I don’t need to tell you that Jo’burg is infamous. We’re considered one of the crime capitals of the world and it’s something we have to live with every day. ( Of course the whole matter is blown out of proportion internationally but I’m not going to delve into that right now.) AS any city Jo’burg has Excellent, good, reasonable and bad parts. That’s the sad reality of just about anywhere and especially cities.
Also common in cities in this idea that progress means moving out of the inner city to suburbia or the outskirts leaving older office buildings and flat to stand empty and effectively rot. Braamfontein is a Jo’burg suburb had just about suffered this fate. Braamfontein was a bustling part of the city. Big companies had head offices there, people lived in high rises and restaurants and pubs were abundant. It was a fashionable place to be and be seen.
Unfortunately as politics and poverty and “progress” prevailed Braamfontein fell out of fashion. In a fairly short time the buildings became empty and very few big corporates and a few private shops still remained. They were brave because no one else really wanted to go to Braamfontein anymore. It was never “terrible” where you feared for your life whenever there but it didn’t feel safe and you definitely would rather avoid it at night.
So, when big business with it’s employees and their money is gone what do you do with all the empty buildings who need people and money to run them. Well, you look at what it left. This is exactly what two women did when they looked at Braamfontein and what they found is so blatant it’s a wonder if wasn’t there all the time:
Braamfontein is surrounded by, and host several, universities and colleges all of which have thousands of students who need somewhere to stay as most students are not from Jo’burg. Enter Southpoint Accommodation ( http://www.staysouthpoint.co.za/) which converted office buildings into safe and stylish apartments and residence. One building after the other was filled up by eager students who appreciate the close proximity of Braamfontein to their academic institution. And with students came money and a need for places to spend it. Gradually other braver soles started opening retail stores, grocers, take away joints, restaurants and pubs slap bang where everyone was too scared to venture. And it all paid off.
Within about 6 years Braamfontein’s fashionable districts are growing by the day and you can now walk past well like shops selling expensive merchandise and selling good food.
Some places to note:
The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship ( http://www.bransoncentre.org/SouthAfrica/home.html) Entrepreneurship is what South Africa needs more to succeed so thanks Richard for giving us options.
The Neighbourgoods Market – (http://www.neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za/ ) A great place to get a variety of cosmopolitan food and drink a Mojito on the rooftop until the sun goes down.
The Great Dane and Kitcheners – a great restaurant and quirky bar pairing
And many, many more.
The students obviously hang out here but what is important to note is that people from other parts of town are also queuing around the block to get into the likes of Kitcheners because it’s obviously the place to be. We’re not scared to tread there anymore
May this revitalisation long continue and become a trend.