Walkable Braamfontein

The Braamfontein Improvement District (BID) was historically a compulsory city improvement district, meaning that all property owners within a certain boundary in Braamfontein were obliged to pay levies towards basic urban management and improvements in the area. In 2015 the South Gauteng High Court ruled that all compulsory city improvement districts could no longer force constituents to pay levies and it would need to become voluntary instead. Because of this, the BID resolved to commission a vision plan to reinforce the good urban management work that had been done to date and to attract a wider range of constituents to the new voluntary city improvement district. Local Studio were appointed to do the plan, which they entitled Walkable Braamfontein and very early on resolved that the single most powerful intervention in Braamfontein would be the significant increase in pedestrian public space. The resultant plan therefore proposes a partial pedestrianisation of Juta Street and its transformation into a linear park.

Local Studio had done a lot of work with South Point Properties in the past, who are one of the key stakeholders in the BID. Other key stakeholders in the BID were Play Braamfontein and Wits University, who have since become clients. The pedestrianisation of Juta Street is not an entirely original idea. It was identified as a low vehicular traffic road in early frameworks by Albonico Sack. Local Studio’s approach began by stating that Braamfontein currently performed far more as a gateway or threshold than as a destination. The process therefore looked to identify roads that were currently dedicated to vehicular movement but did not need as much space as they had. Local Studio also focussed primarily on east-west routes because of a need to connect what they had observed as being a very divided Braamfontein, particularly across Jan Smuts. The two east-west roads were Ameshoff Street in the north of Braamfontein (which has already seen significant development by players like Liberty) and Juta Street. Local Studio’s final plan is the complete restructuring of Juta Street from building line to building line for the entire kilometre length and looks at a transformation of almost 80% of the space into a green park. The proposal also looked at guidelines for buildings flanking the park and how they could catalyse off this new public space.

The majority of challenges have arisen from the schizophrenic attitude towards development in Braamfontein at the administrative level, with many city officials viewing Braamfontein as a place for privileged white people, which Local Studio found in their research to certainly not be the case.