Johannesburg Development Agency: Augmenting transformation on a grand scale

Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, encompassing 2,000 kilometres and home to over 4.4 million people. It is a city with historical highs and lows economically; one which has moved away from traditional industries such as mining, into an era of service industry and high value manufacturing.

The socio-economic challenges are intensified by migration and between 2001 and 2011 the city population increased by 37 per cent, with general income more than doubling during the same period.

Helping to nurture economic growth and development is the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA).

JDA was established in April 2001 to revive economic activity throughout the city. The organisation’s website describes its role as thus: “The JDA initiates and supports area-based economic development initiatives throughout the Johannesburg metropolitan municipality in support of the City’s Growth and Development Strategy, Joburg 2040 (GDS).”

The JDA has set out a number of initiatives and aims to:

Restructure the city by developing defined, strategic geographic areas around the city and the movement corridors that link them; promote economic growth by creating efficient and competitive business environments that cluster industries and functions in these areas; turn around declining investment trends in these areas by upgrading public spaces, generating shared visions for future development, and encouraging urban management partnerships; develop local economic potential in marginalised areas to promote access to jobs and markets; encourage sustainable energy consumption and land use in the city by developing strategic transit nodes and corridors; promote economic empowerment through the structuring and procurement of the JDA developments; support productive development partnerships and co-operation between all stakeholders in these areas.

“The agency acts as a catalyst for area-based regeneration as well as development of new nodes, investing in infrastructure and urban environment upgrades to encourage private sector investment.

“It also works on regenerating areas of the city that are either in decay or declining, in order to enhance their ability to contribute to the development of the city and the quality of life of its residents,” the JDA website describes.

But where does JDA investment go?

According to the website, in its first 12 years, JDA implemented capital projects to the value of R7.8 billion over 12 years up to June 2013. R3.1 billion (40 per cent) was funded by the City of Johannesburg and R4.7 billion was funded through intergovernmental grants for transport, neighbourhood development , 2010 projects, and urban settlement development.

For every R1 million invested by the JDA, private investors have put R18 million into the inner city of Johannesburg since 2001.

Since 2007/08, the JDA has created property assets valued at R0.6-billion and infrastructure assets valued at R3.1 billion, including the Fashion Kapitol, BRT routes and stations, Vilakazi Street, the Nasrec transit hub, the Bus Factory, the Metro Link building and Chancellor House.

The JDA has also allocated R0.8 billion on work in the inner city, including refurbishing 12 parks and five public squares.

The JDA plays an important role in the implementation of the City’s Growth and Development Strategy, as well as supporting the development of the City’s Corridors of Freedom.

As the City of Johannesburg’s development agency, the JDA manages and facilitates developments efficiently and innovatively to build an equitable, sustainable and resilient city.

The agency was set up to facilitate area-based developments that give effect to the strategic City development vision and objectives.

With the City of Johannesburg committed to new spatial plans in line with Joburg 2040, the Growth Development Strategy, based on transport-orientated development, the JDA’s involvement is an important component.

According to the JDA website: “The shape of the future city will consist of well-planned transport arteries – the Corridors of Freedom – linked to interchanges where the focus will be on mixed-use development.

“Joburgers will then not have to use private motorised transport but can opt for the alternative means, which include cycling, bus lanes and pedestrian walkways.

“The Corridors of Freedom will transform entrenched settlement patterns, which have shunted the majority of residents to the city’s outskirts, away from economic opportunities and access to jobs and growth.

“The Corridors of Freedom will usher a new era of access to opportunity and a choice for residents to work, stay and play within the same space, without the inconvenience and high costs of travelling long distances every day.

“The transit-orientated developments include the Bus Rapid Transit system, Rea Vaya, which will have fast, safe and affordable mobility along the corridors.

“Thus these corridors – the Corridors of Freedom – will give residents increased freedom of movement as well as economic freedom – liberating them from apartheid spatial legacy characterised by informal settlements, poor schooling and limited recreational spaces.

“The new city skyline will see high-rise residential developments growing around the transit nodes, gradually decreasing in height and density as they move further away from the core. Social infrastructure, schools, clinics, police stations and government offices will be strategically located to support the growing population.

“Through the Corridors of Freedom Johannesburg will make a decisive turn towards a low-carbon future with eco-efficient infrastructure that underpins a sustainable environment.”

Work to turn this ambitious vision into reality is already underway.

To achieve its objectives the JDA has structured its operations into four substantive programmes within the Sustainable Services Cluster, and two operational programmes that give effect to the cross-cutting functions that enable the JDA to work in an efficient and effective way.

The substantive programmes are:

  1. i) The greenwaysprogramme that focuses on providing resilient, liveable and sustainable environments within the City by using roads, rivers and transport modes to promote walking, cycling, and sustainable public transport. This programme includes the continued roll-out of the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system infrastructure and service.ii) A transit oriented nodedevelopment programme that encourages optimal development of transit hubs and corridors across the city, which provide access to affordable  accommodation and transport, high quality public spaces and amenities, and good community services.iii) A programme on priority area planning and implementation that shifts the design of the city – including elements like streets, buildings and spaces of work and play – to improve liveability and create sustainable human settlements.

    iv) An inner city regeneration programme that continues the strategic inner city upgrading focus for the JDA. Within this programme there are elements of transit oriented node and corridor development. Precinct developments are designed to respond to local conditions, needs and advantages, and to achieve economic, social and sustainable development outcomes.

