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Rissik Street Post Office restored to its former glory

Johannesburg has many historic landmarks and the Rissik Street Post Office is one of them. Built in 1897, it’s among the city’s oldest surviving buildings and was named a national monument in 1978.

Rissik Street Post Office
The impressive Rissik Street Post Office under renovations. Image: City Sightseeing Johannesburg

At one point, it was Johannesburg’s tallest structure, towering over Rissik Street at 102m high. A magnificent building oozing character and charm, it boasted a mix of architectural styles complemented by exquisite finishes. These included a copper dome, brass fittings and switches, wooden balustrades and a tower that comprised clock hands and bells.

The municipality-owned building was leased to the South African Post Office for a term of 99 years, but once the lease ended in 1996, the building fell prey to vandalism and was gutted by fires twice. Despite this, heritage experts said its core structure was sound, but that damage from rainwater due to the broken roof and damaged walls were adding to its deterioration.

It was clear to the Joburg Property Company (JPC) that something needed to be done to preserve the building and restore it to its former glory. In 2011/12, a tender was awarded for the building’s rehabilitation – a process that included fixing the roof, clearing away accumulated debris and salvaging and recycling some of the original materials. To ensure that this piece of history wasn’t lost, a conservation policy document was also drawn up for the building.

In keeping with heritage requirements and given how expensive repairs to the building would be, it was decided that a public use for the building had to be found.

An initial R40-million was invested in the building’s rescue, starting with the erection of a steel skeleton inside the building to support the roof, walls and flooring. This was important because the wooden floors were part of the actual structure holding the building together, but they’d been damaged and were compromising its structural integrity.

To deal with underground water seepage, a lot of work was done below the surface, where tunnels were dug and water pumps installed. The building was put on surveillance to ensure there it didn’t lose more of its historic assets to vandalism.

The reconstruction project began last year, with an estimated cost of R147-million. The aim is to restore the building so that it is safe and functional, in order to lease it out for public purposes. Due to its massive internal space, the hope is that it will house a museum or art gallery or be used as a venue for events such as concerts.

Whatever it’s use, it’s certain that the restoration of the Rissik Street Post Office will be a great asset to the people of Johannesburg as it upholds and complements other heritage monuments and sites within the city.

Johannesburg leisure amenities get new lease on life

In a grand ode to spring, the City of Johannesburg opened 42 swimming pools to the public on Spring Day, 1 September 2017. This followed the reopening of a number of other public recreational facilities over the past few months.

Florida Lake SP 1

In a first for the Joburg Property Company (JPC), the body’s Facilities Management division undertook the entire process of managing the repairs and maintenance work on the pools. Ordinarily, this would have been the responsibility of the Community Development division, because the provision of pools falls under its authority, but Facilities Management had the capacity to accomplish the feat in time for the warmer weather.

Everything possible was done to contract specialist contractors and teams working seven days a week to get the pools ready in time for the spring opening, according to JPC Assistant Project Manager Dheeran Ramdhari.

Some of the work needed on the 42 pools were repairs to and, in some cases, replacements of filtration systems, tiling, heating systems and fiberglass. This included work on motor switchgear, pumps and electrical systems.

The revamped pools opened on 1 September comprised one in Region A, 11 in Region B, three in Region C, seven in Region D, one in Region E, 11 in Region F and eight in Region G.

“With the volume of swimming pools we were requested to repair and maintain, my fear was that we would not be able to meet our deadline, but we persevered, kept the faith and delivered to the best of our abilities,” said Dheeran.

Proper planning has also paid off in that several other leisure facilities around the city have undergone revamps and been reopened. The timing has been perfect, as the warmer weather has already brought greater demand for outdoor activities.

One such facility is the Zoo Lake Bowls Club, which reopened to the public in late May this year after being closed since 2014. The reopening was partly thanks to JPC’s efforts in finding a suitable tenant to lease and manage the space.

