Living in the Jewel

Pedestrian boulevards, sufficient convenience retail options and rooftop braai areas. These are some of the aspects that make Jewel City more than just a viable option for inner-city living, writes Gerald Garner.

The shining jewel of the city! Picture courtesy of GASS Architecture Studio/ Louis van Zyl.

Inner-city living is the future. It comes with much freedom and cost savings too. Best is that it is genuinely viable to live car-free in Joburg town. You can walk to most places, cycle to others, use the Rea Vaya or Metro buses and of course Uber and Bolt. For connecting to further-away nodes, the Gautrain is best.

During 2021, I will be writing regular updates for this blog on the best and worst areas to live in, in town. Depending on your personal circumstances and places you need to have easy access to, the city offers a whole gamut of neighbourhood options. North of the railway corridor, starting from the west, options include Brixton, Vrededorp, Braamfontein Werf, Braamfontein, Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville. South of the railway corridor is Old Joburg, from west to east: Fordsburg, Newtown, Marshalltown, Maboneng, Jeppestown, Ellis Park, Troyeville and Bertrams.

Cycling along Fox Street in Jewel City. Picture by Charlie Moyo.

One of the best districts to consider for inner-city living is Jewel City in Marshalltown East, right on the edge of Maboneng. Here is what I wrote about Jewel City in my new book, ‘Johannesburg 2020 and Ahead’:

“It was in September 2020 that the inner-city’s newest regenerated precinct finally lunched after months of delays due to the lockdown. Jewel City came on stream with massive fanfare as a possible game changer for future inner-city redevelopment…

…Most significant of Jewel City is that this is not merely an affordable residential development, nor is it a shopping mall filled with retail outlets. Instead Jewel City has successfully established a neighbourhood culture and a thriving community right in Old Joburg.

Centred on a pedestrianised and landscape portion of Fox Street, Jewel City provides a walkable precinct in which children can play and everyone from cyclists and runners to skateboarders are welcome. The inclusion of a private school, complete with rooftop sports facilities, means that a family can now live in the city, children can walk to school and parents can either work from home or go to the office while also doing their grocery and other essential shopping on the way.

Jewel City provides a glimpse of how the entire inner-city can be reimagined and turned into a thriving neighbourhood, providing decent housing, complemented by all the community amenities required to make city living a more attractive option than the isolation of the suburbs.

Children at play – a sure sign of a safe and thriving neighbourhood. Picture by Charlie Moyo.

Developed by Divercity (a joint venture between Ithemba and Atterbury), Jewel City is a welcome departure from the failed concept so often followed by private developers, of developing enclosed precincts, isolated from the rest of the city. While this mistake was certainly made in the case of Newtown Junction, Jewel City instead embraces its urbanity, celebrates the best of city life, and fits in perfectly into the city grid. No fences, no gates, just a walkable and safe district in the city instead…

…What the city needs so desperately is more pedestrian streets, more greenery, more places of respite, more schools. More ‘people’ facilities. Jewel City is a game changer in this regard. Over time, it will provide confidence for many other property developers to get involved in inner-city regeneration – and in creating the thriving urban future the people of South Africa so desperately need.”

Guests marvel at the street-art at Jewel City during a JoburgPlaces East Town is Alive Walk. Picture by Charlie Moyo.

Jewel City is ideal for anyone who want to enjoy the convenience of retailers in the neigbourhood coupled with decent green, public spaces. It is not the easiest spot to reach by motorcar (traffic, one-way roads and some seedy streets) but is perfect for anyone willing to embrace a car-free lifestyle.

Pluses:
– Rooftop braai areas on the Onyx building
– Public lawn, children’s play area and street fountain in front of the Onyx building
– Astonishing street-art
– Safe, lit-up pedestrianised Fox Street where walkers, runners, cyclists and skateboarders are welcome
– Convenience retail such as Shoprite and Clicks
– Trendy coffee shop (Hillbrewed) about to open
– Maboneng’s restaurants, bars and clubs are just a short walk away
– A private Curro school on site
– The precinct is family friendly with many children present in the public and green spaces.
– Rea Vaya C1 route along Commissioner & Albertina Sisulu streets provide easy connections to the rest of town

Minuses:
– Would have loved to see more apartments with balconies, especially for two-bedroom units.
– Town itself and even the splendid Towers Main building are nearby, yet one is not completely comfortable to walk there. A few streets blocks to the west and south of Jewel City remain derelict and these do not feel 100% safe for walking, certainly not at night!

