ONE building at a time, Olitzki Property Holdings (OPH) is breathing life and a new energy into the inner city.
The property company has thus far transformed Main Street, Fox Street and Gandhi Square into first class residential and business venues.
The tale started in 1989 when Gerald Olitzki, a law practitioner at the time, decided he wanted to buy and develop a building in the heart of Joburg.
And so he bought and developed a building on Gandhi Square, which was then known as Van der Bijl Square.
According to OPH’s development manager, Stephen du Preez, from buying the building, Olitzki saw a unique gap in the market, even though a lot of major companies were exiting the inner city at the time. In 1994, he entered into negotiations with the City of Johannesburg for a lease over Gandhi Square.
The negotiations lasted for seven years; he received the go-ahead in 2001. From then, his company rolled up its sleeves and started working to rejuvenate what was known to be one of the crime hot spots in Joburg.
Today the square is a thriving transport hub and a good number of high profile companies have their businesses stationed around the centre. “I can promise you that there are more people who pass through Gandhi Square in a day than there are employees in Sandton CBD,” Du Preez says. OPH provides its own private cleaning and security services.
At the moment, maintenance work is being undertaken in the square’s underground parking. Du Preez explains that it is not something major but just routine work to ensure that first-class services are provided to users. Currently, residents are unable to use the underground parking garage but it is expected to open to the public in July, according to the Johannesburg Development Agency’s development manager, Celestine Mouton.
The success of the square has, in recent years, resulted in the redevelopment of Main and Fox streets.
Main Street has been radically overhauled, and in keeping with the wealth of mining houses in the road, it has been given a distinct mining look. Mining pieces dot the eight blocks that have been refurbished. The historic mining headgear has been moved to the street from Langlaagte, where it was vandalised, together with mounted coco pans and underground coaches.
The street is a delight to stroll down, especially on weekends when it is quiet, and safety is guaranteed with a street guard for every block. It is now an ideal place for a breather from the hustle and bustle of the CBD.
Another of OPH’s success stories is Fox Street, which now has a number of restaurants taking up ground floor space, their tables spilling out on the walkway.
“The aim is to try to get the people out of the office and into the sunlight. That is why we have fully pedestrianised some walkways and semi-pedestrianised other blocks,” Du Preez says. “This allows restaurants to set up their tables and umbrellas outside.”