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More changes are being made to the inner city, where developer Jonathan Liebmann is adding to his vision of an attractive, liveable urban space.
THE city’s most recent public artwork is a five-storey eye looking out over the mine dumps of eastern Joburg.

The change agent, a mosaic artwork by Hannelie CoetzeeThe change agent, a mosaic artwork by Hannelie CoetzeeThe eye, called The Change Agent, by artist and photographer Hannelie Coetzee, consists of thousands of unused mining discs in shades of blues and greys. The eyelashes, single long strands, reach up five storeys of the building, which is called The Main Change, pulling together the different floors in a “collaborative workspace concept”, says Jonathan Liebmann, the developer of the Maboneng Precinct on the eastern edge of the CBD.

“The eye is very universal,” says Coetzee. “It has the longest history.”

The piece, which was unveiled last week, has a subtle message. “The dot-by-dot artwork on the newly renovated Main Change building in the Maboneng Precinct symbolises the purpose of the building: to network, to build relationships, to connect the dots,” indicates a press statement.

In particular is a company called The Open, which takes up the entire fifth floor of the building and provides “collaborative city workspaces”.

“Open is a shared-resource, post-corporate workplace designed to accommodate creative professionals who work differently and need access to high-quality equipment, services and facilities,” reads the company’s website.

“Open is an inspiring space to work, meet, network, collaborate, refuel, re-energise and get stuff done, offering members all they need to work productively and live effectively.”

The Main Change
The Main Change, on the corner of Kruger and Main streets, is one of the latest renovated buildings to be launched by Liebmann. He is the brains behind the successful Arts on Main, a conglomeration of art studios, boutiques, book shops, and a restaurant called Canteen, with a vibey Sunday market.

Main Street Life overlooks Fox Street Studios and The Main Change, all former derelict buildingsMain Street Life overlooks Fox Street Studios and The Main Change, all former derelict buildingsAround the corner from The Main Change is his Main Street Life, a six-storey building consisting of flats, a lifestyle hotel, several restaurants, and The Bioscope, a trendy venue for indie movie goers. The precinct caters for the growing body of artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, actors, directors, printmakers and others who find this is where they want to work and chill with others of the same persuasion.

Main Street Life, on the corner of Fox and Maritzburg streets, opened in February 2010, eight months or so after Arts on Main hit the streets.

“By the end of March there will be eight restaurants here,” says Liebmann. He plans to devote the entire ground-floor block of Kruger Street to retail space, offering furniture, fashion and food. A barber around the corner will add an old world charm.

Restaurants include Uncle Merv’s, which dishes out daily smoothies and coffees. Sharp Braai is a corner stand, and like Uncle Merv’s, folds out of the wall with a metal counter top and stools produced from the interior of the kitchen, barely the size of a single garage. Little Addis will serve up Ethiopian cuisine, while Eat Your Heart Out will be a Mediterranean deli. The Living Room will be a health restaurant and nursery.

Cocoon will offer classes in yoga and meditation, with a chance to stock up on herbs and plants in an attached nursery.

Latest conversions
Liebmann’s latest building conversions are The Main Change, Revolution House and Fox Street Studios.

Besides The Open, the other four floors of The Main Change has office spaces of various sizes, most of which have already been taken.

Across the road in Revolution House large, luxury flats are being finalised, and the precinct’s first film and sound studios will open in the building by mid-year.

“We sold 85 percent of the apartments off plan,” explains Liebmann.

The basement of the building was originally planned as a skateboard park for the youngsters of the area but it has been reserved for parking for residents, with the skaters having to make do with pavement half-moon skate ramps. The basement is called the Black Box, and is also a party venue.

Fox Street Studios is the four-storey building on the corner of Kruger and Fox streets. It is being converted into three flats-cum-offices. Attractive steel and wood balconies have been installed on the Fox Street facade. Daffonchio & Associates Architects, the architects involved in the conversions, have taken the top floor of the building, where they have been happily installed for the past two months.

Main Street Life
The pub on the roof deck of Main Street Life is to be enclosed and a supper club will be created in the space, says Hayleigh Evans, the communications manager and event co-ordinator for Propertuity, the company name of Liebmann’s Maboneng Precinct adventures. A boxing gym, which offers classes three times a week, will remain on the rooftop.

Evans says that plans are afoot to create a Maboneng membership card, offering residents, workers and others special deals in the precinct.

Other long-term plans on the drawing board are a five-storey parkade called Off the Grid, in Main Street. Liebmann hopes to get a lease for several blocks of Fox Street, which he will then make more user-friendly with guards directing traffic.

He also has plans for a large event space called the Museum of African Design. An exhibition by Marcus Neustetter and Stephen Hobbs is to open in the space in mid-March.

Not one to think small, Liebmann is planning to build himself a house on the top of Fox Street Studios. He has lived for the past few years in a flat in Main Street Life.

Only the sky is the limit for him.

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