For more info:
All apartments at Jewel City are rented out by Ithemba Properties and range from about R3000 to R6900 from bachelor to two bedroom.

If you want to know more about living at Jewel City send an email to gerald@joburgplaces.com or a whatsapp to 082 894 5216 and we will put you in touch with an agent at Ithemba.

‘Johannesburg 2020 and Ahead’ details the prospects of turning inner-city Joburg into a thriving residential neighbourhood. Cover pic courtesy of GASS Architecture Studios/Louis van Zyl.

For more on my book, Johannesburg 2020 and Ahead or to order a copy, go to https://www.joburgplaces.com/books/

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The wonders of inner-city living

JoburgPlaces Chief Storyteller & Guide, Charlie Moyo elaborates on why he chooses to live in the inner-city over the ‘burbs.

Charlie Moyo at the Thunder Walker.

Joburg is often referred to as a notorious city. One to avoid at all cost, with nothing but crime and distraction. A hopeless city some even call it. As a storyteller and guide, I hear this all the time. Mostly from my international guests who are advised to avoid the inner-city. The question I get the most is, how can I live in the inner-city when it is considered so dangerous?

Yes, the city has crime and other issues like any other big city in the world, but I do believe in a regenerating Joburg. So far, I am enjoying living in the city, just as one should. Obviously, the inner-city needs more attention, especially in terms of upkeep of public spaces but I do notice progress in some private spaces.

Johannesburg is a unique and diverse city which I get to experience and enjoy daily. I can say I have a front row seat in the city. For me inner city living is more than living in a cool apartment. It is about living in a community where I get to know most of the people, I meet in the street cafes, restaurants, bars, and even bookshops on a first name basis.

The luxury of walking to get my groceries just a few blocks from my apartment in a country where the motorcar is so prioritized is just mind blowing. Malls have stolen our sense of humanity if you think about it! But then again that is my bias. Personally, the inner city has given me freedom of expression and exploration whereas my previous life in the northern suburbs was too formal and somewhat curated to work, mall and home. That kind of life lacks human interaction and deprives one of community immersion.

By living in the inner-city, I have gotten to know Joburg as an outdoor museum with colourful street art and graffiti everywhere.  Add to that, the small, mostly migrant- and owner-operated shops – from tuck shops and small eateries to fashion stores – all packed in along the sidewalks on the sides of tall concrete buildings. From the streets, those buildings look really intimidating but if you decide to get closer, you will discover passages and alleyways full of treasures only you can find in the city. Usually, the aromas of migrant foods will draw you in and from there you will be transferred into the journey of discovery. Look into the transformed basements and listen to the sounds of sawing machines as people are busy creating some of the most beautiful garments, full of rich colours only Africa can provide.

I get to discover only because I walk the city. I am a bad cook and I hate cooking for myself, but I do love taking my lazy walks to buy vegetables from the nearby street vendors. A simple thing such as buying vegetables in the streets is a whole different experience than buying at the supermarket.

Buying fresh veggies and fruit along the Kerk Street market is so much more enjoyable than shopping in a mall or supermarket.

Added to my bad cooking, is my coffee addiction and for this I need a super strong black coffee every day, make it about five cups! My coffee addiction is well taken care of by my local coffee dealers, all within walking distance from my home. The best sidewalk cafes in town have become my extended family as they know how I like my coffee before I even ask.

My best go to coffee dealers are the people that discovered coffee themselves, my Ethiopian family in Johannesburg. A coffee prepared by some of the most beautiful Ethiopian women all dressed in their traditional colourful attire. The whole process of coffee making is presented in a ceremony one must personally experience. All of this is just a doorstep away from my home which is something some people travel especially for. They need to apply for visas, buy air tickets and get their passports stamped to enjoy this same experience!

