Johannesburg continues to evolve through projects spearheaded by the Joburg Development Agency (JDA), with ongoing developments, urban renewal and cultural regeneration programmes breathing new life into the city – and creating new attractions for tourism. Elias Nkabinde reports.
A group of tour operators got a close-up view of some of the JDA’s recently completed and ongoing projects in Soweto and Bruma on Thursday, 11 February.
The outing was the latest in a series of guided tours organised by the JDA to encourage the city’s tour operators to take advantage of potential new tourism attractions that the JDA’s development work is opening up around Johannesburg.
Alice Moloto, the JDA’s manager of internal communications and special projects, led Thursday’s tour group, which included operators representing JMT Tours, Safari Lodge Shuttle, Sindi’s Tours, African Memories Safari and Day Tours, Melamy Tours and Wilro Tours.
TRANSFORMATION OF BRUMA LAKE
On the first of three stops scheduled for the day, operators got the chance to see how the R65-million Bruma Lake project has transformed an unsightly artificial body of water into a naturally flowing watercourse, in the process creating a new outdoor recreational space.
For years, the poorly designed lake suffered from a build-up of sludge caused by the overflow of detergent, sewage, litter and other debris from the Jukskei River, causing a foul stench to hang over the entire neighbourhood.
According to Moloto, Bruma’s beautiful new landscape will not only attract businesses to the area, but the hotels surrounding the watercourse and park – combined with a prime location between the CBD and OR Tambo International Airport – will make it an attractive destination for tourists.
“Bruma is near the border with neighbouring Ekurhuleni, where OR Tambo International Airport is located, and is in close proximity to the thriving Cyrildene Chinatown, as well as to Eastgate Mall, one of the city’s largest shopping centres,” Moloto explained.
JABULANI DEVELOPMENT NODE
The second stop-over was in Jabulani, Soweto, where the JDA spent in the region of R65-million on development work in 2014/15 and has a number of transit-oriented development (TOD) projects recently completed, under way and forthcoming.
These projects are aimed variously at developing vacant or underused land with high-density housing and supporting social facilities, and implementing catalytic updgrades of public spaces and strategic thoroughfares in order to improve mobility and accessibility and attract new businesses to the area.
Moloto told the tour operators that properties such as Jabulani Mall, Memorial Acre and Soweto Theatre, which features several performance spaces along with parkland and areas for public arts, dining and play, had the potential to create a vibrant hub of activity for tourists.
NANCEFIELD STATION PRECINCT
Lastly, the tour group visited the Nancefield Station precinct, also in Soweto. The precinct is a flagship transit-oriented development (TOD) project that the City, with the JDA steering the way, is implementing over the medium term.
The JDA spent in the region of R60-million on projects in Nancefield in 2014/15, all aimed at creating a restructured space economy that gives poorer households better access to well-located accommodation, employment and business opportunities.
“The Nancefield Station precinct will not only benefit the immediate community, but its location in proximity to Maponya Mall and the Nike Football Development Centre will make it another tourist attraction in Soweto,” Moloto told the tour operators.
The planned development of a new linear park in Nancefield will also boost the area’s tourist appeal, she added.
‘JOBURG WILL ONE DAY BE THE NEW YORK OF AFRICA’
Gertie Tuinder from African Memories Safari and Day Tours felt the day’s outing was both helpful and insightful. “I thoroughly enjoyed the tour,” Tuinder said. “My highlight definitely has to be the Soweto Theatre in the Jabulani node. That is an area I can definitely carry on working with.
“I think it is vital for us tour operators to keep up to date with all the latest developments that are ongoing,” Tuinder added. “Joburg is ever-changing, and these are things we need to know to stay ahead in tourism.”
Liese Mössner-Sequeira, a tour guide from Safari Lodge Shuttle, said the tour was important not only from a knowledge point of view but from a networking view as well.
“Joburg will one day be the New York of Africa, it is truly humbling,” Mössner-Sequeira. “It is important for us know about these developments, because it helps us change the perception that tourists have about Joburg.”