“Maboneng is the evolving result of a vision toward a shared urban future, through the metamorphosis of the city’s existing space economy”, claims Propertuity, the developer behind this Johannesburg inner city regeneration project. The precinct, located on the eastern fringe of the inner city, is the product of a collaborative process between the developer, urban designers, architects and urban strategists and based on critical aspects of urban development such as mobility, upgrading of streets and socio-spatial integration and includes key projects such as urban parks, lighting installations and landmark architectural structures all of which, it is hoped, will be part of an inclusive, innovative neighbourhood, promoting shared urban environments and collaborative spaces.

Until the early 1990s, Johannesburg was “a flourishing metropolis with a pumping, capitalist economy,” writes landscape architect and ambassador of inner city regeneration, Gerald Garner, who has chronicled a decade of the city’s regeneration efforts in his book Johannesburg: Ten Ahead. At around this time, rapid change came to the city. The exodus of its traditional commercial and residential population coincided with the barriers of the apartheid system beginning to fall away and the inner city experienced an influx of residents who had previously been denied access to centrally-located housing.

With the city council overwhelmed by the influx and unable to enforce its own bylaws, building hijackings, the emergence of slumlords, large-scale overcrowding, non-payment for services, service delivery collapse and infrastructural neglect became the order of the day. “The first democratically-elected local government established in the mid-1990s inherited a failed city,” writes Gardner.

In a relatively short time frame, however, the inner city of has managed to alter this downward trajectory, boasting numerous urban planning successes, of which Maboneng is but one. “This has been a story of ten years of hard slog which now seems to have reached a tipping point,” says Sharon Lewis, Executive Manager: Planning and Strategy at the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA).

Maboneng was undertaken primarily with private funding with some funding from the JDA for the refurbishment of public spaces. It conforms to the broader inner city regeneration framework of the JDA, adopting many of the principles used in the development of other urban regeneration precincts such as the Newtown Cultural Precinct, Braamfontein Educational Precinct and Ellis Park Sports Precinct. “As with these precincts, the regeneration efforts are clustered around a theme, in this instance art and culture, which affords it a node to which various activities can coalesce,” explains Lewis.

The precinct consists of 33 buildings, of which eight have already been developed. The introduction of eco-technologies is a top priority for the developers, but “the emphasis is not just on green architecture, but rather a green architecture within a sustainable urban framework,” says Alice Cabaret, Urban Strategist for Maboneng at Propertuity. The recycling of previous industrial spaces is an important aspect of Maboneng’s green credentials and although the precinct does not yet boast an impressive laundry list of green technology features, “discussions with stakeholders and green design experts centering on water, waste and energy, are well advanced.”





* The full article appears in the June – July 2013 issue.  Images: Elske Kritzinger (www.elskegallery.co.za)