Modern high-rise buildings towering over sprawling retail shops in the inner city, a thriving economy with an efficient transport system, sustainable jobs and an active business hub: this is the vision of Johannesburg’s railway decking development.
Railway decking is a model commonly employed in big cities to overcome space limitations by building a structure above the railway lines.
Johannesburg’s multi-billion rand railway deck is to be built in phases over 30 years east and west of the city’s central Park Station. It will have a range of housing options – low cost and mixed rental units – hotels and office blocks.
The decking work is expected to begin in 2012 in two inner city suburbs – Doornfontein and Fordsburg – according to Virgil James, City of Joburg spokesperson.
“The City is currently finalising the feasibility and consultation phases,” James said this week. “However, the development of non-decked areas on the periphery of the deck is due to start by the end of 2011.”
According to James, under-used land between Joburg’s inner city and neighbouring area Braamfontein will support the intended investment and automatic regeneration in the inner city. “The current Park Station rail lines have created a gulch between the central business district and Braamfontein, resulting in unused parcels of land.”
Although the total amount needed for the construction is not yet known, R2.2-billion will be spent in the first phase, between the M1 highway and Fordsburg.
Once fully complete, the deck will link Braamfontein to the inner city from a southwestern direction and will be a new source of business and mixed-use residential units.
The railway deck development is a partnership between the city and the private sector, with about 90% funded privately.
“Internationally these types of initiatives create new modern city centres that leverage financial resources for the city,” Sello Lemao, member of the city’s mayoral committee for economic development, said in a statement this week.
The railway decking had the potential to create significant revenue for the city, Lemao said, adding: “Almost nothing is currently generated towards the tax base.”
The city will generate revenue through rates and taxes to be paid by real estate, or immovable property, on the development.
According to Bokaba Maluleke, head of catalytic projects in the city’s department of economic development, an estimated 19 000 jobs will be created during the first phase construction. When fully completed, the project is expected to yield approximately 40 960 jobs.
Maluleke said the Park Station deck area would not only serve daily commuters but would also appeal to tourists using the Gautrain from places such as OR Tambo International Airport.
So far, a feasibility study through a market analysis covering financial, real estate, retail manufacturing, construction, hotel and international benchmarking had been completed to determine “financial return and equity and public return on investment”, said Maluleke.
Stakeholders were consulted in 2010, with city officials and members of the Joburg Business Forum, including inner city banks, mining head offices and property owners, participating. The consultation was designed to test the findings of the market analysis study and input.
The city has developed visual communication aids for further stakeholder engagement, which will include pressure groups, inner city civic forums, institutions of higher learning, and potential investors both local and internationaL.