The 80-year-old Zoo Lake Bowls Club is an important Johannesburg establishment, which provides the community with a central, affordable venue for social gatherings. Apart from its sprawling bowling greens, the venue often offers live entertainment. Events and happenings are announced on the club’s Facebook page, Zoolake Bowls.

SAIBPP annual conference focuses on transformation

The South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP) has worked towards property-industry transformation for 21 years. The body’s 21st Annual Convention & Property Indaba, held at Houghton Golf Club on 2 and 3 August 2017, aptly focused on the theme of “possibilities”.

SAIBPP Victor Kgomoeswana

This year’s event, attended by around 250 industry experts and media, provided a platform for open discussion about pertinent issues in South Africa’s property industry, with a focus on creating an inclusive sector “for the sake of a sustainable, successful and equitable economy”, according to SAIBPP.

Key industry players participated in a wide range of presentations, talks and panel discussions.

The Joburg Property Company (JPC) had a strong presence at the conference, with a prominent display stand and information about its transformation initiatives over the past year, current developments and future plans.


Conference participants had access to groundbreaking industry research, leading economists, business leaders and stakeholders, as well as property-sector trends and discussions around inclusive growth strategies. There was also plenty of discourse about investment trends in the property sector and built environment.

Access to land and land-redistribution models were key topics dominating the conference, with much discussion on how to achieve transformation and the ideal outcomes.

There were also briefings on new developments in sustainability, the impact of the “internet of things” on the property industry and factors affecting the public sector and access to finance.


Minister of Public Works Nkosinathi  Nhleko and African National Congress Treasurer General Dr Zweli Mkhize addressed delegates on the second day of the conference.

Nhleko addressed transformation in the property sector, focusing on the need to close the gap between “white establishment” and black up-and-coming property businesses to speed up radical economic transformation.

“This indaba also needs to address the skills gap that hampers participation of youth and women from historically marginalised backgrounds,” said Nhleko.

He reflected that the department’s property management strategy around Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), job creation and poverty alleviation adopted in 2002 led to the establishment of its 2009 property incubator programme. However, despite the adoption and implementation of the strategy, transformation of the property sector remained sluggish.

“Hence we [decided] to review our BEE strategy, [culminating] in the Property Management Empowerment Policy,” he added.

In his keynote address, Mkhize stressed the property sector’s pertinent role in transformation, referring to it as radical economic transformation.

“Transformation has to address the major constraints of the economy … the patterns of ownership and the institutions that run our economy are so concentrated that it is not possible to considerably grow the economy on such a double base, which basically still represents the racial patterns of the past and the very narrow base from which South Africans are able to contribute,” said Mkhize.

“In that context, we feel it is important for us to start addressing what needs to be done to broaden participation and ensure that whatever growth we get becomes inclusive growth, so that it takes us to a point where we have a prosperous country,” he added.

The JPC, a Silver partner of the event, addressed many of the gathering’s hot topics in its Land Strategy presentation.

SAIBPP Sipho Mzobe

JPC’s senior manager: internal audit in the Office of the CEO, Sipho Mzobe, who is also a director at SAIBPP, explained the City of Joburg’s Land Strategy and how it would address transformation in the property sector. The strategy, which is still in draft form and not yet formally approved, highlights land as a key resource. It will be fundamental in shaping desired spatial, social and economic objectives, according to the JPC.

Access to land is crucial to absorb the urban poor in a rapidly growing city and to provide them with basic services, the JPC believes. Land is also needed to sustain important environmental processes and ecosystems within the city.

Since the JPC manages around 29 700 parcels of land worth about R34-billion and one of its focuses is facilities management, the body is in the perfect position to drive the land strategy, it says.

