.

Masipa said Afhco, with assistance from the JDA, planned to convert the street in front of Atkinson House into a public space for residents in the area.

Speaking at the conclusion of the tour, Mandy Smith, a property broker at Ennik Estates, said she was impressed with what she had seen.

"I think it is great and encouraging to see JDA involved in changing the landscape of the city," Smith said. "Business opportunities in the inner city are definitely endless."