The JDA has got behind the previously stalled Alexandra Heritage Centre, and is moving to complete the building and precinct and activate an operational plan for the museum and small business hub.
The centre precinct will feed off the energy of AlexandraThe centre precinct will feed off the energy of Alexandra, and the facilities will be fully and freely available to the community. SEE GALLERY BELOW FOR MORE IMAGES”Life in Alexandra was exhilarating and precarious. Its atmosphere was alive, its spirit adventurous, its people resourceful.”
These words by Nelson Mandela make up one of three quotes affixed to the wall of the Alexandra Heritage Centre.
The centre is the first of a number of identified heritage sites that the City of Joburg, through the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), is developing in Alexandra.
The upgrade of the precinct around Mandela’s first Johannesburg home, a project in which both the City and the National Department of Tourism are involved, is being used as a learning experience for the people of Alex.
Local SMME contractors, mentored by an established contractor, will be responsible for all the work in the precinct. They will be tasked with upgrading infrastructure in what is being developed as a tourist destination, with Mandela’s room at 46 Seventh Avenue at its centre.
Once completed, the area around the Alexandra Heritage Centre will have improved pavements and paving, new road markings and street signage. None of these roads will be closed off – the tourist precinct will feed off the energy of Alex, and the facilities will be fully and freely available to the community.
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Besides community enrichment, the project is expected to create tourism-related employmentBesides community enrichment, the project is expected to create tourism-related employment. SEE GALLERY BELOW FOR MORE IMAGESAccordingly, the architects have created an iconic space that is not separated from the community in which it is situated, with large windows that allow the visitor to look over Dark City – as Alexandra was once known because it was denied electricity – from the safety of a pedestrian bridge over 7th Avenue.
The wings of the centre spanning the street will host training facilities and provide small business opportunities for local entrepreneurs. The easily accessible public gallery, which will house cultural exhibitions celebrating Alex’s rich cultural and social history, will also be available for political and social events.
Besides community enrichment, the project is expected to create tourism-related employment. The influx of tourists to the area that was also the home of Hugh Masakela will generate economic activity that will affect the whole of the township.
On the ground floor of the centre, visitors will be able to peruse stores in which local artisans will be creating and selling curios and crafts. Traditional healers will be given stands where locals and visitors can purchase time-tested herbal potions and treatments
Once completed, the “cultural triangle” formed by the Alexandra Heritage Centre, the Mandela Yard and the St Hubert Catholic Church will showcase the sounds, scenery and energy that make Alex such a fascinating place to visit.
Together with other projects currently under way, including the creation of a five-kilometre pedestrian and cycling pathway between Alex and Sandton, and associated public environment upgrades, these developments are set to lift Johannesburg’s oldest township onto a new, transformative growth trajectory.