Development Vision of the City
The Chief Executive Officer of the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), Thanduxolo Mendrew says it is all about restructuring the space economy in order to bring about the ideals of liveability, resilience and sustainability as contained in the Joburg 2040 Strategy. Mendrew says that as a City Development Agency, the JDA is positioned to take on this role, focusing on development areas selected for their potential to satisfy strategic objectives.
“The key purpose of the JDA is to restructure the space economy by developing defined, strategic geographic areas around the city and the movement corridors that link them, promoting economic growth by creating efficient and competitive business environments as well as facilitating activities that promote and strengthen efficient land use as well as supporting productive development partnerships and co-operation amongst stakeholders,” says Mendrew.
The JDA focuses its development planning, management and facilitation efforts in three main areas. The first is the regeneration of key economic nodes such as the inner city of Johannesburg. Area based intervention in the inner city is providing a necessary platform for private sector investment and re-investment. “Where the JDA has invested, the level of private investment has increased markedly,” notes Mendrew.
Mendrew states that the development of Newtown into a Cultural Precinct has been a major success story for the City, which has led to the attraction of new businesses back to the inner city of Johannesburg. “A number of private developments are currently underway which include Newtown Junction by Atterbury Property, a R1.3 billion mixed-use development which will consist of retail and office space as well as a four-star hotel, and the Majestic which is a commercial development valued at R90 million.The Market Theatre itself is investing in property that will serve as the Market Foundation’s headquarters; and the Market’s Main and Laager theatres are also being refurbished. Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, a Gauteng province backed science and education centre is also expanding their investment in their property in Newtown,” he adds.
The developments taking place in Newtown are evident. As one drives through Newtown, there is a hive of construction happening all around the area and the inner city in general. Clearly, all the above investment activities are an indication of the level of confidence that both the private and the public sector have in the suitability of the area. These offerings will be an addition to the long-standing private sector parties that have chosen Newtown as the preferred home such as NUMSA, Anglo-Gold Ashanti, SAB Miller, Pick n Pay to name but a few. “Of course there are other elements that contribute towards attracting investments such as managing the urban environment through ‘city improvement districts’ which promote clean, safe and secure environments aimed at inadvertently raising the profile of the inner city and marketability of an area,” says Mendrew.
The other focus area is the development of selected nodes in previously marginalised areas to stimulate local economies, increase competitiveness, and broaden access to markets and jobs. “The city has also focused on development of areas such as the Vilakazi Street Precinct, in Soweto, with the vision of creating a thriving destination attraction, based on its struggle history, township heritage, vibrant spirit and distinctive sense of place,” he adds. The aim is to bring in visitors, tourists and learners country-wide, and create economic spin-offs and opportunities for local residents and enterprises. The Vilakazi Street Precinct is a living environment, and fully integrated into the surrounding residential neighbourhood. It responds to the promotion of a liveable area and is designed around people and how they interact with the space.
Transit Oriented Developments
In his State of the City address, the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Cllr. Mpho Parks Tau said that over the next decade the City will introduce transport corridors connecting strategic nodes through affordable and accessible mass public transit systems. Along these corridors mixed income housing, schools, offices, community facilities, cultural centres, parks, public squares, clinics and libraries will be developed. This brings to the fore the third key focus area which is about transit-oriented developments (TODs). It is the agency’s belief that the development of high-density movement corridors anchored by transit nodes to restructure the spatial economy of the city. This will promote efficient land use and transport energy consumption as well as improve living standards and mobility for large numbers of people in well serviced and managed transit neighbourhoods.
The Executive Mayor of Johannesburg has dubbed these high-density movement corridors - ‘Corridors of Freedom’. The Corridors of Freedom will help create safe neighbourhoods designed for cycling and walking with sufficient facilities and attractive street conditions; safe complete streets with features to calm traffic; control vehicle traffic speeds and discourage the use of private transport; mixed-use developments where residential areas, office parks, shops, schools and other public services are close together, stimulating economic activity and creating opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs. Mendrew explains that the mass transit systems are the backbone of restructuring of the space economy and ultimately creating a World Class African City of the future. He adds that TODs such as Nancefield Station in Soweto; Westgate and Park Station precincts in the inner city will be among the first TODs that will link the Corridors of Freedom.
