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Renewed Braamfontein gets trendy

15 Sep 2010

The old army surplus store in Braamfontein has been reborn into a very different life – it is now a trendy creative space consisting of retail and office areas, soon to be buzzing with people.

Fifteen “creative spaces for creative individuals with unique ideas” have been set up in a single-storey building on the corner of Juta and De Beer streets in Braamfontein, says Carl Ascroft, the right-hand man of property developer Adam Levy. The building is to be known as 70 Juta Street and was designed by architect Bryan Dunstan of BD Studio.

The colourful facade of 70 Juta Street in Braamfontein will open soon.

In the next few weeks a deli coffee shop, an interior design studio, several fashion and music stores, a furniture store and a film and camera company will be taking up residence. The retail spaces are about 22sqm and the office spaces are 16sqm.

The building is made up of two rows of shops and offices – one fronting on to the pavement, with doors opening from the pavement, leading through the stores to a small courtyard. On the other side of the courtyard is the second row of spaces.

The courtyard was created by taking a slice out of the centre of the building. Some of the rusty corrugated iron roofing has been used on the walls of the courtyard, offset by a row of thorn trees and cobbles. The building’s former gun safe has been turned into unisex toilets.

“We are just getting the mix of tenants right,” says Ascroft. Construction has just completed, and all 15 spaces have been snapped up already. “This will be an oasis in the city.”

The outside of the building has been painted in bright, irregular-shaped colour blocks – pink, shades of blue, lime green, orange and purple – that make for a striking facade.

Other buildings

Levy has bought two other buildings in the street. Next door is 68 Juta Street, now the newly opened Co-op Gallery, which is allied to the What if the World art gallery in Cape Town. Dokter and Misses, an industrial design warehouse, is in the same building.

The Milner Park Hotel is being restored by Adam Levy.

Levy also owns 62 Juta Street, which he is planning to turn into two floors of offices and three penthouse apartments. The French Institute will be opening in the building soon and the Brodie-Stevenson Gallery will be moving here from Craighall.

Around the corner at 155 Smit Street, another gallery, Afronova, is busy renovating the space and will move by mid-month from its present location in Newtown.

Smit Street

In 2005, Levy bought 155 Smit Street, an eight-storey building, with the intention of converting it into residential space. He owns the penthouse apartment, a plush conversion with glass fronting on the south and north sides of the building, giving him spectacular views over the CBD, and northwards over Braamfontein.

With all the apartments occupied now, the ground floor will be completed with Afronova, making it the third gallery in the small space of a block. A film production company and a costume hire company already have space in the building, adding to the creative character of the area.

Levy also owns 6 De Beer Street, where popular restaurant Cafe de la Vie was open for the past few years. It has just closed, but Levy intends getting new restaurant tenants to replace it. Above the eatery is office space, with wooden floors and doors, and pressed steel ceilings indicating the building’s age – it is over 100 years old.

Hotel and theatre

He also recently bought the Milner Park Hotel, which is at least 100 years old, and is busy restoring it. The hotel will retain its bar and restaurant on the ground floor – the bar is believed to be the second oldest in the city – but the rooms upstairs will be converted into 17 offices.

Levy also owns the Alexander Theatre in Stiemens Street, now a busy venue for performances, TV shows and parties. “I’m all about Braamfontein and authentic city transformation,” he says. “I do this for the love of it, not for the money.”

Lamunu Hotel, a converted office block done by SouthpointAnd he is pleased that other developers are moving into Braamfontein.

Southpoint Properties

Besides converting former office space into residential space, Southpoint recently renovated the rooftop of the Sable Centre in De Korte Street, creating an upmarket bar called Randlords. It is due to open in October.

The company owns 26 buildings in the suburb, most of which it has converted into student accommodation.

It has also renovated Orchidea Hotel in De Korte Street, creating 60 rooms. It has been renamed Lamunu Hotel, and opened in June. It is recording good occupancy rates, says Sharon Mans, Southpoint’s marketing executive.

The company has also recently opened a coffee shop, a student bar, a gym and a crèche in Braamfontein.

Levy is buoyant about what is happening in the suburb, despite having moments when he thinks things are not happening. “I am very excited about the long-term prospect of Braamfontein. It is a space that is containable and controlled, unlike the city centre.” - Lucille Davie

Article and photograph/s courtesy of City of Johannesburg website (www.joburg.org.za).

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