Could this at last be a Joburg inner-city project that actually ...

Lifestyle

Could this at last be a Joburg inner-city project that actually works?

Victoria Yards has won an international award for being a successful example of gentrification without displacement

Graham Wood

The story of Joburg’s CBD in post-apartheid SA has been one of various attempts at regeneration in the face of urban decay. These have had differing degrees of success and have suffered assorted setbacks, from the early inner-city developments in Newtown, to the precincts such as Maboneng and Braamfontein, Gandhi Square, 1 Fox and several others. The recent launches of Jewel City and Towers Main in the Absa Precinct have ushered in a new phase of development, bringing much-needed economic diversity to the hipster-heavy earlier models.

A more idiosyncratic take on urban regeneration in Lorentzville, known as Victoria Yards (https://www.victoriayards.co.za/), recently found itself in the global spotlight. This remarkable development — a 30,000m² derelict former industrial laundry dating to the early 1900s — won top honours at the Urban Land Institute’s inaugural ULI Europe Awards for Excellence (https://europe.uli.org/), which “recognise outstanding urban development projects”. Victoria Yards — launched in 2017 — received the award alongside two much sleeker big-budget counterparts in the Netherlands.

The buildings, next to the Nando’s head office, which spearheaded the revival of the area, were reinvented as a campus of artisanal workshops and artists’ studios. The ground between the buildings was rehabilitated and turned into edible gardens. Markets and events were held, and — though developer Brian Green, who also masterminded 44 Stanley, says such developments are a “slow burn” — it took off. Publicity was good — even Meghan Markle popped in for a visit...

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