By living in the city, I have managed to forge delightful relationships with some of the most interesting minds our city has to offer. These are the people who are invested in the city, both financially and emotionally. From corner shop operators to sidewalk café owners and property developers, I can safely say with them forming a community of city regenerators, our city is only going nowhere but up.

My work in town has afforded me access to some of the most interesting spaces such as art studios. I have gained access to the most beautiful art pieces even before they make it to the market for the world to see. It is a huge privilege to be granted access to some of the country’s most important artist’s spaces and chat to the most interesting artist minds who all live downtown.

Coffee beans being roasted at an Ethiopian coffee shop in the Little Addis district of the inner-city.
I love taking our walking groups for coffee in the Little Addis district – Charlie Moyo.
Rooftop swimming pool in the city – what more reason would you need to want to live in the city?!
From 87 Commissioner Street, everything I need is within easy walking distance. Inner-city living means living in a village with a strong sense of community.

Inner-city living Dezemba deals
Charlie and Gerald of JoburgPlaces passionately believe in inner-city living. Charlie currently lives in a penthouse in Marshalltown and Gerald in a townhouse in Braamfontein Werf. Living in town means living car-free, saving hugely on transport costs, and enjoying the freedom of walking the city. They consider the future to be urban with denser living in denser the way ahead, but with better quality public space.

They know the best places to live in town from Braamfontein and Marshalltown to Jewel City and Maboneng. For December, why not consider an Inner-City Living breakaway? Get to enjoy the views over the city and walk the streets and alleyways with Charlie & Gerald too.

Book a beautiful spot via Airbnb at African Penthouses in Marshalltown. Then contact us with your booking reference and you will receive 25% off bookings you make for any meals, storytelling dinners, walks or city explorations with JoburgPlaces and its Thunder Walker venue. Best is you can walk from your penthouse to the Thunder Walker and really get enjoy the freedom of inner-city living!

To check out African Penthouse on Airbnb click here:
https://www.airbnb.co.za/users/39856394/listings?locale=en&_set_bev_on_new_domain=1554849478_oJnnIdD04L%2BIonYa

To then book your walks, explorations, meals and storytelling dinners, email gerald@joburgplaces.com or whatsapp 082 894 5216.

  • Charlie Moyo
Staying at African Penthouses is the ultimate inner-city experience, with the entire city at your doorstep. Time to explore!
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The Great Car-Free Experiment

Car-free inner-city living is liberating – and it saves costs!

As our inner-city living blog gains momentum, a week of car-free, inner-city living provides a perspective on the costs savings involved.

Rea Vaya Millpark Station. It cost me R11 from here for a trip to Fairlands (other side of Cresta) and another R11 back to Bank City in town!
View of Braamfontein from the M1 highway, captured on my way home during and Uber trip.

JoburgPlaces is about all that relates to the inner-city of Johannesburg. Apart from tours and operating the Thunder Walker restaurant and events venue, we also refer to ourselves as inner-city regeneration activists. Lead by Charlie Moyo and me (Gerald Garner), the JoburgPlaces team passionately believes in the future of the inner-city.

My latest book, Johannesburg 2020 and Ahead, investigates the future of the inner-city and predicts that the future for South Africa and Joburg is urban – with a significant trend in urban neighhourhood living foreseen in areas that were previously dominated by offices, retail and industrial properties such as the old Johannesburg CBD and surrounds.

Because of this trend towards urban neighbourhood living, we have decided to write a regular blog about inner-city living. Followers can look forward to posts by either Charlie or me on the delights and challenges that come with inner-city living. Charlie is currently living in a penthouse in Marshalltown and I am in a townhouse in Braamfontein Werf. During the next year, Charlie will try out various inner-city living spaces and write about those buildings and their neighbourhoods. I will continue to write from my corner in Braamfontein Werf.

During the past week, I have embarked on a bold experiment which I will write about regularly: that of car-free living. While Charlie’s location is ideal for walking everywhere, including to work, shops or for going out at night, I live on the edge of the inner-city, just too far to walk everywhere.

