A residential and commercial development that takes over six city blocks previously part of the fortress-like Jewel City that housed Johannesburg’s diamond dealers, it’s an important addition to the city. It opens up key pedestrian access along Fox Street from vibrant Maboneng to the ABSA towers financial precinct, an area that was not previously easy to traverse safely on foot.
The new Jewel City precinct is characterised by its wide and walkable central avenue on Fox Street bounded by colourful, cleverly upgraded previously commercial buildings that have been transformed into residential accommodation available for rent. A mix of mainstream commercial tenants such as Clicks, Shoprite and McDonalds on the street level create convenience for city living as well as an emphasis on safe and welcoming public spaces.
Work began on this ambitious new precinct in 2018 with a R2 billion investment led by the Divercity urban property fund with the vision to completely transform the formerly entirely closed-off bunker-like complex that was once the heart of South Africa's jewels and minerals trade.
Carel Kleynhans, director of Ithemba Property Development, part of Divercity, explains that Jewel City meets a keen demand for affordable well-managed and convenient inner-city housing in Joburg. Living within walking distance of basic everyday amenities and within an easy commute of work is an ideal for many and "the Johannesburg CBD is uniquely placed to provide access all in one place to these needs."
The fund has also recently redeveloped the nearby 30 storey ABSA tower into a mixed space that includes offices (leased to ABSA) and hundreds of apartments. As Kleynhans points out, no single developer can succeed alone in entirely regenerating South Africa's cities and it is Divercity's hope that developments like these will act as an inspiration for a sustainable model of urban redevelopment that more investors would like to follow.
From a network of inter-connected offices and an old diamond exchange has emerged an open, pedestrian-friendly new residential district, built with the needs of urban dwellers in mind and that includes shops, fast food outlets, a school, banks, green outdoor spaces, kids play areas and sports facilities.
Jewel City has built on the foundation of what the neighbouring Maboneng Precinct started by bringing a new residential layer to the city. But this is the practical version, with a Shoprite Checkers, Clicks pharmacy and other basic necessities of city living that were completely absent from the eastern side of the city until now.
The target market for Jewel City's residential developments is a lower income earner than originally targeted in Maboneng. The Maboneng Precinct offers everything from penthouse living to student accommodation but always had as part of its vision a focus on bringing in higher-income earners who would be attracted by cultural urban lifestyle. Jewel City looks to appeal more to a slightly lower income bracket for whom city living appeals due to its convenience and lack of long commutes.
The Joburg City Centre needs both of these residential options to move forward.
Reflecting Joburg city life through street artCharacterising the Jewel City area is an emphasis on colourful public art, an aesthetic which also ties the area together with the very arts-centric Maboneng Precinct. The developers invited both established and young emerging South African street artists to create some of the largest murals in the city. In particular the developers sought to give opportunities to young artists and illustrators, particularly women, to express themselves on the largest canvases in the city.
Jewel City's public art project gives the precinct a distinctly human face, reflecting the diversity of the many different people and cultures who call the city home on the walls of the precinct. It has also made the new neighbourhood a particularly popular attraction with local tour guides such as Curiocity, JoburgPlaces and MicroAdventure Tours, who have already begun to update their walking and cycling tour routes to include a visit to the area.
In his work Human Nature, artist Kgabo ‘Saint Rose’ Mametja (who lives in nearby Marshalltown), also celebrates the vital way in which Joburg's cosmopolitan mix of people give this city its unique character. "People inject energy, colour and life into the city. They do for the CBD what the addition of nature does for high ranking global cities".
In particular many of the murals celebrate the women of the city. Street artist Nardstar*s mural Intertwined is a tribute to the ubiquitous informal hair salons and streetside braiding stalls that represent one of the most important everyday safe spaces for women of the city, while Sonwabo Valashiya's Mother of Light, is a tribute to the African mother as a symbol of resilience, power and strength.
And then there is Zhi Zulu's An Interaction with Culture, an immense storyboard wrapped around 70 metres of an entire city block that depicts the journey of a young girl who finds pride in her African cultural identity as she moves through the ever-busy streetlife of Johannesburg.
Apartment blocks in Jewel City are already now open for rental and the precinct's retail components will officially launch on September 24, where the long-planned for launch day has been reconfigured to make space for appropriately socially distanced activations on the street including live music from local buskers, DJs and pop-up street stalls with a family focus.
WHERE: The new Jewel City precinct occupies the area bounded to the west and east by End Street and Berea Street (opposite Arts on Main in Maboneng) and to the north and south by Commissioner and Main Streets, spliced through the middle by a redesigned section of Fox Street that is now fully pedestrianised.
Find out more about Jewel City on Facebook and Instagram and online at jewelcity.co.za.