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The JPC aims to leverage public-sector land to achieve socio-economic objectives, with a focus on job creation and transformation; small, medium and micro-sized enterprises and youth development in property; the development of women in property to achieve gender parity; and partnerships between the private and public sector to work towards achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“The Land Strategy [aims] to respond to all these issues,” said Mzobe, as he outlined JPC’s guiding principles, which are:

  • Creating jobs and livelihoods
  • Expanding infrastructure
  • Transitioning to a low-carbon economy
  • Transforming urban and rural spaces
  • Positioning Johannesburg in South Africa and in the world
  • Developing human settlements
  • Building safer communities
  • Improving education, innovation and training
  • Social protection
  • Providing quality health care
  • Building a capable state
  • Fighting corruption and enhancing accountability
  • Transforming society and uniting the nation

Financial services and funding, and investing in less affluent areas, were deemed among the best ways to get the property sector to be inclusive.

Mzobe’s appointment as a director at SAIBPP further establishes the long-standing relationship between the entity and the JPC as they work together to transform the property industry.

Council chamber: the reasons behind its engineering

The new council chamber, at the top of Rissik Street in Braamfontein, makes a bold statement, “Johannesburg, a smart city at work”, and it has received much acclaim.

It’s an award-winning piece of architecture that is still being nominated for more awards. Described as “iconic”, “a triumph of urban creativity”, “Joburg’s transformative symbolic structure” and more, this impressive building was strategically engineered with a specific purpose assigned to just about every part of its design.

The new chamber has distinct features that sets it apart. It is substantially larger than its predecessor, accommodating 363 councillors with an additional 172 seats for the public and press, all housed under a soaring 14-metre high roof.

The main chamber contains locally crafted carpeting while the entrance walls of the chamber are adorned with array of artwork in various media. Outside, a set of six-metre tall flagpoles are positioned around the pond. These flagpoles bear the names of former councillors, in tribute to their service.

The circular shape of the chamber is an important feature as it represents the African drum, commonly used in music making across the African continent. It is also symbolic of the lekgotla, a centuries-old traditional African gathering place. The word itself means “a place where meetings are held” in seTswana.

The chamber’s glass construction is another aesthetically pleasing feature, and it represents openness and transparency. The glass façade makes optimal use of South Africa’s abundant sunshine, allowing natural light to enter the building, which helps reduce the energy required to illuminate the interior.

Bronze fins placed around the glass exterior help shade the inside from direct sunlight, while the golden gleam of these fins resonates with the City of Gold.

A smart building

The chamber features state-of-the-art technology, such as electronic identification of councillors; recording devices for attendance through use of identity cards; the ability to vote electronically; telephonic messaging linked to senior officials and members of the executive, where information can be exchanged without disturbing the chamber proceedings; electronic links to external stakeholders through facilities inside the chamber; an audiovisual system, with four screens, one a large ball screen hanging from the ceiling of the chamber; and a paperless chamber, where a council pack will appear on the 15-inch touch screens in front of councillors, with a photograph of whoever is speaking appearing on the screen. There is also the ability to broadcast proceedings outside or directly to TV channels.

A green building

The chamber was built with sustainability in mind, and upon completion and inspection it received a 5-star Green Star SA Public and Education Buildings (PEB) Design certificate from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

When JPC CEO Helen Botes made the announcement, she highlighted that building new spaces, with good lighting, improved air quality and pleasing working conditions, would improve productivity immeasurably. She believed that this would also have a ripple effect and improved customer service.

Noteworthy green design features of the council chamber include:

  • Underfloor air displacement system that delivers 100% fresh air to the chamber above
  • A glass façade that allows for natural light, but not heat, thus reducing the energy required for lighting and cooling within the building. “The positive mood associated with the ability for natural light to filter through a space, enables the end user to be happier and more productive,” say the architects
  • The metering of energy and water systems, which is displayed for visitors to observe usage. A building management system collects and monitors water and electrical meters and water consumption, including air conditioning and ventilation installation plant status. Toilets are equipped with low flow taps, urinals and dual-flush toilets, and only has a cold water supply
  • The use of locally manufactured products in the construction of the chamber
  • The creation of job opportunities, for youth and women in particular
  • Concrete with a high fly ash content has been used. Fly ash is a waste product from power stations, meaning less electricity was used in its production. This has also reduced the pressure on landfills, where the fly ash would eventually be dumped
  • Steel with a high recyclable content was used. This means that emissions during its production have been reduced
  • Interior chamber finishes have low volatile organic compound (VOC) and formaldehyde content. VOCs are carbon-based compounds used in a wide range of finishes, from paints to carpets. They evaporate at room temperature, and combined with other compounds in the air, are unhealthy to inhale

A culturally rich building

Residents have played a significant role in the finishes to the chamber, and a public art competition held in June 2016 resulted in the selection of 135 artworks that were carved onto two-metre, three-sided wooden totems.

