Developers transform Rosebank into a vibrant live, work and play, neighbourhood

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

Rosebank, formerly a mall mini city has transformed so much in the last 6 years. Yes, its two malls, housing mainly major clothing chains, offices and some restaurant chains, Rosebank Mall and the Zone, are still there, but there is much more in this area as it has been steadily transformed by a number of developers into a much better, inviting area that is more than a mini-mall city as now it is a proper work, live and play place with, with a number of exciting features that are part of this culturally vibrant-mixed use development.

Yesterday, August 24, CITYLIFE/ARTS was part of a media contingent invited to take part in a walk-about as we were introduced to its multi-billion Rands developments that include street café, newly launched residential apartments for both renting and buying, architecturally appealing hotels, concept restaurants and concept work spaces.

All these massive developments worth R9 billion were introduced in the past six years, transforming this place into a totally culturally tasteful place to be at for living, working and playing, and still there are more developments planned for the area, we were told.

On the walk about we were joined by top officials from the City of Johannesburg, including two Members of the Mayoral Committee in charge of relevant portfolios, such as tourism and infrastructural development. It was ironic that the two officials were being taken on a tour of an important district of Johannesburg to see developments that are in fact led by private investors, and not by the city itself. In fact it became obvious that the private sector somehow feels let down by the city when it comes to partnering with them in this development trajectory by investing in  the rehabilitation of infrastructure as well as providing services to the poor found in Rosebank living rough in parks, and some also involved in petty crimes to survive.

According to one of the activists assisting the Homeless of Rosebank Judith Bricks, she told CITYLIFE/ARTS that there are an estimated number of between 200 and 300 homeless people living rough in the streets and parks of Rosebank. Clearly there seems to be an untenable situation developing where the extremely poor will be existing side by side with wealth classes, a situation that often quotes conflict between these classes.

All Pictures By John Hogg)

“The problem is there is another side to Rosebank, and that side is that of poor people lured here and they find themselves with no place to live as they cannot afford the rent here.  The reality of poor people living in Rosebank is not going to change because people move to urban spaces looking for opportunities, al the time. Currently there is one house accommodating and feeding the homeless, but that is not enough. This is where we need assistance from the city for more shelter for the homeless,” Bricks said.

We were also told by the developers that in as much as the private sector has invested so much into the area to make it what it has become, a place where art, fine dining, stylish apartments, classy hotels and street café experiences, are part of its Rosebank future features, clearly designed to attract those with deep pockets and the middle classes, there are challenges. Some of those challenges include the rise in small crime, homelessness and the lack of involvement by authorities in its development.

For example, there is a clear need for social services aimed at dealing with homelessness, safety of residents to walk in the streets in peace, as well as rehabilitating the streets, and these services must be provided by the City of Johannesburg .

Another organisation playing a central role is the Rosebank Improvement District, a voluntary civic organisation funded by businesses in the area and in turn they are able to deal with issues such as security. But they too called for authorities to come on board to assist them, as not all businesses operating in the area are contributing financially.

However despite these challenges it became clear that Rosebank has actually transformed in a fundamental way, and its new character that it is taking shape is that of shoppers and diners being able to walk about from one coffee shop or restaurant to another, and be able to enjoy an outside dining experience, instead of the traditional mall type dining.

It was explained by the developers that this is the trend post Covid-19, and that as developers they are ready to play a part in the renewal of this suburb north of Johannesburg CBD as they continue to buy old properties and land in the area to build a truly mixed use neighbourhood.

In this matrix of the regeneration of Rosebank, there is one element that has facilitated this, and that is the Gautrain, which has a station in Rosebank, that is half way between Johannesburg CBD and Sandton further north, making it easy for people going in either direction and even connecting to OR Tambo International Airport.

“Gautrain has helped a lot in attracting developments in areas  surrounding its stations. Since Gautrain was introduced, 59 % of the developments in areas surrounding its stations. As a result of Gautrain, 16 % of that 59% development happened here in Rosebank. We even are looking at introducing buses to take people to Parkhurst from the Gautrain station here in Rosebank, for those visitors who would like to spend time in Parkhurst,” said Sandy Roth, Executive Manager: Marketing, at Gautrain Management Agency.

Places of interest in Rosebank

Places of interest in Rosebank include the newly built Radisson Red Hotel, Voco Hotel,  which is not yet open for bookings but its restaurant is, and of course Keys Art Mile and a number of newly built and stylish apartment for both renting and buying.

At the end of the tour, we were welcomed in style to the Roof Top venue of Radisson Red Hotel on its 7th floor where we enjoyed some of the most interesting views, enabling us to see further into the northern suburbs.

Apparently this venue is an events place, which once it is safe to do so due to the Covid-19,, will host entertainment events.

 Rosebank has indeed transformed into a new area that will find favour with many people in Johannesburg.

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