My home is in a remarkably refurbished old industrial complex which nowadays comprises New Braamfontein Lofts, Exchange Lofts and Sontoga Lofts. I love the trendy architecture and clever spatial design of my two bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse, complete with patio and overlooking a greenbelt. I love the countryside quiet and ambience of the area, especially at night. But I am still a bit far out to walk everywhere and a grocery shopping trip to Rand Steam in Richmond or Newtown still requires and uber or bolt trip. However, my townhouse is conveniently close to my son’s school, meaning he is a short scooter trip or uber hop away from school, with obvious financial and convenience advantages.

My reason for going car-free is not all altruistic. Simply put, my car developed a major engine problem recently and it simply would have been too costly to fix or to buy a new car under the current Covid-19 lockdown-enthused, challenging financial situation. Yet, I have always believed it would be more cost effective to live without a car, as long as one lived in a central location such as the inner-city where you had various public transport options as well as the freedom to walk, cycle, scooter or even skateboard at your disposal.

My messy home on a Sunday afternoon during a major Joburg thundershower. Convenience of location makes this a wonderful place to live.
Good bye little Renault! You worked way too hard. I still love this brand and have owned about six different Renaults in my life. Look after them well, service them regularly and you never have a problem. Yet, I am grateful that this little bugger have forced me to adopt the car-free lifestyle I have been imagining for a while!

I prefer living in town for sure!
In the case of living in the sprawling suburbs where even a trip to the garage to buy milk, would cost R100 in uber fees, living car free would not be viable. But living in town, brings so many financial and lifestyle advantages that it outclasses any of the glamorous attractions of the suburban (American) dream!

Living in town, in a thriving community, mostly means not living behind high walls in isolation. It means not having to deal with alarms, panic buttons and armed response. Or unwelcome phone calls from the armed response company informing you that your alarm had been activated by weather, a car or a burglar while out for drinks at a sidewalk café!

Living in town means saving on insurance costs. Not only because it is genuinely safer and your chances of a burglary in an apartment is less than in a suburban home, but also because South Africa’s insurance companies are so out of touch that they simply cannot comprehend someone living in the ‘dangerous city’ without burglar bars, a security gate and an electric fence! They simply, mostly would not insure you!

Car-free for a week
I have lived car-free for just over a week and have relied on Uber or Bolt more than I should or need to. But I am slowly figuring out all the transport options at my disposal. I got myself a Rea Vaya bus card (similar to a bank card on which you load money) and managed to ride from Millpark to Fairlands (past Cresta) for R11 and back all the way to Bank City in town for another R11. I can also walk from my apartment to Wits (about 1km) and then take the Rea Vaya to Library Gardens near the Thunder Walker for a mere R8-50, while an Uber trip for the same distance would cost around R40. I can of course easily cycle anywhere but my bicycle needs a proper service first. Walking is a viable option at all times, and I shall certainly do this. Only pity is that I would not feel comfortable walking back at night. Yes, we still need much safer and better managed public spaces and streets – especially functioning streetlights!

Purchasing a car, maintaining it properly and still being able to sell it for a decent amount a few years later is certainly not a bad concept for many. One’s circumstances has a lot to do with whether you can live car free or not. If I had small children that had to be taken to school and back, car-free would not have been an option. But with an almost matric child and living technically within walking distance of the school, our choice of living location has made car-free living viable.

For me, I believe the saving in petrol, maintenance, bank instalment, insurance and more will result in a saving that is much more attractive than owning a car that depreciates in value every month while the costs of owning the car continue to escalate.

My preliminary calculations:
I paid a R60 000 deposit on my small car and was two years into paying off a three-year finance plan. However, I sold my car to the dealership this week as it had a major engine problem. Due to lockdown and an overbearing work schedule, I missed two services and this tardiness meant the warranty had expired. Fixing it would have cost more (and the risk of even more) and I was happy to sell it as a ‘wreck’ instead, to be fixed by the dealership for resale while I managed to get some welcome cash out of the deal!

Car ownership is way more expensive than we imagine, not to even consider the costs of maintaining over used roads!
Using public transport instead gives you the opportunity to interact with the city and its people like this stroll through Oppenheimer Park in town on my way to work with a moment to watch basketball unperturbed..

