SKATERS take note – a skateboard park of 30 metres by 20 metres in size will soon open in downtown Joburg for your exclusive enjoyment and use.

Developer Jonathan Liebmann is at it again, with the development of five new buildings on the eastern edge of the CBD, an area he has made his own over the past few years. He created the popular Arts on Main, which opened in mid-2009, and last year in February he opened Main Street Life, adding a residential element to his developments.

Now he is extending the exciting cluster of spaces around Main Street Life.

“The broader vision reflects how to effect a creative, integrated lifestyle,” he says. “This is based on innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.”

And that encompasses a hotel, creative spaces for artists and allied industries, a Sunday market, a restaurant, a bioscope, and this year, additional residential and creative space, and the component for teenagers.

Main Street Life consists of the 12 Decades Hotel, in the seven-storey apartment and hotel building on the corner of Fox and Maritzburg streets, several blocks east of Arts on Main. The ground floor has expanded to include the Pata Pata restaurant, The Bioscope and the Chalkboard Collaboration Cafe – all creative spaces that cater for the growing body of artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, actors, directors, printmakers and others who find this side of town a cool place in which to live and work.

POPArt or People of Performing Arts will be opening shortly in the theatre behind the Chalkboard Cafe, providing space for actors’ workshops, rehearsals, networking evenings and small-scale theatre. Four workshops are planned for April, which aim to train performers to market their work.

Pata Pata is now offering live music – on Monday evenings Conversations in Jazz takes place while on Fridays and Saturdays the floor is cleared for bands to strut their stuff. The recent addition of Market on Main at Arts on Main, a Sunday food and flea market, is proving very popular with Joburgers.


The four-storey Revolution House, in the block next door to Main Street Life, is to house the skateboard park in its basement, offering a safe and secure place for kids to get off the often crazy streets of Joburg, and enjoy quality exercise. The previously hijacked building will also house band rehearsal rooms, film studios and two floors of residential apartments.

Fox Street Studios, adjoining Main Street Life, will consist of high-end residential apartments and work spaces. Balconies will be created in these apartments, as well as those at Revolution House.

They will be complemented by The Main Change, a building with office spaces for small to medium entrepreneurial enterprises, completing the Main Street Life block.

In the second half of 2011, two other buildings will be opened – a large event space called MOAD or the Museum of African Design, and the Artisan Res, in Commissioner Street, where artists and artisans will be able to work collaboratively.

Part of the secret of the success of these developments is that Liebmann is led by what the market demands, says Hayleigh Evans, the communications manager and event co-ordinator for Propertuity, the developers of the Maboneng Precinct, the label Liebmann has given to his downtown developments.

12 Decades Hotel

The 12 Decades Hotel has 50 percent occupancy during the week, going up to 80 percent over the weekends, confirms Evans.

She adds that an unpredictable thing has happened with the hotel – people are booking in for events at the nearby Ellis Park Stadium, like rugby matches or concerts. It is very easy to get to the stadium quickly from the hotel. Exhibitors at the spaces at Arts on Main or Main Street Life also find it useful to book into the hotel for a night or two.

Part of the original plan for the hotel rooftop was a boxing gym, a bar, a sculpture park and a wetland pool. The bar is about to open, while two punching bags swing from an enclosed area. Yoga classes and a massage parlour, plus a furniture showroom and gallery space, are being considered. “We will be providing spaces everyone is asking for,” says Evans. It’s all about creating a lifestyle, she adds.


Also being considered in the longer term is applying for a lease on a section of Fox Street, between Berea and Martizburg streets, with security guards directing traffic and making sure the street is more user-friendly. The neighbourhood children have noticed already that it is quieter – most afternoons they can be seen playing on the tarmac.

And Liebmann is aware that parking is an issue – he is working on a five-storey parkade called Off the Grid, in Main Street. This will be his version of a transport hub, “an alternative approach to transport”, with links to the City’s transport networks.

He says that his investment, in excess of R100-million, has encouraged other investments in the area. One investor has bought a building across the road from Main Street Life and will turn it into a residential apartment block.

The Jewel District, across the road from Arts on Main, has committed another R40-million to expand its investment in the enclosed area it occupies.

But the smaller businesses have also noticed a knock-on effect: a small local butcher has recorded increased sales, and is renovating his premises as a result.

“The property market is more buoyant,” confirms Liebmann.

In May last year, Liebmann picked up a Halala Joburg Award in the Relaxing and Playing Joburg category, which acknowledged his use of “new and old buildings to provide unique recreational spaces”.

The awards are sponsored by the Johannesburg Development Agency, the City agency that has spent about R24-million in the past few years revamping the area around Arts on Main. New paving has been laid, trees have been planted, and concrete bollards have been created. Liebmann took this further, by planting trees outside the Main Street Life building, so softening the hard lines of the industrial buildings in the precinct.