These totems now adorn the inside of the chamber and every single one tells a story of the people, from happy and sad tales to exciting and vibrant ones – each story reflects Johannesburg’s uniqueness. These totems have been nominated as a finalist in the Cultural Tourism category in the 20th Annual Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Awards.

A building that has facilitated community growth

Local contractors from Ward 60 accounted for 30% of the workforce under the council’s Jozi@Work programme, which aims to create job opportunities for people within particular regions. Bricklayers and steelworkers were employed, and where more advanced skills were required, sub-contractors undertook skills and development training. An estimated 313 people were trained, with 155 entities employed during construction, 56 of them with BBBEE ratings.

Around a quarter of materials, products and services, including labour needed for construction, went to SMMEs. A whopping 95% of the project contract value was procured from BBBEE level 1, 2 and 3 contractors and consultants. More than 500 jobs were created during construction. Six joint ventures were created with companies in Ward 60, one of which was tasked with skills and development training.

A place where people can commune

While it is a place of work and business, the chamber has been built with people and networking in mind. Here artwork, water features and indigenous landscaping create an inviting environment.

The new chamber is only the beginning of what is to be a complete revamp of Metro Centre Piazza to create a multi-use, inclusive, beautiful inner-city area.

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JPC on the future of Johannesburg’s outdoor advertising industry

Outdoor Advertising By-Laws public engagement and industry workshops were held over the past few weeks in each of the seven regions around Johannesburg. The workshops were hosted by the Joburg Property Company (JPC) in conjunction with the City of Joburg (CoJ).


The public, as well as key players and stakeholders in the outdoor advertising industry, were invited and encouraged to participate in public discussions addressing the proposed regulations that will govern outdoor advertising. The by-laws are expected to be passed in August.The JPC believes that proper regulations are needed in order to provide a safe, efficient and effective environment for all involved – the sort of environment that will allow for better business and city development.

Transforming the outdoor advertising space is a key aspect in the COJ’s Outdoor Advertising Strategy. This involves the reconfiguration of Johannesburg’s outdoor advertising space and levelling the playing fields to enable growth for newcomers to the industry.

While the CoJ development planning department and CoJ legal department are in charge of the by-laws and function as regulators, it is the JPC’s responsibility to implement these regulations by engaging with relevant entities and individuals regarding contracts and allocation of services.


Role of the JPC Outdoor Advertising department:

  • Exclusively mandated by the city to lease all CoJ land and assets for outdoor advertising and cell masts in terms of the by-laws
  • Ensure compliance with the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) and other policies in awarding and restructuring contracts in a transparent manner
  • Maximise revenue from the portfolio to contribute towards the financial sustainability of CoJ by implementing new business
  • Re-align all agreements to be by-law compliant with strict penalties for non-compliance
  • Manage all applications to the city to ensure that all advertising signs on CoJ land/assets complies with the by-laws and any other law.
  • Ensure regular contract management to deal with any transgression/s of the agreement itself (place leaseholder on terms/issue termination notices, enforce compliance, restructure and review leases, etc)
  • Reduce the size of the portfolio to reduce clutter and lawlessness
  • Effect transformation of the ownership landscape of the portfolio by empowering emerging media owners, diversifying the portfolio to create opportunities for SMMEs and Co-ops, facilitate training and development and foster enterprise
  • Ensure the removal of all illegal signs on CoJ land by December 2017 as directed by the city
  • Coordinate street furniture installations to supply amenities/provide services to the city
  • Encourage digital migration of the portfolio in line with by-aw review
  • Jointly with the CoJ planning department collaborate with the provincial roads agency and other spheres of government to ensure compliance across the city 


JPC’s Outdoor Advertising department currently manages various forms of “out of home” advertising. This comprises an estimated 720 billboards, 3 800 on-premises signs, 30 000 various forms of street furniture (street and suburban names, transport shelters, bins, etc.), street pole advertisements and about 130 cellular mast sites and antennae which are erected on CoJ-owned assets and land.

