TURNING a derelict piece of land in the middle of Hillbrow into a vibrant, well-equipped community park was just one of the Johannesburg Development Agency’s many successes over the past year.

And, speaking about this and other projects at the annual general meeting on 26 January of all Johannesburg’s municipal-owned companies and agencies, the JDA board chairman, Luthando Vutula, spoke of the agency’s “very exciting year”.

The impact of its regeneration efforts was marked and very visible, with people being able to “watch the city change before our eyes”.

Key projects Vutula highlighted in his presentation were the construction of routes and stations for the City’s pilot Bus Rapid Transit system, Rea Vaya, and the upgrade of the precincts around the two 2010 FIFA World Cup™ stadiums – Soccer City in Nasrec and Ellis Park in Doornfontein.

The work of the JDA – the City’s regeneration agency – is to boost development in Joburg. Emphasis is placed on supporting the Inner City Charter and on regeneration efforts in the townships.

Vutula also brought delegates at the meeting up to speed on other JDA projects:

eKhaya Park in Hillbrow, which was built on a piece of land that was previously dilapidated and home to illegal panel beating workshops.
The newly built Bertrams recreation area, which was used by Bertrams Primary School.
The dilapidated and burnt out Governor’s House in Hillbrow had been restored to its former glory and was being used as an office for the City’s social development staff.

Transport square in New Doornfontein, where cows are now grazingTransport square in New Doornfontein, where cows are now grazing The historic Governor’s House was damaged by fire in February 2008. It was originally built for the governor of the Old Fort, and consisted of three lounges, a passage lobby, a dining room, five bedrooms, two fireplaces and bay windows. Special features included a trough built into the west wall of one of the lounges, hipped ceilings, timber slatted ceilings and a skylight in the hall.
Public art has also been installed through the efforts of the JDA, most notably The Firewalker sculpture at the city side of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge.

“[The sculpture] celebrates Joburg’s street life and helps bring a new image to the area,” said Vutula. “The area behind the sculpture is now a small park … The artists were William Kentridge and Gerard Marx.”

On Diagonal Street, sits the sculpture of Walter and Albertina Sisulu. The figures, 2,2 metres in height, are in grey concrete, her dress and his jacket painted a gentle blue. Around the concrete base are the words: “Walter and Albertina Sisulu married in 1944. Through their enduring love and dedication they became parents to the nation.”

Upgrades to the area were also undertaken through the agency.

Stretford Ridge Walkway is another JDA project. The walkway was built over a koppie that separates the community of Orange Farm from the railway and taxi facilities. It incorporates a small park, public equipment and public art, which were designed by local artists.

Vutula also spoke about the agency’s plans to form even stronger relations with other municipal-owned entities.

“We are one agency among many and we are delighted to be part of the family of entities that supports the City,” Vutula said. “We have focused on working co-operatively with other agencies including City Power, City Parks, Johannesburg Property Company, Johannesburg Social Housing Company, Johannesburg Roads Agency and Metro Trading Company.”

One of the key challenges faced by the JDA, in a time of economic shrinkage, was that of financial constraints. However, the JDA, he said, “would like to maintain the momentum of inner city and township regeneration which has really taken off in recent years”.