From grey and uninviting, Joburg’s inner city is being turned into a vibrant and attractive area through various JDA initiatives that have been designed to regenerate the old town and stimulate new investment.

Joburg’s inner city is a vibrant district with a unique character that can easily claim to be the Culture Capital of the country. It has a wide range of cultural venues, and is a base for many creative and cultural industries. It is a hive of activity as people go about their daily business.

This is in large part thanks to the regenerative efforts of the JDA. Its footprint can be seen all over the inner city, in the refurbishments of old buildings and the creation of new development nodes such as the Absa Campus and Main Place.

The JDA is managing several projects aimed at upgrading and stimulating investment in specific areas in the inner city. Already, it has been instrumental in revitalising Constitution Hill, Newtown, the precinct around Faraday Station, upgrading Main Street and making it pedestrian-friendly, reconstructing and renovating the Drill Hall, and developing the Fashion District.

It has also supported regeneration and upgrading projects in Jeppestown and Braamfontein. Public spaces have been given a face-lift, creating a liveable city where children play and adults mingle. The JDA has been involved in a number of significant undertakings in the inner city. These include:


The billion-rand development of the Potato Sheds, behind Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown – making way for hotels, offices and retailers – is under construction and new, mixed-use projects in the south-western quarter of the CBD are in the pipeline. Mary Fitzgerald Square had a facelift, courtesy of the JDA and the City. This included layer works and new paving. The project included re-installing lights in and around the square. To give it a softer look, grassy mounds will were added on the side, so that it can be used for picnics and relaxing, as well as water fountains.


Fordsburg, Pageview and Vrededorp are home to a huge mural retelling the rich history of this culturally significant area. The mural was a collaborative effort, commissioned by the JDA and overseen by commissioning agent The Trinity Session, 26’10 South Architects, The Fietas Festival and Whack Design. Bie Venter of bie CC was the project co-ordinator. The Fordsburg, Pageview and Vrededorp communities were extensively consulted. There are also plans for a museum in Fietas, the colloquial name given to the area, once the home of Joburg’s Muslim and Indian communities.


Joburg’s Chinatown is located in Ferreirasdorp – historically known as Malaikam – and is bounded by Commissioner, Market, Fox, Alexander and Becker streets. An initiative to regenerate and revitalise Chinatown began in 2002, driven by the Johannesburg First Chinatown Association, a grouping of shop and property owners in the area. Contact was made with the JDA and Savage + Dodd Architects prepared an initial scoping study and a precinct plan that was approved by the City.


Two towers of 5.5 metres by six metres, with concrete bases and tall glass top pieces carrying an image of anti-apartheid activist Beyers Naude at the pulpit, were positioned at the corners of Market and President streets, and Simmonds Street. The images will be lit from within, and one will face outwards to the street, the other inwards towards the square, says architect Nina Cohen of Cohen & Judin Architects. The square, originally called Market Square because it was Joburg’s first market place, defined the development of the town. The first government buildings were built on its eastern border, and by 1895, nine years after Joburg came into existence, shops, offices and banks lined its other borders.


Chancellor House has been reborn, and although the Mandela & Tambo Attorneys offices are empty, the spirit of the two icons is almost tangible in the building. The modest, three-storey structure, on the corner of Fox and Gerard Sekoto streets in Ferreirasdorp, has had its dignity restored. The renovated Chancellor House retains its original facebrick and balcony.


Herringbone, strong earthy colours, public art and lush indigenous greenery are just some of the changes taking over the congested streets of Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville, Joburg’s flatlands. A five-month project overseen by the JDA has resulted in a major overhaul of the public environment in these areas. The project forms part of the on-going drive by the City to rejuvenate the inner city and includes upgrades to parks, streets and public buildings. The reason for the upgrades is three-fold: to create safe, viable public areas; to induce further private investment; and to encourage residents to beautify their own properties.


The JDA’s commuter links project promotes a pedestrian friendly and walkable urban environment, the vision for Joburg’s inner city, with wider pavements and a network of public spaces. Two areas, identified by the JDA, will be turned into walkable pedestrian routes as part of the Inner City Commuter Links Upgrade Project. They are the Braamfontein and Johannesburg Art Gallery Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system precincts. The agency is driving the project.


The Johannesburg Art Gallery BRT Precinct is bounded by Wanderers, Smit, Twist or Troye, and Plein streets. Special attention is being paid to the link between Wanderers Street (Park Station) through Joubert Park (the Johannesburg Art Gallery) to Twist or Troye Street (BRT stations). Work in this area includes reconfiguration of pavements and parking, new paving, street furniture and lighting along Bok Street, between Wanderers and King George streets. Along the Joubert Park Link, new paving, lighting and seating has been installed.


Westgate, an area of some 94 hectares, is in one of the city’s oldest suburbs, Ferreirasdorp, where the tent town of Joburg began its life. It has been lying vacant for the past several decades. Much of the land is owned by three companies – the Johannesburg Land Company, Standard Bank and Iprop. Plans are being made to make good use of the open space.