Cities are fascinating places. It could be argued that they are imbued with an organic quality. Like any living thing, if neglected, a city will deteriorate. If nurtured, it will thrive.
The city of Johannesburg is currently undergoing a period of rejuvenation following the exodus of many businesses that moved north after apartheid came to an end. The city began to decay and many of the buildings were abandoned to squatters.
A few years ago, a few enterprising individuals and development companies backed by forward-thinking banks decided to stem the tide of decay and redevelop the city’s buildings and precincts. Now, the city boasts a number of highly successful and dynamic mixed-use nodes and re-purposed buildings. Examples include:
· Maboneng – a world acclaimed mixed use node
· The Neighbour goods Market – an artisanal weekend food market which occupies a once-derelict building in Braamfontein
· Newgate – an affordable mixed-use residential precinct situated on Jeppe Street
The latest addition to the city’s redevelopment ranks is a collection of trendy student apartments called the Mill Junction, so named after the grain silos the apartments occupy in New Town. After working on the project for 12 months, property investment and management company Citiq completed the 14 storey building in January 2014. The concept is a world-first and is aimed at students attending college and university around Johannesburg.
Learning to accommodate students
The Mill Junction comprises ten stories of apartments based in the silos which have had windows cut into them, and a collection of multi-coloured converted shipping containers stacked along the side and the top. In total, the Mill Junction offers 375 apartments, study rooms, lounges, a climbing wall, a gym, a computer room, game rooms, and a rooftop entertainment area, all of which have been colourfully decorated and furnished. Birdseye views of the city and free WiFi come standard.
Unsurprisingly the development presented challenges such as solar heat gain and inadequate insulation but these were overcome. Citiq has also made efforts to make Mill Junction sustainable through the implementation of heat pumps, motion sensor-activated energy-efficient lighting, and double glazed windows. Students can opt for a double room to share or single standard or single premium rooms. Rates range from R2 625pm to R 2875 per person per month.
The quirky and industrial nature of the development has earned it both praise and criticism. It would appear that the Mill Junction is going to be one of those buildings you either hate or love. Observations aside, Citiq MD Arthur Blake explains that it was critical for his team to create an environment conducive for student life: “We believe that we are not simply in the business of providing a roof over someone’s head. We want to create a happy, homely place that is clean, safe and study-friendly.”
Concept being rolled out
In the context of city redevelopment, it is worth noting that Citiq is a division of Jika Properties which was formed in 2005 with a view to acquiring residential property in Johannesburg’s CBD, Joubert Park, Hillbrow and Berea. The company aims to “uplift these areas, make them safe and attractive again while ensuring that people are proud to call these areas home.”
The company’s ventures have now extended to the eastern suburbs of Troyeville, Yeoville and Bellevue; the southern suburbs of Rossenttenville, Robertsham and Turffontein; and the western suburbs of Brixton, Roodepoort and Florida.
These are but a few of the projects that have been undertaken in recent years and which are now forming part of Johannesburg’s return to a vibrant, dynamic city. Here’s hoping it’ll be a shift that lasts.