MONTHLY CAR COSTS:

Monthly instalment: R2605 per month
It was quite a bit more before interest rates came down and was low in the first place as I paid a deposit and bought a demo model. Most cars would cost way more per month nowadays!

Insurance: R1740 per month
Yes the insurance company penalised me for a previous accident and for living and working in ‘dangerous’ town where they perceived the risk of theft higher than in ‘trendy’ 4th Avenue Parkhurst! (Who is the actuary that works out the algorithms and formulas with which insurance firms determine these uninformed risk profiles I ask!).

Parking: R500 per month
This is for an under-roof parking bay at my apartment.

Petrol: R1500 per month

Cost of services: R450 per month
Roughly R450 per month to keep aside to pay for two services per year.

Licencing fees: R50 per month
Roughly R50 per month to keep aside to renew the annual licence disk.

Fines: R50 per month
Roughly R50 per month to keep aside for speeding or parking fines. This of course could be more!

Repairs and maintenance: R500 per month
Roughly R500 per month to keep aside for replacing tyres, windscreen wipers, fixing scratches and minor bumps etc each year

Parking guard tips: R150 per month
Roughly R150 per month based on R10 per day for 15 days a month.

Parking fees at malls etc: R100 per month
R100 per month (R20 per occasion for 5 times a month).

Work parking: R750 per month
Before lockdown I also rented an underground bay at our place of work for R750 a month. After lockdown I learned to park in the street but that came with more parking guard tips.

TOTAL COST OF CAR PER MONTH: R8395

Granted I was one year away from paying the car off and the monthly cost then would have become less, but the value of the car would have continued to depreciate while the maintenance cost, petrol and everything else would have continued to increase.

Going car free is cheaper, even if you use Uber or Bolt a lot. Using Rea Vaya buses (pictured) and Gautrain are viable alternatives.

MONTHY CAR-FREE COSTS:
Here is my budgeted costs per month for living car-free:

Uber to work and back: R960 per month
R80 per day for 12 days a month. On other days I will either cycle or I will work from home as a lot of my admin, planning and writing work can be done from home. As previously stated, I could reduce this cost to R17 a day if I walked to the Rea Vaya bus stop at Wits nearby.

School trips: R540 per month
Joshua lives with me half the time. I have calculated uber trips to school and back for 9 days a month (R30 one way). On other days he can use his scooter.

Grocery trips: R360 per month
I expect to uber to Rand Steam for grocery shopping at Pick n Pay, Woollies or Leopard once a week. Other than that, I plan to place a fortnightly delivery order with Checkers for basics that will last longer. Of course, I could also walk from my place of work to Woolies, Spar, Shoprite or Pick n Pay in town and buy my groceries there. I could then save on the additional uber trips and bring the groceries with me home from work.

Social trips: R1000 per month
Living in town means there are ample opportunity to go out for dinner or drinks at exceptional places and I have allowed R100 per trip for 10 such trips per month.

Gautrain: R200 per month
I will visit Pretoria at least once a month to visit family and friends there.

Meetings, collecting stock etc: R1000 per month
I have allowed another R1000 for uber trips to meetings and work-related activities.

TOTAL CAR-FREE TRANSPORT COST PER MONTH: R4060.



SAVINGS: R4335 PER MONTH!
This is a total saving of R4335 per month or R52 020 per year. Almost enough to pay school fees for a year! My plan though is to save a portion of this for holidays. I can then rent a great car for a road trip or fly somewhere and rent a car there. My other plan is to save half of this every month and to invest it in shares through something like Easy Equities to see how much money can be generated out of the savings.

Apart from the savings, riding in an Uber gives you the chance to relax and take in the breathtaking views of the skyline. Perhaps the cost of reduced stress and driver risk should also be added to the equation?


ACTUAL VERSUS BUDGET
Of course, the above is all theory. Let us see what my actual costs for transport came to in the past week versus the budget of roughly R1000 per week.

Sunday:
Zero costs – stayed at home.

