Johannesburg CBD continues to undergo a metamorphosis in order to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving, major economic and metropolitan hub.  Since the city’s turnaround strategy was adopted in the early 2000s, Rea Vaya BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), properly tarred roads, new taxi ranks and more affordable residential accommodation are some of the positive infrastructural changes being implemented, providing a catalyst for further improvements and increased confidence in the inner city, reports Sipho Shabangu, leasing and sales broker for JHI Properties, an independent property services group.

“Various projects are either completed or underway in the CBD, Braamfontein, Newtown and the Empire Road area in Parktown,” says Shabangu.  “Of note is that major investors have shown increased confidence in this city, for example, the beautification project of Fox Street from Carlton Centre to Eloff Street has been completed, while the upgrade in Kerk Street - commissioned by the Johannesburg Development Agency - has also been completed, breathing new life and energy into a previously deserted high street, with the direct result that the retail sector has demonstrated its confidence in the central city by establishing themselves right here.

“A further symbolic sign that that the city is coming alive – both day and night - is the refurbishment of the Johannesburg City Hall, in order to accommodate music events and meetings.  The city hall boasts a beautiful pipe organ which, until a few years ago, was the largest in the southern hemisphere. In addition, the upgrades to Oppenheimer Park have also been completed, with the park taking on a revitalised and appealing appearance.”

Shabangu says also within Johannesburg’s inner city the mixed-use district of Braamfontein is showing a significant improvement in terms of the demand for both office and residential accommodation, as people are feeling much safer to live and work in the area.  Key contributors to this are the CCTV cameras which have been installed, coupled with visible policing to help combat crime. “However,” says Shabangu, “the issue of parking remains a challenge for many properties, particularly high rise buildings in the CBD and Braamfontein, as most of these were built with a ratio of one parking bay per 100sqm or even fewer.”

He says good news for the city is that planning is currently in progress for an impressive new mixed-used development to be known as Stimela Square, situated at the corner of Sauer and Hall Streets on the southern fringe of Johannesburg CBD, with good access to major transport routes.  “This landmark project creates a ‘city’ in one block - comprising offices, retail and a hotel in one consolidated development. Located on part of the historic Ferreira’s Camp (originally a mining camp), the development is arranged around an attractive inner city garden square, created as the focal space of Stimela Square and a hive of retail and public activity. Centred around the square and with direct access will be 90 000sqm of high grade office space configured in six blocks. Designed to cater for tenant requirements these offices will range in size from 185-15 000sqm at
a gross rental of R119.50 per square metre.”

In addition, land has been acquired with the purpose of developing a 60 000sqm mixed-used development adjacent to historic Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, on the western sector of Johannesburg CBD. Shabangu says this development is planned to include mainly retail (in what were originally potato sheds) as well as a hotel component.  A further project is an office component called The Majestic, opposite the world famous Market Theatre, which will form the gateway into the proposed ‘Potato Sheds’ and hotel development.

Says Shabangu: “This vibrant, cultural node is home to the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Museum Africa, the SAB World of Beer, Turbine Hall – with AngloGold Ashanti headquarters located in Turbine Square - to name just a few of the attractions. Mary Fitzgerald Square, which is adjacent to The Majestic, hosts numerous outdoor shows, exhibitions and live music events which are held almost weekly. The Majestic office complex will be visible from the M1 highway, making it ideal for high profile tenants seeking an exclusive address within a fashionable node. Located on the corner of Bree and Miriam Makeba Streets, The Majestic has easy access to the M1 north and south via the Carr Street on/off-ramps and is within walking distance of all major public transport modes, namely the Park Station Taxi Rank, Gautrain and the BRT.
“With the Gautrain station - Park Station - in Braamfontein completed, this bodes well for stimulation of a higher demand for office accommodation in the area.  So too will the completion of the BRT station and the Rea Vaya construction that is taking place along Empire Road from Jan  Smuts Avenue to the intersection of Joubert and Sam Hancock Streets – a total length of 1.3km.  This scope of work also includes construction of the dedicated BRT bus lanes, relocation of services running along the bus lanes, resurfacing of mixed traffic lanes, street lighting, construction of a station platform and paving of sidewalks. The BRT station along the route will be executed under a separate contract,” he says.

Office parks such as Braampark – a property managed by JHI – also stand to benefit from these new developments, due to easy access to public transport, the BRT station, the Gautrain station and Metrorail’s Park Station, and the proximity of the M1 highway.  In fact Braampark is currently experiencing increased interest from big users such as government and parastatal organisations. Says Shabangu:  “The uptake of space in Braampark has already increased with the South African Human Rights Commission recently acquiring about 7 000sqm, and with two other major users each in the process of finalising leases for approximately 4 500sqm. Another interested tenant, a private institution, is looking at taking up approximately 2 500sqm. Most of these deals are concluded at gross rentals in the region of R81 per square metre.”
 Another new development set to benefit from the infrastructural improvements and revitalisation in the area is ‘The Hill on Empire’ office park, which is currently underway and comprises nine blocks, each 5000sqm in size. This is ideally positioned on Empire Road, Parktown, close to the CBD and Braamfontein, and with the advantage of easy access to major motorways, all the popular northern suburban office nodes, and close to shops, amenities, and all the major banks which are represented in downtown Parktown. 

Adds Shabangu: “With the expansion of Empire Road and construction of the BRT station underway, this will serve to facilitate accessibility to the M1 for both private and public transport users, providing another positive for the commercial property market in the area.”

Issued by Gaye de Villiers

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