“THE inner city of Johannesburg is undoubtedly at the forefront of the formation of the new South African society. Here people from all walks of life gather; here people of all ages, racial backgrounds and nationalities live, work and play together … Little wonder then that here you will find an incredibly energetic city with a pulse that is unmatched anywhere else on Earth.”

This is how Gerald Garner starts his latest book, Johannesburg 10 Ahead(Double G Media, 2011), a comprehensive capsule of the city’s regeneration over the past decade.

He acknowledges the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), which initiated the idea for the book following a tender request for publishers to submit proposals for the celebration of 10 years of regeneration. This proposal also contributed to the title of the book.

In awarding the tender, the JDA pre-purchased a sizeable quantity of books, which contributed to making this publication possible, he says.

“We hope that this book will help to spread the message of an exciting future in the inner city,” says Thanduxolo Mendrew, the agency’s acting chief executive.

Once regarded as being on the road to irreversible decline, over the past decade Johannesburg has undergone immense regeneration. “I think the book is well written, and the many photographs of the buildings and places and people of the inner city are worth more than words can say,” adds Mendrew.

The book reads: “Today, the Johannesburg inner city stands as a beacon of hope for South Africans of what can be achieved. The concerted effort of many passionate and driven people within the private sector, private business and community organisations has made a tangible difference to the state of the city environment.”


Structured in a logical and easy-to-read format, Johannesburg 10 Ahead gives a background to the initial decline and the principles underpinning the city’s revival. It discusses many cases of successful projects by talking to those directly involved.

“I am proud of the end product. It was a difficult book to produce as the story of inner-city regeneration is so complex and there is so many angles to the story to consider,” says Garner.

Garner interviews numerous emerging property entrepreneurs and large-scale developers, community activists and municipal planners.

“I think it is incredibly important to document the story of a new South African society emerging in the Johannesburg inner city,” he adds.

He also takes readers on a journey through the city’s area-based initiatives; public art; residential makeovers; retail investment; hotels, hospitality and leisure; commercial space; public transport; and urban management.

The pictures that he has used lend credence to the claims of immense regeneration. Among them are breathtaking photographs of Joburg’s high-rise buildings, its public art and its spaces decorated with splashes of bright colour, such as the Rea Vaya stations.

It concludes by looking at the future initiatives envisaged for the inner city and the obstacles to such tasks.

The JDA has played an important role in the transformation of the inner city, both facilitating it and investing in it.

In the last decade, the agency has been involved in a number of important urban renewal projects, for example, the redevelopment of Newtown. This ambitious programme began in 2001 with the construction of Nelson Mandela Bridge. Other aspects were the creation of the Metro Mall taxi facility, and the refurbishment of Mary Fitzgerald Square.


In neighbouring Braamfontein, regeneration is anchored by the massive Constitution Hill redevelopment. The private sector has also poured money and ideas into the area, such as the developers Southpoint and Adam Levy.

Speaking about Levy’s PlayBraamfontein innovation, Garner writes: “He started off refurbishing 151 Smit Street into luxury apartments, occupying the penthouse over the top two floors himself.

“Levy invested in several more buildings in the immediate surroundings, with 70 Juta Street proving to be a successful retail with studio development – complete with the delightful Post deli. Also in their portfolio is the recently renovated Alexander Theatre and currently PlayBraamfontein is investing in converting the historic Milner Park Hotel into another hub of creative-industry offices.

“Opposite the street, Levy plans to redevelop a major office block which will incorporate a marketplace and a restaurant.”

Another chapter touches base with the public art that lines the inner city streets. This is mainly the work of the JDA, which has worked hard to beautify what could have been just another concrete jungle.

“The introduction of public art such as Optic Field by Maja Marx has provided the strongest indication yet that the inner city is on the mend. This visual indicator of regeneration in progress has been at the forefront of changing people’s perceptions of the inner city,” Garner writes.

He also discusses the head sculptures on the pavements, the Eland in Braamfontein, the De la Rey Street mural between Fietas and Fordsburg, and the Paper Pigeons at Pigeon Square, among others.

In the last chapter of the book, regeneration stalwart Neil Fraser expresses his dream for the “Jozi of the future”.

The 187-page Johannesburg 10 Ahead is for all those keen on investing in property in the inner city as well as for those with an interest in urban regeneration who wish to broaden their horizons. For more information about the book, visit its website.