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Aug 06, 2004

R1,9bn of R2,8bn budget spent

© Reuse this It will take an estimated three years and billions of rands to give the inner city of Johannesburg a much-needed and well-deserved facelift. This will be done through the inner-city plan spearheaded by the city of Johannesburg. The estimated cost is R2,8-billion – R1,9-billion has been allocated. For the 2004/5 municipal financial year, almost R500-million in capital and operating expenditure has already been approved, inner city regional director Yakoob Makda tells Engineering News. The money will be spent on more than 60 programmes aimed at not only rejuvenating the city but also at bringing business back to the city. There are already several projects that are up and running and making a significant contribution towards the regeneration of the inner city, which falls under region eight. Makda says that an inner-city regeneration-strategy business plan has been approved and covers a period of three municipal financial years, from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2007, with an annual review in May of each year.

All the city’s agencies are involved in the regeneration of the inner city, including Blue IQ and provincial departments. These agencies will play the role of implementing and maintaining various programmes and activities. The agencies will also ensure the sustainability of the projects with committed finance and human resources. The inner city already contributes more than 23% of the city’s revenue and, through this programme, the city plans to promote the development of Johannesburg as a world-class African city, Makda says. He notes that this can be achieved by maintaining and enhancing the economic potential of the inner city and by improving the social con-ditions, increasing the intensity of urban management and redressing short- falls in service delivery and physical infrastructure.

Although the response to the programme has been generally positive, Makda says that it has been met with cautious enthusiasm from certain sectors of the community.

Makda informs Engineering News that it is important to develop the inner city, as it will also develop Johannesburg into a world-class African city. The inner city also contributes to the economic well-being of Johannesburg as a whole and is a leading concern as reflected in Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo’s selection of inner-city regeneration as a mayoral priority for his current term of office.

The programme will focus on the whole of the inner city including the central business district, Braamfontein, Yeoville, Bertrams, Troyeville, Jeppes-town, Berea, Hillbrow, City Deep, Newtown, Fordsburg, Pageview and Vrededorp.

Several office buildings are also earmarked for conversion to residential units. The council approved a better-buildings framework, and eight contracts have already been signed with several developers within four months. These contracts are expected to provide more than 1 000 housing units. Further, private-sector investment in the inner city residential accommodation market has taken off and will provide a further 2 000 units. The flatlands of Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville are being improved and renovated at an impressive rate, adds Makda. People who reside in these existing office buildings are normally informed of the availability of alternative accommodation in advance of any court orders being executed by the sheriff of the court, says Makda. Although this plan is a positive move for Johannesburg, there are bound to be challenges. These challenges include resistance from slum landlords, the availability of sufficient funding and slow legal processes.

Makda says that such challenges can also have an effect on the rate of service delivery and regeneration.

Moreover, prevalent social problems and the deterioration of the inner city could hinder the plan but, to ensure that this does not happen, and to tackle these problems a five-pillar strategy has been established. This strategy aims to address ‘sinkholes’, undertake intensive urban management, maintain and upgrade infrastructure, promote ‘ripple-pond’ investments and support economic sectors. Also part of the programme is the clampdown on illegal businesses, to ensure that law and order prevails. The plan also aims to raise and sustain private investment, leading to a steady rise in property values. One of the programmes in the inner-city plan is focused on identifying the needs of the business sector in the inner city and another concentrates on investor intelligence and packaging. “The ‘new gold rush’ has started in Johannesburg and all indications are that it’s heading for another boom,” says Makda. Makda concludes by saying that businesses should get involved in the regeneration of the city because it makes ‘business sense’ and investment returns could be substantial.

The inner city is home to thousands of people, and an estimated 800 000 commuters pass through its transport hub each day. It is also home to some of the country’s largest corporations as well as local and provincial governments.
Edited by: ongezwa manyathi
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