The two operational programmes relate to strengthening the way in which the JDA works and the extension of the JDA’s mandate as a result of the institutional review carried out by the City of Joburg. These are:

v) The administration and management programme that accommodates the CEO, Finance, Marketing and Communications, Risk and Compliance, Supply Chain Management, and IT.

vi) The development facilitation programme is a new programme which gives effect to the extended mandate of the JDA as the development facilitation agency for the City of Johannesburg. It includes Development Implementation, Project Development, Land Development and Urban Management Support.

In its first phase of operation – 2001 to 2006 – the JDA set itself the goal of creating an environment to attract new investment and increase occupancy levels in the inner city.

The second phase from 2006 to 2011 saw the agency focus on projects that were vital to the success of the country, and the City of Johannesburg, hosting the FIFA World Cup™ in 2010.

The JDA established integrated sport precincts in Nasrec and Ellis Park, creating dedicated bus ways and bus stations for the BRT system, as well as developing priority (historically marginalised) areas such as Orlando West, Orange Farm and Diepsloot.

Now in its third developmental phase, the JDA continues to play an important role in the implementation of Joburg 2040, as well as supporting the development of the City’s ‘Corridors of Freedom’.

The past few months has seen a continuation of this progress and in September 2016 a group of tour operators got a close-up take of some of the JDA’s latest development work in Turffontein, Westbury and Alexandra recently, and were impressed with the tourism potential of what they saw.

Representatives from Mozee Tours & Transport and Yarine GT attended the outing, which was the latest in a series of guided tours organised by the JDA to encourage tour operators to take advantage of potential new tourism attractions that the JDA’s development work is opening up around Johannesburg.

The tour’s first stop was at Rotunda Park in Turffontein, one of the largest and oldest parks in the city. The implementation of the Rotunda Park Precinct Project has seen the park undergo an extraordinary transformation.

It now boasts a new skateboard court, an astro-turf mini soccer field, revamped netball and tennis courts, a state-of-the-art children’s play area complete with rubberised surfaces, a fitness track and picnic shelters.

The outdoor gym area and gym equipment as well as the cycling space have been enlarged and modernised. New paving, upgraded and extended street lighting and newly installed street furniture have greatly improved the public environment.

“Parks positively contribute to communities in which they exist by serving as hubs of cohesion and inclusion. They foster social and cultural cohesion,” Moloto said.

“The upgrades also make these facilities appealing to visitors, effectively turning them into tourism attractions.”

The next stop was the landmark pedestrian bridge currently under construction in Westbury.

The new bridge will not only give residents safe passage over a busy main artery and connect them directly to Westbury’s BRT station – it will also feature a green open public space complete with an amphitheatre, outdoor gym and play area for children.

It is being built over Fuel Road in close proximity to Rea Vaya’s Westbury station, and will connect Kretzschmar Street in Westbury with Kowie Street in neighbouring Coronationville.

“The live performance, concerts and arts that will take place at this amphitheatre have the potential to be a great attraction for tourists,” she said, adding: “Its proximity to the Rea Vaya station will also make it a safe and easy destination for tourists,” Moloto commented.

The final stop of the tour was the nearly completed Alexandra Heritage Centre, which is poised to catalyse the development of untapped tourism potential in Johannesburg’s oldest township.

With its striking architectural design and versatile levels built to accommodate a museum, an interactive exhibition venue, spaces for community events and small business training, and shops for local crafters and traders, the centre seeks to reflect the rich history of Alexandra while feeding off its unique energy.

The Alexandra Heritage Centre will also be closely associated with the Mandela Yard, which is situated diagonally opposite across the intersection of 7th Avenue and Richard Baloyi Street.

“This centre will be highly insightful for tourists to learn about Joburg’s oldest township and to ensure that the human stories of Alexandra are told,” Moloto said.

In February of this year JDA and the City of Johannesburg reaffirmed to the public that the construction of the Grayston Pedestrian Bridge, in particular the section over the M1 would be proceeding.

The project is part of the Rea Vaya BRT Phase 1C connecting Alexandra, Sandton and Randburg to the Johannesburg CBD.

The main objective of the Rea Vaya BRT Project is the promotion of pedestrian mobility and connectivity by improving and promoting the use of Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) and implementing the requisite infrastructure.

A part of the Rea Vaya BRT Project was the improvement of commuter mobility between Alexandra, Sandton and Randburg to the Johannesburg CBD (known as “Phase 1C”).  In August 2013, the Johannesburg Development Agency (“JDA”) commissioned a study to establish the feasibility of designing and implementing a safe pedestrian crossing over the Grayston M1 Interchange.

The results of the study indicated that over 10 000 (ten thousand) pedestrians travelled between Alexandra and Sandton across the Grayston M1 Interchange on a daily basis.  Based on these findings, the construction of a separate pedestrian bridge (with lanes for pedestrians and cyclists), parallel to the Grayston M1 Interchange, was approved.

In May, JDA announced that the refurbishment and extension of the Thoko Mngoma Clinic in Marlboro, just outside Alexandra in the City of Johannesburg’s Region E, was nearing completion.

Despite several major setbacks, work on the R18.9 mmillion project is on track to be completed by (at the time of writing) the end of July 2017.

The revamp of the existing clinic and the construction of a new wing to accommodate additional consulting rooms as well as the development of medical waste disposal areas, a basement parking lot and a reception area, commenced in March 2016.

“Work has progressed rapidly since the appointment of the new contractor,” said JDA’s Executive Manager: Development Implementation, Siyabonga Genu.
“Local labourers and SMMEs are benefiting from the construction. They are also gaining skills and experience that they will use in future.”

There is still a multitude of work to undertake if Johannesburg is to attain its goals by 2040. With the help of the JDA, the city is on track for transformation on a grand scale.