Saturday: R104
R51 (Uber back from work)
R53 (Uber to work)

Friday: R172
R32 (Uber back from shopping)
R53 (Uber from haircut to shopping)
R87 (Uber to hair cut)

Thursday: R147,50
R87 (home from drinks in Maboneng)
R8-50 (Rea Vaya to Maboneng)
R22 (Rea Vaya to Fairlands and back to town)
R30 (Uber to millpark)

Wednesday: R38
R38 (Uber trip back home from town after having drinks after work)
Got a lift to town for fee after having an accounting meeting in Braamfontein

Tuesday: R137
R57 (Uber trip back home from work via Josh school)
R51 (Uber trip to work)
R29 (Joshua uber to school in morning)

Monday: R138
R28 (from shopping back home)
R30 (to shopping)
R40 (Bolt from home to Melville for dinner with friends)
R40 (Bolt back home and to town as trip shared with friends)

TOTAL TRANSPORT COST FOR THE WEEK: R736,50
This is well within the R1000 weekly budget for transport and way under the R2000 weekly cost of owning my previous car!

Conclusion:
Your location of living will have a huge impact on how easy and effective it is to live car free. Areas such as Jewel City with convenient shopping, education and leisure places within walking distance of each other are therefore especially attractive. Furthermore, planning and considering cheaper options where-ever possible will leave space for the spontaneity of a more expensive uber trip, for a night about town whenever desired. One thing is for sure, inner-city living will save you costs on living space and associated items such as insurance. In addition, it will free you from the need for costly car ownership. You can choose to be the slave of financiers and insurers, or you can enjoy the freedoms of inner-city living while saving a fortune at the same time!

Now who is joining me for a future in town?

Travelling by Rea Vaya bus has the added advantage that you can watch and observe and enjoy the theatre of the city around you. The spectacular City Council Chambers in Braamfontein with Jacaranda Tree.
Inner-city architectural gem as seen from the C4 Rea Vaya bus.
‘Red carpet’ bus lanes and purple Jacaranda trees.

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Welcome to the Joburg Inner-City Living Blog

Joburg Inner-City Living

Brought to you by the management team of JoburgPlaces.

Gerald Garner and Charlie Moyo are widely known for their captivating inner-city tours and events, as well as being outspoken inner-city regeneration activists. Passionately believing in the future of inner-city living and the regeneration of the Joburg inner-city, the pair is introducing a new blog.

The future is urban. In the case of the Joburg inner-city, as many as 100 000 apartments have been crafted out of disused office and industrial buildings during the past decade. More recently, several brand-new apartment blocks have risen in the city too. What started out initially, mostly as an initiative to provide affordable accommodation for students and young professionals in the city, has grown to the extent that many families now choose to live in the inner-city too.

During this time, the transient nature of short-term rentals of a year or two, have slowly begun to change. Nowadays residents (often families) are choosing to make the inner-city their long-term home. Yet, prospective residents have many questions about the viability of inner-city living. Is it safe? How do I get around? Where do I shop? These are just some of the questions often asked and that will be answered in the new Joburg Inner-City Living blog.

While it is possible to find many property rental advertisements online, it is difficult to make sense of which area to live in. Of course, the answer depends on the prospective resident’s personal requirements such as proximity to his/her place of work, access to public transport, schooling and more. For this reason, the management team of JoburgPlaces – Charlie Moyo and Gerald Garner – is setting out on a new adventure: the publishing of a regular blog, providing insight into everything to know about inner-city living. Apart from a fortnightly blog, the team will also consistently post on the topic of inner-city living on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The plan is to make the most of the huge following of people already following Charlie and Gerald and interested in everything that is the inner-city.

In the post-Covid world, it is expected that many people will be keen to downscale and to embark on the more adventurous and sustainable idea of inner-city, neighbourhood living. Yet no-one would choose to live downtown based solely on the quality of a building or individual apartment. Often local and neighbourhood amenities are more important deciding factors. The Joburg Inner-City Living blog will provide exactly such information. Over time, the Joburg Inner-City Living blog will build up a loyal following of people keen to enjoy the best of the city.

Joburg Inner-City Living

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