HAVING achieved a great deal with its regeneration endeavours in Hillbrow south, the eKhaya Neighbourhood programme is now moving north.
EKhaya, a city improvement district (CID) started in 2004 in Pietersen Street in the south between Claim and Klein streets. In 2011 it extended from Klein to Banket streets, then later the same year from Smit to Esselen streets. It was founded with the objective of transforming Hillbrow from its notorious past into a liveable neighbourhood.
The programme is now targeting a new area in the north of Hillbrow, between Van der Merwe and Jager streets and from Banket street to Clarendon Place.
“We are extending to the north following a demand by other property owners who are interested in joining eKhaya.
“Lead members of eKhaya plus other property owners have already met, in November last year, to develop the eKhaya Hillbrow north initiative,” said the outgoing coordinator of the eKhaya, Josie Adler.
She said the owners observed that their businesses in the south are doing better than those in the north. The area’s ability to attract new residents, who support the local businesses, is attributed to declining levels of crime and a clean environment.
EKhaya provides cleaning and security services to buildings that are affiliated to the CID.
Based on its success, talks are already afoot to get eKhaya implemented in the north. A steering committee is made up of members from the Johannesburg Housing Company, Connaught Properties, Urban Task Force, Trafalgar Properties, Jozi Housing and other property companies.
The committee will be chaired by Nick Barnes of Jozi Housing. EKhaya Hillbrow north will cover buildings from Pretoria Street up Clarendon Place towards Louis Botha Avenue.
Under the umbrella body of eKhaya, stakeholders who have invested in Hillbrow have mobilised to tackle long-standing issues, including revamping high-rise buildings, improving safety and keeping the public environment clean.
The partnership of these stakeholders has yielded an unwavering success in dealing with problem areas.
Testament to the success of eKhaya’s endeavours is the resurrection of both the mainstream and second tier economies. Big name franchise retailers can be traced across the suburb, whilst most small enterprises ranging from barbers and restaurants to car workshops are an affirmation that Hillbrow is doing well for itself.
Equally passionate about the development of Hillbrow and growing eKhaya is the incoming co-ordinator, Bafikile Mkhize. She announced a new plan that will enlighten the City on some of the pressing issues needing attention from time to time.
“Through this project we will engage the City on a month-to-month basis on areas of service delivery that need to be given attention,” said Mkhize.
Issues that have already been identified include informal taxi ranks which are common in the area, informal car washers, illegal dumping, illegal outdoor advertising and crime.
The project will draw in representatives of the City’s Department of Environment, eKhaya officials and members of community policing forums. “The objective is to make service delivery work in this area,” said Mkhize.
Regional director of Region F, Nkosinathi Mthethwa, will also be part of the project, according to Mkhize.
Johannesburg Development Agency
In previous years the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) has also lent a helping hand in Hillbrow’s regeneration efforts.
“The JDA has supported the eKhaya regeneration with its physical infrastructure projects in 2011 which upgraded 13 sanitary lanes. These lanes are managed co-operatively by the properties adjacent to them,” said Adler.
Altogether, the JDA upgraded 25 lanes between 2009 and 2011 within the borders of eKhaya. Previously neglected, the lanes had been used as dumping sites and sometimes a hideout for criminals.
In an endeavour to beautify Hillbrow and to create a liveable community, in 2011 the JDA painted six intriguing murals on the walls bordering sanitary lanes. They communicate diverse messages; some draw inspiration from traditional rural communities, whilst other portray the daily street hustles in Johannesburg.
Looking back, Adler said the eKhaya initiative is a win-win situation for everyone involved. “Property owners are benefiting because Hillbrow is able to attract new tenants into their properties, and the City is benefiting as well, because building owners can pay for municipal services such as water and electricity.
“Residents also have the benefit of living in a clean and safe environment. Children can play outdoors after schools without fear of being mugged. They attend school here and walk the streets freely. Hillbrow is a neighbourhood of choice,” said Adler.