Opportunities in public land development uncovered


From empty land to developed centres, the City of Johannesburg is paving the way for public-private partnerships that uplift communities.

Through the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC), developing public land has been a priority since its inception in 2000. The goal is to create high value, income-yielding assets on publicly owned land.

The municipal-owned entity believes the development of public land has the potential for long-term recurring income. JPC said a large portion of the City’s assets is vacant land with an inherently low asset value.

This kind of development can also result in the building of affordable housing or development of marginalised areas. These areas are fully packaged an prepared by JPC, whereafter a developer becomes fully responsible for the development of the land. The new asset will then revert back to the City at the end of the lease period.

Kim Nates, the project manager at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre in Forest Town.

This facilitation process in 2016 saw 53 projects with a combined investment value of more than R24 billion take ground, the JPC said. The entity said it projects that it will collect R30 million a year in rental income from these properties with around R3,7 billion in third-party investment.

Properties like Worldwear in Fairland, which JPC says offers branded items at low prices, Alexandra Mall, and Melville’s 27 Boxes have been developed with a commercial focus. To create housing, the building of the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco) Hostel Conversion in Orlando was facilitated.

Two of the more recent developments also include the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre in Forest Town and the new council chamber in Braamfontein.

With an investment value of R20 million, the building was completed in 2015. The entire centre is not yet officially open to the public. The permanent exhibition, which focuses on 20th-century genocide, is still being constructed and is expected to open by the end of the year.

The newly built Joburg council chamber has already won numerous awards for its design and architecture.

It does, however, currently feature Killing the Other, an exhibition by photographers James Oatway and Alon Skuy revealing the circumstances around xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The exhibition will run until 2 July.

Kim Nates, the project manager at the centre, said the permanent exhibition will be a modern and interactive. It asks questions about being a perpetrator, collaborator, victim or bystander.

When a visitor leaves the exhibition space, she said, the goal is to have them go out into the world and ask whether they are indeed a bystander and make a conscious choice.

Nates said that they owe it to the community to bring forth the story of genocide and to encourage people to think about what role they are portraying in society.

“The City gave us the land, which is amazing,” she said.

“And we want to make it as accessible as possible, so everything is free.”

As for the R340 million council chamber, although it has already won numerous awards for its design and architecture, was opened with scrutiny by the new Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba. In his State of the City Address last year, Mashaba expressed concern over the development. He said major problems the administration is facing, including a R170-billion infrastructure backlog, high unemployment and a 300 000 housing-units backlog, were as important as new council chambers.

The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre has been developed on public land in Forest Town.

The chamber seats 270 councillors, with a future capacity for 361 councillors. The public gallery can accommodate 158 visitors.


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