THE Midas touch of the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) has turned three major precincts into world-class entertainment and sports hubs ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

Rea Vaya will be a key part of the city’s public transport offering for the World CupRea Vaya will be a key part of the city’s public transport offering for the World Cup
Nasrec, home to Soccer City; the Ellis Park sports precinct; and Vilakazi Street, one of the most visited sites in Soweto, are all spruced up and ready for kickoff. Vilakazi Street was once home to two Nobel laureates, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, with the latter still residing there.

Taking a media group on a tour of the inner city, Ellis Park, Nasrec and Soweto on 2 June, the JDA deservedly felt proud of its achievements. Personally on hand to show off the completion of these projects was the chief executive officer, Lael Bethlehem, who leaves the agency on strong footing when she departs for the private sector at the end of July.

Let Rea Vaya take you
And, what better way to see these completed projects than through Rea Vaya, Joburg’s Bus Rapid Transit system and also a key development project for the agency. The JDA is the managing agent responsible for the appointment of companies to construct Rea Vaya and fulfils an oversight role of the construction network roll-out on behalf of the City of Johannesburg.

Rea Vaya will be a key part of the city’s public transport offering for the World Cup, with additional buses operating on match days. Spectators will be able to hop on to feeder buses from strategic places across the city which will take them to the closest Rea Vaya trunk routes. The trunk route buses will then drop them off directly in front of the Ellis Park and Soccer City stadiums, and collect them again at the same locations.

Artwork must be accessible and part of the community, says BethlehemArtwork must be accessible and part of the community, says Bethlehem
Rea Vaya stations were designed to protect commuters from the sun and rain, yet they are easy to maintain and bring a touch of modern funkiness to the hum-drum of typical city architecture and playful colour to the drabness of suburban Soweto. Yet they remain safe and secure, with security guards on hand and access through only one entry point.

A similar bus rapid transit network is being rolled out in Cape Town, but unlike the mother city, Joburg has opted for the more expensive and additional time intensive option of building by-pass lanes for other buses at all Rea Vaya stations, thereby allowing traffic to flow unhindered.

Bethlehem said they had to think long and hard about whether to include ablution facilities as part of the Rea Vaya station structure, eventually opting to do without as these would become an additional management burden in the long run.

“We decided rather to continue to roll out public ablution facilities across the city, as we have been doing.”

Nasrec hub
The JDA will be celebrating a decade of regeneration and urban development in Joburg in 2011, with the last five years particularly busy as it played a pivotal role in getting the city ready for the World Cup.

The Nasrec pedestrian walkway connects the Nasrec railway station and Rea Vaya stations with Soccer City and the exhibition centreThe Nasrec pedestrian walkway connects the Nasrec railway station and Rea Vaya stations with Soccer City and the exhibition centre
After spending some R250-million on the Nasrec transport and entertainment hub, the agency can rightly claim some of the success behind this beautifully revamped area.

The idea was to get people in and out of the precinct very quickly, Bethlehem said of the Nasrec precinct. Functioning as an exhibition hub, a transport hub and the major venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ with Soccer City the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies and several games, including the final, Nasrec is looking world-class.

The previously disjointed development of the exhibition centre and stadium, cut off from each other by the criss-cross of four railway lines, is now bridged by a pedestrian walkway connecting the newly built Nasrec railway station and the three new Rea Vaya stations with the 90 000-seat stadium, exhibition centre and the International Broadcasting Centre.

As an added extra, a small open-air amphitheatre was built next to the massive stadium to give more options for entertainment. “This precinct has a much better chance of thriving than before,” Bethlehem believes.

Throw in some of the JDA’s now trademark aesthetic touches, including unusual street furniture and street lights, and its iconic use of street art, often by unknown locals, and one can see why its developments are starting to bear fruit all over Joburg.

A stroll in Ellis Park
The Ellis Park precinct has been ready since 2009 and has already hosted football fans for the Confederations Cup last year.

Take in the beautifully upgraded Ellis Park Stadium with a stroll down the esplanadeTake in the beautifully upgraded Ellis Park Stadium with a stroll down the esplanade
The upgrade to the precinct cost over R2-billion and included work to the Ellis Park swimming pool, Rea Vaya bus stations and a public square awash with the colours of autumn still visible in the plantings of strelitzia and the old plane trees, despite winter showing itself in the pale-silver slivers of the sun as it reflected off the water feature running the length of the esplanade.

It is worth a stroll just to take in the beautifully upgraded Ellis Park Stadium as seen through the Invented Mythologies sculpture of Doung Anwar Jahangeer. The huge artwork, done in stainless steel, depicts a boy flying a kite, standing atop a large broken sphere and is a favourite play place for younger children.

The precinct is also part and parcel of Joburg’s early history and along Bertrams Road, the outer facades of three 1920 miner’s homes have been restored to their former charm by the JDA.

From street to precinct
The same creative touches are to be seen in Vilakazi Street where the artwork – in the form of taxi-hands signs – was received with much appreciation. Bethlehem said part of the JDA’s artwork brief was that it must be accessible and part of the community, and be taken to heart by the community. It seemed to be working, as a pair of small, white running shoes had been placed on one of the hand statues to dry in the sun.

The JDA widened the pavements, created parking for tourist buses and added other trademark JDA tweaks to “turn Vilakazi Street into a proper precinct”.

And at Walter and Albertina Sisulu Square in Diagonal Street, Bethlehem demonstrated what she meant by jumping on to the lap of Walter Sisulu’s statue. The statue’s lap is already showing the scuff of many a Joburg commuter taking a quick break or photo opportunity right there.

And that was exactly what the JDA wanted, Bethlehem confirmed.

Story: City of Johannesburg