The City is back. People of all races sipping coffee, typing on their laptops on sidewalk café in downtown Johannesburg, walking on pavements, window shopping ….ordinary scenes of urban life, which had disappeared in the economic hub of Africa.
Main street in down town near Ghandi Square was one of the first places to get an uplift with side walk cafes and retail shops.
During apartheid, the city centre (CBB) people of colour were banned, it was aso called "white only” area. But at the end of the racist regime, in the early 1990, thousands of immigrants from all over the continent and black south africans from the Bantustans all flocked to the city in search of jobs. They started to occupy the vacant buildings, many white businesses and residents left because of congestion and crime and relocated to the suburbs. Over the years, the city had fallen to building hijackers who made a fortune as they packeddesperate tenants in abandoned buildings.
One of the abandoned buidings which was occupied by squatters is ready to renovated to a low income flats.
After decades of urban decay and abandonment, restaurants, bookshops, galleries studios and markets are opening again. University expansion has brought a lot of young people in the inner city. The government has come up with a tax incentive scheme that has encouraged investors to come back for the refurbishment of existing properties.
Gone are the days of no go areas; when foreign visitors were warned to stay away from the inner city for the fear of their lives. It was once rated as one of the most dangerous places in the world. Crime has gone done dramatically due to more visible policing and high tech security cameras which are mounted in the entire downtown. The World Cup which was held in 2010, played a big part in the deveploment of the city new apartments for the low income, new pavements, street lights, and a new ‘ World Class ‘ bus system was put in place (Rea Vaya) and high speed train from the international airport into the inner city and to the capital Pretoria (gautrain).
The new bus system (Rea Vaya) which was introduced during the World Cup has been helpful to people that live in the Townships that surround the city.
Gerald Olitzki a lawyer turned city investor is one of pioneers of the revamping of Johannesburg City. He claims he loves the city and never left when everybody left for the suburbs. "I love this city", he says "I have a dream and I won’t rest until the streets of Johannesburg are clean and safe". He revamped one of the city’s main bus terminal Ghandi Square. It took him 10 years to do the station and now he owns several another properties around the square. Private sector poured millons into the fixing up of the bus terminal. There has not been any crime on the square for years.
"I am happier standing here at 2am in the morning than standing outside my own house in the suburbs. But people still perceive Johannesburg as unsafe. Our goal is to attract middle and upper class back to the city, but first we have create the environment that will harness that... once they are good restaurants and asafe zone, why not live here", he says.
Ghandi square one of the main bus stations in the city, that was revamped by Gerald Olitzki about 10 years ago.