Johannesburg. Picture: ISTOCK
Johannesburg. Picture: ISTOCK

Imagine a space where you can trade‚ have a business meeting‚ dine‚ have an artist sketch your face and spend a night.

This is the new No 1 Eloff Street property in the Johannesburg city centre. Just a few blocks from Gandhi Square, the development has restaurants‚ clubs‚ flats‚ an events hall‚ office space and retail space for hawkers.

No 1 Eloff Street was built in the 1960s and was originally a car dealership‚ later becoming OK Bazaars, and at one time it housed the ANC Women’s League. When Geoff Jardine‚ a director of Molten Black Properties‚ bought the building in 2015 it was a car storage depot.

He converted the middle two floors into 320 flats of one and two bedroom units. The rent ranges from R3,500 to R5,500. On the ground floor are restaurants‚ the events hall‚ 1,600m² of office space‚ bars‚ art studios and cafés.

"What we are developing here is a suburb called ‘Joziburg’. We have now bought the buildings around us and will be expanding the whole precinct so that it allows the space between the buildings to become public space‚" Jardine said. "Part of our strategy for inner city buildings is that it does not have to be boring. It might be cheap to rent but it can be fun‚ exciting and lifting."

But he admitted that conversion of the building came at a price, with the development costing more than R100m. "We are geared up now to take other properties around us and we are going to spend another R300m or R400m in the next three to four years."

Jardine said turning the inner-city around will be an arduous task for Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba. "He has a big ship to turn. There is a lot of hard work [to be done] to get this on track. There are still billing complications, but I think there is an intent to get things right."

Johannesburg MMC for economic development Leah Knott said the development on Eloff Street was evidence that the private sector is willing to invest in the mayor’s vision, adding that the plan was to develop the city using precincts instead of isolated building revamps.

"You can’t just develop one building there and another elsewhere. You need to do precinct plans‚ which means you do developments in blocks. You take four blacks and identify the investment plan for that particular area," she said. "This allows you not to just bring housing but also retail space‚ social space and whatever facility is needed in that area."

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