East, West – which is best?

For some time concern has been expressed about the lack of activity in the area to the east of the centre city core. To a very large extent the concentration appears to have been on the other side of the core, ie to the west.


Certainly the development in and around Newtown has been spectacular and has strongly bolstered that edge of the centre city core. Starting with the redevelopment of Mary Fitzgerald Square in 2001, a large number of projects have followed and more are being planned for implementation in the near future. Infrastructure projects that have been completed include Mary Fitzgerald Square, the Nelson Mandela Bridge and M1 on-and off ramps, Metro Mall taxi rank and retail facility and the upgrading of the urban environment as well as the conversion of disused railway sidings into parking space and, more recently, the completion of public toilets on Mary Fitzgerald Square.


Completed residential accommodation included Johannesburg Housing Company’s Tribunal Gardens and Carr Gardens and the Cope Housing development all on the Fordsburg end of Newtown and JHC’s Brickfields development on the city end. Completed office or commercial developments, new and refurbished, included No I Central Place (new) and refurbishments such as The Mills@Newtown, the Newtown Hotel by NUMSA, a building on the corner of Bree and Miriam Makeba and, more recently, the construction of new offices for the JDA within the Bus Factory. The Oriental Plaza on the western edge of Newtown has also experienced major upgrading/refurbishing over the past few years with a lot evidently still to come.


On the cultural front, work was done some years back in accommodating the Dance Factory, Moving into Dance and the Midi Trust’s Newtown Music Centre – now the Bassline. The first phase of the Sci Bono Science & Technology Centre was also completed a few years back in the historic Electric Workshop building which included a great refurbishment of the offices and the creation of retail on the southern end of the building.    


Work currently under construction includes the Quinn Street apartments (conversion from offices – just being completed); the additions to and refurbishment of the Turbine Hall and Boiler House as the corporate Head Office for Anglo Gold Ashanti (also just being completed); the refurbishment of the AA Building and 11 Diagonal Street for FNB and ABSA respectively and the Franklin (previously Ernst & Young) residential accommodation.


Planned projects include the conversion of Transport House into an 80 room boutique hotel with 200 apartments and 3600 square metres retail and cinemas; mixed use developments on Nos 2, 3 and 6 Central Place; apartments and retail opposite the Market Theatre to be known as the Majestic; a major new residential project behind the Quinn Street development to be known as The Sidings; a very large office and retail development in Carr Street and a complete refurb of the popular SAB World of Beer.


My calculation of the cost of all the development that has taken place from 2001 to date and including known projects to be developed in the near future as mentioned above is well over R3 billion. So the Western area has really been hot!  


And the forgotten East? Not so forgotten anymore!


The first major new project in this area was the development of ABSA’s R450 million headquarter building that was completed in 1999 followed by their staff parking garage. Currently the really big project under construction (R1.1 billion) is another massive addition to the ABSA campus. It covers three city blocks and comprises two blocks of offices and an energy centre to service the ABSA campus over basement parking for 3000 cars and providing 115 000 square metres of additional office space that will house 3 580 staff. The new buildings will consolidate ABSA’s corporate dominance in the south eastern quadrant of the inner city.


Directly to the east of the ABSA campus is Jewel City where considerable work is under way. ApexHi are investing substantially in upgrading and extending the precinct as is another private investor. JDA is busy upgrading the public environment surrounding the Jewel City precinct. I know of at least one residential developer who has started purchasing properties just east of Jewel City and I would anticipate increasing interest in this area for residential development purposes.


To the north of Jewel City there has been a great deal of new investment particularly in the area bounded by the railway line in the north and east, End Street in the west and Market Street in the south. Upgrading to a number of industrial buildings and the conversion of a large number of office blocks into apartments will see this area become far more residential in nature than previously whilst retaining some of the industrial. Some of the residential projects that are on or around End Street are extremely large such as the 120 End Street conversion from offices to 800 residential units; the previous Checkers office building into 330 residential units and Purchase Place into 440.


In regard to infrastructure, there is talk of a new railway station being built in the area which would replace the existing Ellis Park and Doornfontein stations and the existing taxi rank must be ready for an upgrade.


Further east, the Ellis Park/Bertrams area has a minimum of R300 million allocated for upgrading prior to 2010 and a visit to the area shows a great deal of work underway on upgrading roads and pavements. R200 million is being spent on upgrading the Ellis Park Stadium itself and I would imagine that a lot more money will be pumped into the area directly around the Ellis Park and Athletics Stadia.


Residential is again high on the priority list in this area with a precinct in Bertrams being targeted for expropriation and redevelopment and the announcement by the Johannesburg Housing Company at the Inner City Summit of a massive new housing development.


Not lagging too far behind the west, this eastern sector is looking at investment of between two-and-a-half and three billion rand taking into account projects since 1999 to date and known projects to come and. As we come closer to 2010 I would see a lot more going into this area.


Exciting stuff and it can only get better! But notice how often I’ve referred to ‘residential’ or ‘housing’ – this is currently one of the major drivers of urban regeneration in the inner city and both east and west appear to be attracting their fair share.

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