Sunday, May 12, 2013


weetuzoo's International Correspondant Amanda Carlson lands in Johannesburg for an inside perspective on downtown life and bunny chow.

Next blog stop: Johannesburg - Downtown Overhaul
By Amanda Carlson

When and where in South Africa can you eat bunny chow, Polish sausage, Argentine bondiola, Spanish paella, chick pea fudge and raw dark chocolate?  All in one sitting?  The answer can be found in Johannesburg, on Saturdays at Neighbourgoods Market, in an old parking lot in downtown’s Braamfontein neighborhood.  But, wait.  There’s a second answer.  You can eat nearly the same items while also guzzling a local brew on the following day, Sunday at Market On Main, only a few kilometers away in Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct.  

Across various sections of Johannesburg’s core, new markets and other revamped spaces have overhauled some of the city’s grittier plots, and with it, the city’s reputation.  According to Gerald Garner in Johannesburg: Ten Ahead – a book exploring the inner-city’s turnaround over the past 13 years – it took three interventions to reverse the trend of decay that overtook the city’s core in the 1990s:

  1. Combining four separate metropolitan councils into one centralized municipality.
  2. Introducing a country-wide Urban Development Zone (UDZ) tax incentive.
  3. Formalizing the Inner-city Charter, which established a clear vision for the city’s future.

Of these three interventions, the one to be felt most prominently by the weekend visitor is probably the second.  

In each of Braamfontein and Maboneng, questions about the areas’ origins lead almost immediately to conversations about the private developers and the number of buildings that have been purchased for turn-around, both commercial and residential.  In the case of Maboneng, it was more than thirty.  The tracts of land in question are impressive, and these developers are literally buying the space to create their own visions for contemporary Johannesburg city-living. 

These new visions of downtown life are bringing in artists, galleries, hotels, and small-scale manufacturing, among myriad others.   Such artistic oases in pockets of the industrial inner-city mark an exciting shift in Johannesburg’s reputation and, for the weekend traveler, make downtown Johannesburg feel like a crossroads for the city, country, continent, and world.  

1 comment:

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