HIGH-RISE modern buildings towering over sprawling retail shops in the inner city, a thriving economy with an efficient transport system, sustainable jobs and an active business hub: this is the vision of the City’s railway decking development.
Railway decking is a model commonly employed in big cities to overcome space limitations by building a structure above the railway lines.
The multibillion rand railway deck is to be built in phases over 30 years east and west of Park Station. It will have a range of housing options – low cost and mixed rental units – hotels and office blocks.
The decking work is expected to begin in 2012 in two inner city suburbs – Doornfontein and Fordsburg – according to Virgil James, the Joburg spokesperson. “The City is currently finalising the feasibility and consultation phases. However, the development of non-decked areas on the periphery of the deck is due to start by the end of 2011.”
According to James, under-used land between the inner city and Braamfontein will support the intended investment and automatic regeneration in the inner city. “The current Park Station rail lines have created a gulch between the central business district and Braamfontein, resulting in unused parcels of land.”
Although the total amount needed for the construction is not yet known, R2,2-billion will be spent in the first phase, between the M1 and Fordsburg.
Once fully complete, the deck will link Braamfontein to the inner city from a southwestern direction and will be a new source of business and mixed use residential units.
The railway deck development is a partnership between the City and the private sector, with about 90 percent funded privately.
In a statement issued on 17 August, the member of the mayoral committee for economic development, Sello Lemao, said: “Internationally these types of initiatives create new modern city centres that leverage financial resources for the city.”
The railway decking had the potential to create significant revenue for the City, he said, adding: “almost nothing is currently generated towards the tax base”. The City will generate revenue through rates and taxes to be paid by real estate, or immovable property, on the development.
It was conceived on several developmental principles:
- To innovatively use the space above the rail tracks to develop a balanced district, to enhance public transport appeal by improving the road network and accessibility to the inner city; and
- To introduce and maximize high order services, public amenities and green spaces, as well as create sustainable jobs.
According to Bokaba Maluleke, the head of catalytic projects in the department of economic development, an estimated 19 000 jobs will be created during the first phase construction. When fully completed, the project is expected to yield approximately 40 960 jobs.
Once finished, the railway deck will consist of five precincts:
- The eGoli Design Centre on the western side of the M2 motorway, towards Fordsburg;
- The Newtown precinct along Nelson Mandela Bridge, where a public park and Wits science centre is planned;
- The Park Station oriented transit;
- The Joubert Park precinct; and
- The Doornfontein transit oriented development consisting of the University of Johannesburg and Coca-Cola Park sport precinct.
Maluleke said the Park Station oriented transit would not only serve daily commuters but would also appeal to tourists using the Gautrain from places such as OR Tambo International Airport.
So far, a feasibility study through a market analysis covering financial, real estate, retail manufacturing, construction, hotel and international benchmarking had been completed to determine “financial return and equity and public return on investment”, said Maluleke.
Stakeholders were consulted in 2010, with City officials and members of the Joburg Business Forum, including inner city banks, mining head offices and property owners, participating. The consultation was designed to test the findings of the market analysis study and input.
The City has developed visual communication aids for further stakeholder engagement, which will include pressure groups, inner city civic forums, institutions of higher learning, and potential investors both local and international.