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Like many inner city regions, Joburg’s CBD has had its share of ups and downs; but it is now on a strong growth trajectory. A new book charts this progress.
OVER the years, Region F, which encompasses Joburg’s inner city, has seen the best and worst of times, from fast-growing mining town, to decaying buildings, over population and urban flight – and now back to strong regeneration efforts driven by the City.

 

Region F director Nathi MthethwaRegion F director Nathi MthethwaIn the past 15 years it has witnessed a rapid transformation. “Following the liberation of our country in 1994 and the introduction of democratic local governance the city is no longer associated with racial exclusivity and spatial planning designed to exclude the majority of our residents from a Johannesburg that rightfully belongs to all of us,” explained the member of the mayoral committee for development planning and urban management, Roslynn Greeff.
 

All this and more is captured in a book, A Changing City, which was launched by the region’s director, Nkosinathi Mthethwa, and Greeff on 18 March at the Joburg Theatre Complex. The book was edited by Mthethwa and Shaun O’Shea, the regional communications manager.

It gives a brief history of Johannesburg, and how it came into being, the role and importance of local government, the evolution of urban management, its demographics and the characteristics of the region.

“Johannesburg – the city that erupted off a bare savannah following the discovery of gold in 1886; the city whose pulse was kept alive by a common desire to create new opportunities and build a better life; whose early population multiplied over many decades, powering forward growth in all domains and shaping a modern metropolis that over four million people call home today,” it reads.

It also documents the region’s achievements over the past five years in dealing with various urban management challenges that plague the area.

“The story of the inner city is long and complex but we can acknowledge that it has undergone a radical transformation over the past 15 years,” Greeff said. “The inner city is a dynamic, albeit sometimes turbulent area with an intense mix of activities.”

Employment

The CBD Informal trading in the CBDWith over one million people living and working in the inner city, the region contributes 12 percent of the country’s employment, making it one of the major national economic generators. Contributors include informal traders, who trade in a variety of things such as fresh produce and food, clothing and hair braiding.
 

In recent years, there have been strong, focused regeneration efforts which have resulted in a number of mainstream companies bringing their businesses to the inner city. Among these are hotels – Reef Hotels Gold is on the corner of Harrison and Anderson streets, and Ashanti Hotel is in Marshalltown.

Reef Hotels Gold has 120 rooms – divided into standard rooms and deluxe suites – a food market, an inside bar and a roof top bar, providing a great view of the city. Each room has a television set, coffeemaker, telephone, safe, hairdryer and bathroom with shower; those in the deluxe suites have a spa bath and a shower.

The interior of the hotel has a warm and inviting feel, created by dim lighting and comfortable furniture.

There are 18-hour room service, laundry and dry cleaning services, luggage store room, fax, mail and photocopying facilities, as well as secretarial services on request. There are also a travel and information desk, ample parking space and a conference facility for up to 160 delegates. The building that is today Reef Hotels Gold was an office block in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Ashanti Hotel offers self-catering facilities as well as a modern restaurant, Darkie Café, which serves African fusion cuisine. The hotel is not far from Newtown, Joburg’s cultural hub, so guests can enjoy a variety of fine arts, crafts, history, theatre, music and food.

It has 29 fully furnished apartments with fully fitted kitchens, modern décor, spacious lounges, plasma TVs and satellite television, and en-suite bathrooms.

Business

BickfieldsBrickfields, one of the latest housing developments in the inner cityFormal businesses in the inner city include banking companies, fast food outlets, clothing stores and restaurants. Though the region has recorded a number of successes, it also has its challenges.
 

The congestion of vehicles and pedestrians creates a tense and chaotic environment, and informal taxi ranks on street corners are a safety hazard and interfere with the smooth flow of traffic.

A lively informal economy of street traders has developed around the main transport nodes. While this informal economy provides an essential livelihood to many people, unless it is appropriately managed, it results in congestion, litter, grime and crime.

Other challenges are a shortage of parks, playgrounds and open spaces; existing public spaces are over-used. There are social problems, including drug and alcohol abuse and prostitution. Homelessness is an issue, as temporary residents struggle to make ends meet.

Just 500 copies of the book have been printed, and have been distributed to other major cities such as Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Copies have also been given to the City’s executive directors, members of the mayoral committee and ward councillors.

Once more copies of the book have been printed, they will be widely available and found in the City’s libraries.

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