News / Africa

Developers, Homeowners Revitalize Johannesburg

FILE - General view of buildings in the Central Business District of Johannesburg, March 3, 2010.
FILE - General view of buildings in the Central Business District of Johannesburg, March 3, 2010.
TEXT SIZE - +
— Just off of Anderson Street, a main connector in downtown Johannesburg, Dirk Bahmann heads through the lobby and into the elevator, up to the fourth floor.
 
At the end of the hallway, he opens a door and enters a work and living space that's become a personal design and construction project since he bought the apartment six years ago.
 
An architect and artist who grew up in the suburbs north of Johannesburg, Bahmann says urban living gave him more of a connection to a community.
 
"Johannesburg, and especially South Africa, is kind of very disconnected," he said. "It's very isolated and insular and I wanted to get out of that. For me, living in the city was a means to kind of connect with people in an everyday, ordinary way without it having to be pretentious, and that you feel part and belong to something."
 
A decade ago, most of downtown Johannesburg's Central Business District, or CBD, was a no-go area, where buildings like Bahmann's were hijacked by criminals and gangs, and city services were nearly non-existent. But over the last few years, the dynamic has begun to shift. Developers have retaken ownership of many buildings, crime has dropped and the area has started to entice middle- and upper-class home buyers.
 
For Bahmann, who designed and built his own modern apartment — a space-conscious home and office that uses movable furniture to maximize utility — living in the area has one major drawback.
 
"The only thing I miss is getting a full night's sleep," he said. "I'm very sensitive to noise, so I always wake up when someone is walking down the road and shouting, or people who hoot when they want to get into the garage."
 
Other than that, he says, the area provides an ease of living. He can grab groceries, dine at restaurants and get all his art materials within minutes from his doorstep.
 
Brixton
 
Just outside downtown is Johannesburg's Brixton neighborhood, a place of low-slung, small houses. While its streets are a bit dangerous, with homeless people often sleeping on stoops and under building awnings, architect Thomas Chapman sees something else.
 
"That's why we're choosing to act here, because I don't think it's been fully realized, the potential here for what we call loft living or apartment living," he said, touting what he describes as the area’s great potential for increased population density and development.
 
After buying a home in Brixton, Chapman his partners at Local Studio are working on a building with eight apartment units, a coffee shop and a new office space for their own outfit.
 
While developers are leading CBD revitalization, the city, Chapman says, has attracted their interest by cutting violent crime, encouraging development along city corridors and investing in urban basics such as pavement.
 
"The truth is that management has gotten better and crime has gotten less," he said. "I strongly think it's an urban management issue, and the city has made strides."
 
Still, developers are shouldering many infrastructure issues privately. Chapman pointed to the successful development of Maboneng, where the developers hire full-time security guards, and have put money into street lighting and waste management.
 
Chapman says his development will likely need some of those same investments, which do eventually pay off.
 
Still, he says there is great opportunity for Johannesburg's urban neighborhoods to grow, and for the typical suburban living to be challenged.
 
"As an urban designer, I'm incredibly excited about questioning these sorts of suburban topologies. I think that's where the future is.”

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid