IN the wake of Heritage Month, the Central Johannesburg Partnership (CJP) was honoured by the International Downtown Association (IDA) for its input in setting up the Newtown Heritage Trail.

The partnership received a Merit Award in the association’s Downtown Achievement Awards, which celebrate the most innovative efforts in developing inner cities around the world. It recognises the best practices that downtown revitalisation, management and leadership have to offer.

The awards were made at the IDA’s 56th annual conference, running from 1 to 5 October in Fort Worth, Texas in the United States.

Urban Genesis, which manages the Newtown Improvement District, created the trail in 2010. It aims to encourage visitors to walk through the rich and colourful Newtown precinct and learn more about the history of key landmark buildings from illustrated story panels.

The artistic walkway leading from Workers Museum to the squareThe artistic walkway leading from Workers Museum to the square
“I am thrilled with the heritage panels that are situated near each site of heritage interest in Newtown. The panels help to orientate visitors to Newtown both by bringing alive the previous use of a building and explaining its current use,” said Kate Shand, who until recently managed the Newtown Improvement District.

“I love that heritage isn’t just about old buildings but also about the various cultural organisations who have been in Newtown for decades. Nothing beats walking through Newtown and seeing school kids and just general passers-by stopping and reading the panels.”

On the Newtown Heritage Trail, visitors will discover the hidden histories, intriguing characters, dramatic events and richly textured cultural heritage that make the suburb’s story so compelling. There is a guided tour with trained site guides as well as an informative brochure to help self-guided tours.

Stories behind the birth of Newtown, Kippies, the Potato Shed and Railway Siding, the Market Theatre and Mary Fitzgerald Square are told. It includes the Electric Workshop, Turbine Hall, SAB World of Beer, the Workers’ Museum and cultural organisations: the Dance Factory, Moving Into Dance Mophatong, Bassline, Market Photo Workshop, Artist Proof Studio and Market Lab.

JDA offices at the Bus FactoryJDA offices at the Bus Factory
The trail is part of the Newtown Legacy Project, which has funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the Gauteng department of sport, arts, culture and recreation, and is supported by the City of Johannesburg’s directorate of arts, culture and heritage and Museum Africa.

It is not the first time the CJP has been noted by the IDA: in 1994, it was recognised by the association for the establishment of Johannesburg as the Gauteng provincial capital; and in 1997, its City Improvement District Programme received an IDA Achievement Award.

The CJP explores international and local trends in urban renewal. Established in 1992, it was restructured in 1998 as a private, non-profit company focusing on the revitalisation of the city. Over the years, the CJP has created jobs for the homeless and acted as a catalyst for strategic development in the inner city, such as the Constitutional Court and Gandhi Square.

For more information on the Newtown Heritage Trail, visit the Newtown website.

Joburg Development Agency
The JDA has also been actively involved in the Newtown precinct and has its offices at the Bus Factory in President Street, Newtown. Over the period 2001 to 2007 the agency spent in excess of R188-million in this precinct alone. Especially notable in respect of the Newtown upgrade is the comprehensive and broad nature of the interventions, covering property investment, infrastructure, urban upgrading as well as marketing and public events.

Arts and culture features high on the JDA agenda. In 2009 the agency completed the new Moving Into Dance Mophatong building in President Street which comes equipped with ultra-modern dance studios rented out to the company. The agency has also developed the Market Theatre Laboratory for prospective and established actors at its headquarters at the Bus Factory. The new structure comes with a theatre, dressing rooms and other utilities.

Public artwork also abound in Newtown thanks to the JDA, the latest additions being the Firewalker, a work by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx which marks the gateway into Newtown from the Nelson Mandela Bridge; and at the Market Theatre the quaint Kippies Jazz Club was recently upgraded complete with a statue of Kippie Moeketsi himself, seated in introspective mood with his saxophone outside the building.