Joburg’s inner city now on the tourist map

The view from Randlords, Braamfontein

“If cities had profiles on a dating website, Joburg would be the one with the really great personality,” says Josef Talotta. “That’s opposed to Cape Town – the gorgeous blonde wearing a bikini”.

Talotta is the head of precinct development for South Point Properties in Braamfontein, one of the city’s thriving neighbourhoods. The company’s portfolio includes Hotel Lamunu, 5000 student accommodation units and Randlords, a spectacular party venue perched atop a 22-storey office block. It was Randlords that the Joburg City Tourism Association, an alliance of hotel owners, property developers and other key people who make the city’s social and cultural heart beat, chose for their recent launch, where plans were announced for creating a united front to market the inner city as a tourist destination.

Democracy was unkind to the inner city. Continue reading

Joburg walkabout – JDA announces Halala Awards nominations

Much like the kid in that movie Australia (although I could never claim to be that cute; and in my defence I watched it on a plane and it convinced me of the effects of altitude on cultivating one’s taste for schmaltzy movies) I too enjoy going walkabout. Never more so than in my own city. So Wednesday was a treat. A chance to walk across the inner city with the Johannesburg Development Agency team. The occasion was the opening of nominations for the 2012 Halala Awards.

City view from Main Street - West

The Awards are in their fifth year and they recognise the people and projects that are making the sometimes neglected, and often maligned inner city the place to be. Sharon Lewis, Executive Manager for Planning and Strategy, spoke about investment being a key driver in the realization of the vision of Joburg as a world-class city. She mentioned an impact study conducted that found “for every R1-million invested in the city by the city, the public sector responded with R19-million”. These are critical partnerships.

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Public Art in Joburg – the West Side Story Part 1

Taking a walk in Joburg’s inner-city city may just surprise you for all the right reasons… [The brilliant photos are by Wesley Poon]

Ask anyone who lives here to describe the city of Joburg and they rarely extol its beauty. Mostly they point out it’s a city without a sea and until the Nelson Mandela Bridge it was a city without any remarkable landmarks that aren’t communication towers or apartment blocks. And those are the polite remarks.

Over the past five years, it’s a little known fact that the city has installed an impressive and growing number of public artworks – at last count at more than 50 sites. In 2006 a strategy was put in place to use public art as a way of fulfilling a range of Joburg’s developing needs. It called for a public art levy, a common global practice, that would devote up to one percent of the construction budget on major city building projects to this end. This was implemented by the Johannesburg Development Agency at a time when the city has been undergoing something of a boom, and it will continue.

The unofficial public art in the city - District 9

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Inner-city revival

#118. Celebrate what’s good about this city. And there’s lots. On Thursday night I was at Constitution Hill’s Round House  toasting Joburg’s inner-city developments. The Halala Awards were started by the Johannesburg Development Agency last year to reward the brave who have ventured where most people fear to tread – town. Not only have they ventured, they have also put money into developing oases of calm in a city, that as Ruby Matang, a Johannesburg city councillor put it, “oscillates between decline and vibrancy”. Continue reading

The elusive metropolis that is Joburg

#85. Look for the city. I spent Tuesday night listening to William Kentridge and Nadine Gordimer talk about the “elusive metropolis” that is Johannesburg. SA’s best known contemporary artist and our Nobel-prizewinning author, both denizens of this city, appeared at Wiser (the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) to launch a collection of essays, research and thoughts on Johannesburg, co-edited by Sarah Nuttall and Achille Mbembe.

That this city seems to constantly slip out of one’s grasp was a persistent theme. It’s something I thought about on Saturday afternoon at the Zoo Lake as I watched a crowd of picnickers turn violent Continue reading