Massive property development taking shape in Joburg's Newtown
The big hole being dug in Newtown, and which has raised the curiosity of many motorists using the M1, is the start of a R1.2 billion retail and office development, incorporating some of Joburg's most historic buildings.
Newtown Junction takes shape, at the back of the Market Theatre and Museum Africa.
This massive project, which is coinciding with the revamp and extension of the Market Theatre precinct, is set to change the face of the inner city as it is expected to draw in an additional 5 000 people and 2 500 cars to the central business district.
The hole which is being dug for the underground parking is the biggest one dug in the inner city since the construction of the Carlton Centre.
The new retail and commercial development, to be known as Newtown Junction, totals about 30 000m - the size of the Killarney Mall - and is under construction around, among other heritage buildings, the historic potato sheds site.
The new centre will be linked to the upgraded theatre precinct, so that theatregoers will be able to walk over the railways lines, on refurbished original pedestrian bridges, to dine and shop after shows.
Two major retailers, Pick n Pay and Shoprite, will be taking up space, as well as many fashion boutiques and restaurants. Nedbank will establish offices there as well.
An artist's impression of the new development
Architect Jeremy Rose, of Mashabane Rose Architects, working in collaboration with DHK Architects and LPA, said: "Newtown has the crown jewels of Joburg with its history and old buildings, many of which have been sadly neglected.
"Through this new development, we want to combine the old with the new, but (while) still holding on to the city's memories.
"The new buildings will be adding to the progress of the city. These historic sites are lying vacant and disused, and our history is going to be lost forever if something is not done," he said.
A major heritage study was conducted, and all the necessary permits have been obtained.
The old potato sheds will form the core of the new shopping centre and will be enclosed in glass boxes so that the original structure and trusses, which date back to the Victorian era, can be preserved.
"There will be an enormous impact on the city and bring life back, especially on weekends. We expect many shoppers will come from the Braamfontein area to shop here," Rose said.
"There are several residential developments going up around Newtown, including the conversion of the old grain silos into student accommodation."
Rose added that all the historical aspects would not only be preserved, but highlighted and shown with strategic lighting to maintain the sense of history.
Christine McDonald, of the Market Theatre, said the theatre itself was being refurbished with new seating, giving more leg room.
The balcony is being extended, the foyer will be improved and the toilet facilities upgraded.
The Department of Arts and Culture will be funding this at a cost of R12 million.
The theatre will be reopened in August.
Kippies will be used as a comedy club. The New Laager Theatre is also being revamped.
In addition, buildings on the eastern side of Mary Fitzgerald Square are being taken over by the theatre and will be converted into development theatre rooms, laboratories, training and rehearsal rooms, a library, gallery and warehouses for props.
The development site occupies a city block which is bounded by Bree Street in the north, Miriam Makeba Street in the east, Jeppe Street in the south and Margaret Mcingana Street in the west.
In a report, heritage consultant Herbert Prins said "the neglect of a site (Newtown) that, for many years, has been without productive use must have a detrimental effect - economic and social - on the area, and when the surrounding buildings are heritage resources, the impact is even greater.
"What is favourable about this development is the benefits it holds for the heritage resources of Newtown."
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