The department also manages about 26 formal taxi rank facilities used for advertisements on behalf of the city.

At the Outdoor Advertising INDABA held on 10 May 2016, the industry and the CoJ adopted resolutions. It’s these resolutions that have been the basis of discussions at the by-laws workshops.

Speaking at the last by-laws workshop that was held in Auckland Park, JPC CEO Helen Botes said, “We have to ensure that we champion legality in this space and we have to work collectively to achieve a common outcome… We both want revenue. We both want transformation and we both want legality.”

Speaking at the same workshop, Jack Sekgobela, the Operations Manager for CoJ development planning said, “We know very well that the state of advertising in the city is not actually up to the standard where we want it to be. We want it to be an environment that is very conducive to every one of us to be able to play in this space … We had seven consultations in seven regions starting from the beginning of June, and we set aside a day just to talk to the industry.”

Sekgobela went on to explain that the goal is to end up with a by-law that will work for everyone, where the signs erected in the outdoor advertising portfolio will be safe and aesthetically pleasing.

“The levels of compliance in the city are very low. We need to improve those levels. And then every time you go out, you erect a sign, you are complying to some law,” he added.

The resolutions that were adopted by the CoJ and industry at the INDABA are as follows:

  • The industry is to come forward and declare all their illegal signs to the city
  • That CoJ, through the JPC and the development planning department agree to commit to time frames to remove all illegal signs
  • That the CoJ commits to improving the turnaround times in respect of by-law processes
  • The JPC commits to being the applicant for by-law approval in respect of council-owned land
  • The CoJ commits to consider the reduction of application fees for SMMEs
  • The CoJ commits to develop a digital policy for the city. Certain areas have been developed in the master plan and the policy is to follow
  • The CoJ will engage with development finance institutions (DFIs) to assist SMMEs with funding requirements
  • The CoJ will engage with the industry with regards to the proposed outdoor advertising master plan as part of the outdoor advertising by-law review process.
  • The CoJ commits to partner with the industry to invest in training and development in respect of outdoor advertising
  • The CoJ commits to setting up targets in terms of transformation to assist in ensuring more SMMEs participate in the industry

OA Jack

Taking into account the resolutions and by-laws there will be a restructuring of the outdoor advertising portfolio, something that Botes terms “the future of outdoor advertising”.

In her presentation Botes said, “In terms of the master plan, there are 472 billboard opportunities on the city’s road reserves, 15 sites on road reserves in the form of gateway signs, and 115 on city bridges – totalling 602 opportunities on city-owned land.”

She went on to explain that in keeping with the transformation targets set, 60% of these sites would represent about 361 opportunities which must be earmarked for B-BBEE entities, leaving 241 sites for those who currently dominate ownership.

“Currently two entities hold more than 450 existing advertising sites with over 70% being illegal. To give effect to the Transformation Scorecard and optimise revenue from the portfolio, the following pertains to restructuring:

Reduction of all holdings to achieve 60% B-BBEE ownership as per target set to redress the ownership imbalances; contract review and by-laws enforcement to rid the portfolio of illegality in order to reduce clutter.”

Botes added that there would be cancellations and culling of contracts/sites that weren’t performing but are currently on a month to month basis.

In addition she said there are plans to “set aside all new projects for new or smaller entities that are majority black-owned entities as per the transformation targets and introduce new contract terms and a revenue model – with fixed rentals and turnover of up to 45%”.