Johannesburg Development Agency: Nurturing change for the better

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,” states Phindile Chauke, Mayoral Communications for the City of Johannesburg.

johanessburg-tower“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 JDA has structured its operations into 5 substantive programme Service clusters.

The first of these is an inner city transformation programme that continues the ongoing strategic inner city upgrading focus which has transformed the heart of the city. 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.

JDA has also augmented a station precinct development programme, that encourages optimal development of transit hubs and corridors across the city, which in turn provide access to affordable accommodation and transport, high quality public spaces and amenities, and good community services.

There is also 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.

The JDA’s greenways programme 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 BRT infrastructure and service.

The fifth initiative is the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP) which is established to coordinate intergovernmental activities to develop Alex. Most of the work involves human settlement development projects such as hostel upgrading, housing development and the construction of community facilities. The ARP will also play a key role in promoting participative development practices as the Rea Vaya BRT service is extended to this community and as new public environment upgrading and non-motorised transit infrastructure projects are implemented in 2014/15.

The objective of each of these programmes is to assist in the restructuring of space economy, to provide poor households with 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.

Of course in such a sizeable city, there are many demands on resources and JDA has to prioritize, as Chauke explains:

“Contracting strategies are developed in line with the City, CoJ client department budgets and IDP considerations, together with a clear business planning process, cluster engagements with relevant CoJ development clusters and general alignment with CoJ Development Planning whom JDA reports to.”

Chauke says that the flagship project to date for the JDA has been the Nancefield Station precinct, a significant development:

“The Nancefield Station Precinct is a flagship Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project, which the City wishes to implement over the medium-term. It is one of the projects identified in the Cluster Business Plan as part of the TOD sub-programme, with the aim of creating “a restructured space economy that gives poor households better access to well-located accommodation, jobs and markets; Optimised land use and energy consumption; and Improved living standards and mobility for large numbers of people in well serviced and managed transit neighbourhoods.””

“The development concept for the precinct was approved by Council in July 2010, which identifies the area as highly suitable for high density residential accommodation that complements the public transport facilities in the area. The vision is for a transformed area; with the vacant and underutilized land parcels developed with higher density housing typologies and supporting social facilities; development opportunities that will be able to attract private sector investment, including business development; the emphasis on transit oriented development with Nancefield Station as a focal point and a safe, walkable environment is critical.

“The medium term implementation will focus on bulk and connector services installation and street upgrades. The implementation will focus on completing the public environment upgrade along Tsolo Road; implementing some road upgrades and new roads within the precinct; construction of community facilities; installation of bulk infrastructure i.e. storm water, sewer, water and electrical infrastructure in order to support the public and private developments within the precinct.

“In 2014/15 R60 million will be spent on the completion of road upgrades and installing bulk services and stormwater infrastructure.”

Another big focus for JDA is the development of entrepreneurs: “The JDA takes the empowering of SMMEs seriously and sets SMME expenditure at 25 per cent of construction budgets, affirms Chauke. “In addition, a further target of 5 per cent of all capex budgets is set for the [email protected] programme. Further to this, the development/skilling of SMMEs is undertaken through the JDA’s EDP.”

The JDA’s Enterprise Development Programme is made up of various components providing training and workshops, in addition to an Emerging Contractor incubator project that provides at least 5 days of advice, coaching and mentorship per year for selected SMMEs.

JDA is making a significant difference and is helping to create opportunity for Johannesburg’s population.

Chauke remains optimistic for the future: “The JDA is informed by the sustainable city strategic framework, with emphasis to be placed on transit-oriented area based development to make the city more efficient and accessible and less reliant on consumption-led economic growth.”