Using the Westgate Precinct to elaborate on the principle of TODs Mendrew says much like Park Station and Nancefield the Westgate precinct is characterised by a multimodal public transport interchange located centrally within the precinct and it has some of the last open and developable land within the inner city. To encourage and facilitate the realisation of this potential, the City of Johannesburg (through the JDA) has invested in creating complete streets in the Westgate Station Precinct to improve pedestrian mobility and attract new investments that will deliver affordable high density housing, commercial and retail space.
Towards Being the Most Comprehensive Development Agency
The JDA is a City of Johannesburg owned entity. Its funding, in the main, is derived from the public sector through the National Government, the Province and the City which is the sole shareholder. Its objectives and business plans, at any given time, need to tie in neatly with the Integrated Development Programme (IDP) of the City and the guidelines of the GDS 2040.
Programmes that the JDA undertakes are for the City of Johannesburg but the conceptualisation, design and implementation rests solely on the JDA. “All our programmes talk to the city’s IDP and the Joburg GDS 2040. The JDA is the city’s agent to implement the city’s development objectives,” Mendrew says. While Mendrew is concerned with the day to day operations of the agency, the City fathers play a central role in guiding the JDA and propelling development. Cllr. Roslyn Greeff, MMC for Development Planning at the City of Johannesburg says her department and her role vis-à-vis the agency is to ensure oversight on vital elements that will make the City’s transformation come full circle. These are elements such as governance, stakeholder relations, projects implementation and effective performance monitoring and evaluation.
Doing ‘Business Unusual’
“The GDS 2040 is where stakeholders and communities’ ‘heart’s desires’ are met with an all-encompassing strategy whose delivery is the responsibility of the MMC and the City’s foremost implementing agency - the JDA,” declares Greeff. She adds that the onus is on the department to ensure that the vision moves from concept to spatial development frameworks and related matters, resource allocation, stakeholder engagement and management as well as the implementation programme.
The City of Johannesburg is indeed doing ‘business unusual’ - a paradigm shift necessary in ensuring transformation of the City towards sustainability. Greeff elaborates that public-private partnerships and intervention strategies will be accelerated. “A more focused and intensified stakeholder liaison, engagement and management drive is designed to obtain, remain in touch with, as well as partner and collaborate with stakeholders. These will be drawn from the private sector, communities and relevant segments as we advance on the road to sustainable growth and development,” she says.
Among other issues, the MMC shares that innovation and efficiency will be embraced and promoted. The aspect of creating a green economy will be explored where all hands are on deck working towards building a resilient, sustainable and liveable city that supports a low carbon economy. Investment opportunities and infrastructure development through strategic partnerships and advocating socio-economic growth will be fostered. “The City envisages a city that is spatially integrated while providing the infrastructure, services and social amenities needed for sustainable human settlement an environment in which people can live, work and play within shorter travel distances.”
Positioned For the Future
Getty Simelane, Chairperson of the JDA Board, says that a variety of entities are all working towards achieving the goals and vision of the City. To make this happen all parties need to be connected and working in tandem with one another. She notes that while stakeholder and financial management are critical, the onus is on the Board to ensure that the JDA is positioned in such a manner that the City’s objectives and goals are realised.
Simelane reveals that recently the agency’s mandate was expanded and this is evidence that JDA is being properly aligned to the City and the GDS 2040. “The agency is utilised by the City and its economic development entities who work in sync, such that we are in the lead of project planning and implementation,” she says. Simelane adds that such a situation has resulted in a more efficient agency and City where there is no duplication of duties thereby moving steadily towards sustainability.
While it has been a success story for the JDA, the challenge remains that the agency needs to facilitate a situation where all stakeholders are dancing to the same tune and steadily headway is being made. “This is an opportune time for the agency and the City of Johannesburg to create and cultivate those skills internally so that we become South Africa’s most comprehensive economic development agency, that talks to all elements of development,” concludes Mendrew.
Transforming Johannesburg's Spatial Economy
JDA is a city development agency of the City of Johannesburg that manages and facilitates developments in efficient and innovative ways to build an equitable, sustainable and resilient city.
Propelling Change Implementation
The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) is a major cog in the machinery of the City of Johannesburg’s Growth and Development Strategy 2040 (GDS 2040). Spatial regeneration and spatial development are at the core of the agency’s objectives for the fulfilment of the GDS 2040.
The vision of the Joburg 2040 Strategy states that, “Johannesburg will become a World Class African City of the Future - a vibrant, equitable African city, strengthened through its diversity; a city that provides real quality of life; a city that provides sustainability for all its citizens; a resilient and adaptive society.”
CASE IN POINT | JDA
by Andrew Ngozo