The entrenched local community of Cyrildene lobbied the city to create a plan to limit the spread of Johannesburg’s emergent Chinatown. The area, over the last 25 years has seen the South African Chinese community move from the historical Chinatown in Ferreirasdorp to establish shops and restaurants on Derek Avenue, which is the main street in Cyrildene. In recent years, Cyrildene has also seen the influx of first generation Chinese immigrants, who have come to work at Chinese-owned businesses in Johannesburg. The concern among local residents has been the fact that, outside of the main Chinatown activity street, previously suburban houses have been illegally converted into boarding houses accommodating up to 50 people.
The commission arose via a City of Johannesburg tender. The focus area for Cyrildene is fairly small thus allowing Local Studio to design the majority of existing open spaces and give guidelines for the development of privately owned stands. The main public space focus is the transformation of Derek Avenue into a primarily pedestrian zone, which has the ability to support festivals like Chinese new year. The plan also includes the redevelopment of Weiner Park into a socially and culturally productive space. Development guidelines within the plan are aimed largely at introducing urban typologies which respect health and safety guidelines and create an active street edge. Local Studio took cues for the public environmental upgrades from B.I.G.’s Superkillen masterplan in Copenhagen, which uses a clear coding of the city floor to create a sense of place in a previously underdeveloped immigrant community.
The project has seen numerous challenges from the entrenched community’s side, who have seen the plan as catering too much to the needs of immigrants and not enough to the needs of locals.