Braamfontein Precinct, Johannesburg
Braamfontein, north of the city of Johannesburg, is the butterfly emerging from its urban decay, through the vision and enthusiasm of the regeneration initiative. The unveiling of the Nelson Mandela Bridge in 2003 and the opening of the Constitutional Court in 2004 were the regeneration catalysts, with the execution headed by the Johannesburg Development Agency and property owners.
The Braamfontein Management District (BMD), a non-profit company to which all ratepayers in the area contribute, worked on the fundamentals of crime prevention and keeping the streets and area clean and well maintained.
It did not take long for Neil Fraser, Adam Levy and a number of talented property developers to realise the potential of upgrading the basically solid buildings into a very attractive precinct of mixed use.
Office, residential and lifestyle spaces are integrated, from penthouses with amazing city skylines, to accommodation suited to modern student life; from high end boutiques and hip office spaces to workshops and studios for the design community; from art galleries to fashionable rooftop spaces, nightclubs and trendy eateries to theatres and ballet, all giving Braamfontein a feel of a chic lifestyle with a stylish buzz.
Down Ameshof Street, on the corner of Bertha Street, is one of Joburg’s best-known public artworks: the Eland Sculpture by Clive van den Berg. It is a poignant reminder that only 12 decades ago this was grassland where eland roamed free. In fact, Braamfontein was once a huge, successful farming area, supplying the gold mining industry in Johannesburg.
On a more business-like note, Braamfontein, home to Sappi, Liberty Life, JD Group and other multinationals who have upgraded their buildings, is now marketed as the fourth-largest node for office space in the city of Johannesburg.
Braamfontein is also home to the South Africa’s premier educational institution, the University of the Witwatersrand which draws students from far and wide, and to other educational institutions including Rosebank College, Lyceum College, Damelin College, Boston City Campus & Business College and John Orr Technical High School, 5th Dimension College of Visual Arts, Birnam Business College and Oval International.
Just around the corner, Constitutional Hill, is home to the highest court in the land, and is considered to be one of the top tourist experiences in the country. A visit takes one through our political history, from the inequities of the prison once housed there, to our new constitution, considered one of the best in the world.
Braamfontein is home to the Joburg Theatre, formally the Civic Theatre, and the Alex Theatre at 36 Stiemens Street, hosts not only local versions of Broadway hits like “Rent,” but also cocktail soirees in its scarlet-coloured Play bar. Like Braamfontein itself, the Alex is where old meets new.
The theatre complex has a square linking it to the large head offices of Sappi and Liberty. The square itself is not that remarkable but you can sit on the edge of a water feature and watch ballet dancers practicing their routines behind the glass facade of the South African Ballet Theatre!
Wits University has opened the Wits Art Gallery, which houses over 9000 pieces covering a comprehensive collection of historical and contemporary African Art.
Found at University Corner, Corner Bertha (extension of Jan Smuts Avenue) and Jorissen Streets, you will not be disappointed with your visit to this gallery.
After your wander through the various exhibitions of African art, relax in the café with a drink and bite to eat whilst checking out the upcoming events and exhibitions for your next visit.
The award-winning Neighbourgoods Market offers an assortment of goods from local artisan producers, purveyors, gourmet merchants, speciality cooks, regional farmers and estates, as well as a selection of local designers.
The same high standards of quality and experience that have become the benchmark of the original Cape Town market at the Biscuit Mill can be found in abundance at the Johannesburg edition.
The market runs every Saturday from 09.00 to 15.00. Special events also take place, such as the We Love Real Beer Festival and the Barrel and Vine. Secure parking is located near 73 Juta Street on the corner of Juta and Melle Streets – also Handicap Accessible.
In De Korte Street is another Jozi hideaway, Narina Trogon restaurant, with its awesome interior design, fine collection of contemporary artwork and wonderful courtyard. Here you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or an early dinner before attending the theatre.
The menu includes eclectic dishes like the Mozambican chicken and vegetable casserole. The freshly baked cookies, cakes and tarts are paired with strong Ethiopian coffee from Bean There, a local roaster.
One of Adam Levy’s best renovations in Juta Street must be the Milner Park Hotel and Kitchener’s Bar. He has turned this old wreck (second oldest pub in Jozi) into a set of creative-industry offices.
But it is the ground floor bar and restaurant that makes the building so astonishing. Walk in here and you will find a row of men propping up the bar counter at 11am in the morning.
It is dark, smoky and a bit dingy, but full of atmosphere that takes you back to what Joburg must have been like in its early years.
Randlords, on the 22nd floor of South Point Towers in de Korte Street, has become a signature of luxury and style. Voted the best rooftop venue in the country it has a 360-degree view of the Johannesburg skyline and an avant-garde interior design.
This exclusive venue is not cheap, but is well worth the experience. As the lounge hosts events like corporate functions, parties and weddings, be sure to book ahead to avoid being turned away at the door!
Guests can stay at Hotel Lamunu at 90 de Korte Street. A full English breakfast is served each morning in the colourful dining area. La Menu café serves simple but delicious dishes throughout the day and has a beautiful courtyard.
The Great Dane at 5 De Beer Street, is an intimate bar with a gourmet hotdog menu with regular DJ appearances from Thursday-Saturday.
The Post is a casual coffee shop and light meal eatery open for breakfast and lunch at 70 Juta Street. It aims to serve the best coffee in the city, offering early morning breakfasts and simple freshly prepared lunches.
Café de la Vie at 6 De Beer Street is a bistro in one of the quarter’s rare original Victorian buildings, with a bright lime facade and a rustic interior. The owner and chef, Deon Jacobs, serves pan-Euro comfort classics — fish and chips, warm beef salads — surrounded by antiques and contemporary bric-a-brac, all for sale.
There are many high end boutiques scattered around. Here are a few:
PUMA has launched its epic new concept store in Braamfontein on the corner of De Korte and Melle Streets, and like McDonald’s and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, becomes another global player to throw its weight behind the area’s regeneration.
The Co-Op at 68 Juta Street is a multi-room art space operated by a partnership between Cape Town-based What If the World Gallery and Dokter & Misses, a local industrial design brand.
In the front room, Katrin Lewinsky, the Co-Op curator displays both visual and installation art by young South Africans. At the back, the industrial designers Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin sell their minimalist but eminently functional furniture.
Getting to and from Braamfontein is very easy. It is close to Johannesburg Park Station and taxi ranks as well as the Gautrain station and BRT bus network. It is also in an excellent position for easy access to Johannesburg city, the colourful music capital of Jozi, Newtown, and the fashionable northern suburbs.
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