Johannesburg Development Agency: Finessing the art of re-generation

Reform and transformation have become absolute pillars of the South African Government’s aims to achieve socio-economic prosperity across the country. Those ambitions are keenly felt in the mass of urban life within Johannesburg.

Helping to bridge skills gaps, generate an entrepreneurial spirit and economic hope is the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA).

“The JDA manages and facilitates area-based developments in efficient and innovative ways to build an equitable, sustainable and resilient city,” Phindile Chauke, Mayoral Communications for the City of Johannesburg, told us in 2014.

shutterstock_133494506“The medium-term objectives of the JDA are to: restructure the city by developing defined, strategic geographic areas around the city and the movement corridors that link them; to promote economic growth by creating efficient and competitive business environments that cluster industries and functions in these areas; to turn around declining investment trends in these areas by upgrading public space, generating shared visions for future development, and encouraging urban management partnerships.

“In addition to these goals, JDA aims to: 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 JDA developments and support productive development partnerships and co-operation between all stakeholders in these areas.”

The corporate website defines JDA as thus:

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

“To achieve its objectives the JDA has structured its operations into 4 substantive programmes within the Sustainable Services Cluster, and 2 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:


i) The greenways programme 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 node development 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.

shutterstock_219544567“All of these programmes are intended to restructure the space economy to give poor households better access to well-located accommodation, jobs and markets; optimise land use and energy consumption; and improve living standards and mobility for large numbers of people in well serviced and managed transit neighbourhoods.

“They link back to 3 of the master programmes outlined in the City’s Growth and Development Strategy, Joburg 2040: enabling resilience, inclusion and sustainability; enabling growth and job creation; and going green.

“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 Johannesburg. 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 October 2015, details came through regarding the City of Johannesburg’s Corridors of Freedom initiative, set to reshape the city for eco-mobility, according to Transport MMC Christine Walters.

The MMC and Yondela Silimela, Executive Director for Development Planning at the City of Johannesburg, were delivering a presentation on the Corridors programme during a session of the Dialogues, which form part of the 2015 EcoMobility World Festival, which was hosted in Johannesburg.

Titled “Reshaping Cities for EcoMobility”, and led by experts from South Africa, Uganda, Brazil, Britain and the United States, the session looked at the challenges that African cities face in incorporating eco-mobility into their urban planning and development strategies.

MMC Walters provided a contextual overview of the legacy of apartheid planning, which saw the majority of Johannesburg residents shunted to the city’s outskirts, far from access to services, jobs, training and growth opportunities.

The City is working to overturn this legacy by laying down well-planned transport arteries – the Corridors of Freedom – linking mixed-use development nodes characterised by high-density accommodation supported by office buildings, retail development and opportunities for leisure and recreation.

“One of the comments we received during a public participation process was the issue of our current infrastructure being unable to carry high-density accommodation. That is why we are deliberately upgrading the infrastructure ahead of demand,” Silimela said.

The City, with the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) at the helm, has already spent billions of rands on establishing the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system that will form the backbone of the new Corridors, along with non-motorised and other public transport infrastructure.

And billions more will be spent on expanding this infrastructure over the next 3 years. In his State of the City address in May, Executive Mayor Parks Tau said the Corridors programme was the City’s “next area of acceleration”, noting that the planning and budgeting frameworks for the first three Corridors had been finalised and approved.

Silimela said the whole process had to be planned and managed very carefully in order to get the timing “just right, so that we don’t find we went down the wrong route once we reach our goal for the Corridors of Freedom”.

October also saw evidence of the success of Johannesburg’s inner city regeneration drive, spearheaded by the Johannesburg Development Agency, as the Gauteng Opera – formerly The Black Tie Ensemble, proclaimed its relocation from Pretoria to Ferreirasdorp earlier this year a huge success.

Chief Operating Officer Arnold Cloete told JDA that they don’t regret their decision, having decided to relocate after realising that they were doing more and more work in Johannesburg following a decline in demand for and sponsorship of opera in Pretoria.

“We discovered that the arts industry was more alive in Johannesburg, and we believe a lot more will be happening in the future.”

After searching for many months, they finally found a disused, dilapidated building in Ferreirasdorp, saw the potential of the premises and the location, and conducted renovations before moving in.

Their new location places them within easy reach of the arts and cultural precinct of Newtown, home of the Market Theatre, as well as the Wits Theatre and Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein and the Linder Auditorium in Parktown.

“The only problem we face is finding transport for our artists in the evening after they finish rehearsals.”

Cloete said Gauteng Opera was upbeat on the future of the creative and performing arts in Johannesburg. “We look forward to the future and being part of the growth taking place in the inner city,” he said.

Between 2007 and 2012, under the Inner City Charter, the City spent almost R2-billion on greening public spaces, upgrading derelict buildings, developing the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system, upgrading housing and other infrastructure, and making the inner city more eco-friendly.

The recently launched Inner City Roadmap takes this process further, building on the successes that have been achieved through partnerships and precinct-level planning to provide a holistic, area-based approach to creating an inner city that is well-governed, clean and safe, sustainable, productive and inclusive.

The JDA, whose involvement has been key to the successes achieved so far in the inner city, will act as development facilitator for the Roadmap, implementing both capital projects initiated by the City and collaborative projects with the private sector.