Defeating the Monster of Urban Decay in Johannesburg

By 2000 the last psychological blow fell. One could argue that most businesses that were going to leave inner city Joburg had left by the mid 1990s. But when the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange) picked up its skirts and strutted off to glitzy Sandton that was the symbolic blow that brought home the reality that the Joburg inner city was defeated. Something else had risen up in the inner-city, a monster fuelled by crime, public filth, building vacancy, taxi violence, car hijacking, municipal mismanagement and maladministration. A visionlessness and hopelessness pervaded the city. It would take more than one heroic blow to bring down such a monster. So what was once the commercial hub of Southern Africa, reaching its pinnacle, in the 1980s, the inner-city was hit by the flight of business to the northern suburbs.

Ownership

Ownership has been among the blows to send the inner-city decay ‘monster’ into decline. By the time the JSE left, the mining houses and three banks (FNB, Standard and ABSA) had already resolved to stay and rejuvenate the city, this is where ownership really took root. The Johannesburg Development Agency would be another blow to the doom and gloom providing initiative and vision. Throw in Business Against Crime and other civil initiatives and people began to believe.

By the time the Better Buildings Programme began the ownership was tangible. Alas BBP, an attempt by the city to take bad buildings and turn them into better buildings only achieved moderate success. The process proved laborious, taking as long as two years to get one building through litigation and judgment. Former Mayor Amos Masondo said: “It (the BBP) was hamstrung by factors such as the lengthy expropriation process, the screening of participants and the requirements to provide transitional housing to people who have been evicted,”. He said the BBP had been only moderately successful because of the lengthy expropriation process. Private Label CBD Vegan Gummies

Now transitional housing, BBP’s biggest stumbling block, will be provided to current residents of buildings that will be refurbished by the specially formed Transitional Housing Trust (THT) which will manage the process.

The BBP has evolved into the Inner City Property Scheme (ICPS). In April this year Amos Masondo announced a new, arguably improved, scheme to deal with one of urban decay’s biggest symptoms: distressed buildings. The City of Johannesburg has thus created a restoration solution, though driven by the private sector. A large portion of the City’s property portfolio will be transferred to the ICPS through a series of structured sale transactions. Unfortunately during the BBP years, since 2004, out of 130 rejuvenation projects in the inner city only 2% have come from black economic empowerment (BEE) investors.

ICPS plans to put this right. Again ownership is the dynamic since the ICPS plans to empower historically disadvantaged people by creating the biggest black owned inner-city property scheme in South Africa. The City retains ownership of properties until it is satisfied with the regeneration of those properties. Participants in the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) transactions were selected through a Request for Proposal process, and are required to provide a minimum equity contribution of R 5 million. The city would ensure that the option to buy was exercised only once the dilapidated property had been refurbished. Watch this space.

Residential Real Estate Restoration

Another blow to the monster has been on the residential front. In a R41 million finance deal, Nedbank has backed the redevelopment of the existing nine-storey building at 16 Frederick Street in Marshalltown into a modern residential apartment building! Last year Nedbank provided finance for the R100 million redevelopment of an office building situated at 29 Kerk Street for sale to Diluculo Investments on completion of the refurbishment. Although there have been swings and roundabouts. Urban Ocean founders Alfonso Botha and Duan Coetzee had very lofty plans in 2004 buying up old office buildings with the view to turning the inner city into a stylish space to work, reside and recreate. But by early 2008, some of Urban Ocean’s renewal efforts had stagnated, and upmarket housing diminished. But two years down the line in 2010 Aengus Property Management was administering more than 2000 trendy apartments in the city, many of these units were snapped up for the world cup last year. Most of APM’s buildings in the Braamfontein area are now being let out to young professionals working in the city and student tenants attending university at nearby campuses.

 

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