Facelift aims to transform Rockey Street into a ‘cultural capital’

YEOVILLE’s Rockey Street — the once-famous entertainment mecca for Johannesburg’s bohemian crowd which morphed into a notorious drug and crime spot — is set for a facelift aimed at reviving the area’s fortunes.

City Re-Mix, the four-year-old company that specialises in refurbishments of inner-city properties in urban development zones , has acquired several properties in Rockey Street with a view to redeveloping them and improving the area.

Urban development zones refer to specific areas in SA’s inner cities that are subject to urban renewal tax incentives by the government to encourage property owners and developers to invest there.

Urban development zones identified in Johannesburg include Braamfontein, Newtown, Doornfontein, Yeoville, Berea, Hillbrow, Troyeville and Bellevue.

Graham Pieterse, CEO of City Re-Mix, says his group uses redevelopment opportunities in the Yeoville, Bellevue and Bellevue East areas to provide quality rental accommodation for people who work in those areas and also want to live there.

“The whole idea is based on the fact that we found that people who wanted to live in decent accommodation and work in the inner city were renting accommodation in out-of-town areas like Randburg.

“They commuted to the city to work and out again at the end of the day because they couldn’t get good accommodation with good security in the inner city,” says Pieterse.

This prompted the establishment of City Re-Mix, which redevelops inner-city properties to provide “quality accommodation with exceptional security” at rental levels these commuters were paying in outlying areas.

He says areas such as Yeoville, Berea, Hillbrow, Bellevue and Bellevue East can be compared to areas such as Melville, Parkview and Parkhurst in that they have “main village-type streets” and architecture dating back to the 1930s and earlier. They also have established social infrastructure such as parks.

City Re-Mix has a R60m property investment in its focus areas that include 367 residential units. Now the company is shifting its focus to Rockey Street with a view to improving residential accommodation and the quality of retailer in that area.

Pieterse says crime levels have already dropped in Rockey Street and the surrounds and that this assists rejuvenation efforts there.

He says the drop-off is due largely to the efforts of the Yeoville police station. “There is more petty crime than violent crime, which has come down drastically thanks to the Yeoville police station and the input from the Johannesburg Development Agency .”

Pieterse says City Re-Mix is waiting to take transfer of 13 properties. These buildings consist mainly of residential units on top and retail space at ground level. “They are situated in the section of Rockey Street adjoining Observatory and they incorporate three major intersections in Rockey Street.”

He says City Re-Mix will redevelop these buildings and provide a combination of retail and residential property. “We want to create a 24-hour town where you can work, sleep and play.”

Pieterse would like to attract top-class restaurants and bars such as Moyo and News Cafe, as well as upmarket music venues “along the lines of the Bassline in Newtown”.

“What we also want to do is make Rockey Street a cultural capital in SA. We want to give people a holistic African experience. The existing people trading in Rockey Street are from all over Africa, including places such as Mozambique, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We want to display those cultures and enhance the cultures in Rockey Street for an ultimate African experience.”

City Re-Mix also plans to help traders in the Rockey Street area run better businesses. We’ll handpick them and train them.”

Pieterse says construction on the 13 properties, which represent a R50m investment, will start in the next two months. The group is also looking to acquire more properties in the Rockey Street area.

Article from: www.businessday.co.za