MORE investment is being poured into Jewel City, the diamond trading precinct on the eastern edge of the inner city.

This comes after private companies and the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) undertook upgrades to the area some four years ago.

Jewel City takes up four blocks, bounded by Commissioner and Main streets in the north and south, and Berea and Phillip streets in the east and west. In the latest work, R40-million is being spent on refurbishments, anchored by Redefine Properties Limited, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed company. Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of the month.

It involves the restoration of an old warehouse into new head offices for the Diamond Board and State Trader Association, as well as a new sign-on station, a new entrance and exit, and additional parking. Once work is finished, tenants will have their own staff parking with a separate entrance.

There will also be X-ray scanners at the photograph identification entry point for visitors. They will have to pass through here to get into the secure precinct.

This small corner of the city houses workshops and offices for about 300 diamond dealers – about R7-billion changes hands each year in the precinct. Gems are received and processed at Jewel City from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Botswana.

Polished diamonds

It attracts more the 400 daily visitors interested in buying cut and polished diamonds. It’s also home to the regulatory Diamond Board and State Trader Association.

To encourage trade in Jewel City, the property company has reconfigured some of the existing space to create a new 76m2 retail shop, the first of many more retail outlets planned for the precinct.

Redefine Properties has already completed a R30-million extension to the new head office of the Diamond Board and the State Trader. Its development manager, Mike Ruttell, says the upgrades form part of the critical inner city renewal project.

It has also created a parking bay area for about 137 vehicles. Apart from that, Redefine will be spending an additional R10-million.

Ruttell explains that the Diamond Board has moved into Regulator House, which has been increased in size from 1 630m2 to 2 480m2. The expansion includes the provision of a secure loading bay. More space has been created for the State Trader, which occupies 600m2.

Jewel City, the entrance to which is on Main Street, has also increased its security.

Melrose Arch

The precinct has existed for 21 years. In 2006, it was on the brink of moving north to Melrose Arch, but the JDA stepped in to revamp the entire area. The first phase was to clean up the precinct, and in 2007 the agency spent R14-million on giving it an identity of its own.

The revamp involved street upgrades; artwork; new lighting; street furniture like benches, paving and kerbing; trees; and gateways at its entrances.

The four-block area, consisting of a number of buildings, was once divided down the middle by a high wall and owned by two parties: Apex Hi and a private stakeholder, who wishes to remain anonymous.

At the time of the JDA refurbishment, David Rice, the managing director of Apex Hi, said that he expected to clean up and expand Jewel City by buying up properties on Phillip Street and creating more parking.

It is surrounded by tall metal gates and high security electric fences, as well as floor-to-floor security clearance. It is neatly positioned between the M2 Highway’s on- and off-ramps. Three blocks of Fox Street and two blocks each of Phillips and Greene streets are inside the precinct.

Its neighbours are motor industry workshops and the Fashion District.

Gapp Architects and Urban Designers were called in for the JDA revamp. Architect Mbongeni Ngulube said at the time that the company had tried to accommodate pedestrians and traffic in the redesign.