A new Pizza Hut outlet has popped up in Braamfontein to cap the return of the majors onto a Johannesburg node that has been transforming into a vibrant student city over the past few years. Changes are coming thick and fast in the land anchored by Wits University and the University of Johannesburg on the west and the Constitution Hill and Johannesburg Civic Centre and the Joburg Theatre on the eastern borders, where the notorious Hillbrow beckons.
The launch of the Pizza Hut outlet in Braamfontein, a node on the western borders of the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD) forms part of a bigger story that is the evolution of the CBD and its surrounding areas. The node has become a prospering student city, sprinkled with considerable government tenancy and strong NGO presence, growing small to medium sized enterprises and some enduring corporate presence. Liberty, Sappi, JD Group, South African Breweries ( which eventually packed northwards) lining up Ameshoff Street towards the National School of Arts, have put up a good fight to keep the Hillbrow syndrome at bay.
Pizza Hut is an American brand that made re-entry onto the South African market a few years ago. It is a unit of New York Stock Exchange listed giant Yum Brands. Boasting a total revenue base of about $6 billion (about R72 billion) Yum also houses the KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) brand. Its Braamfontein location feeds a trend.
The new Pizza Hut stands on the corner of De Korte and Biccard streets and is flanked by KFC and Chicken Licken outlets, a stone throw away from the Proteal Hotel (The Parktonian). And it stands, cross opposite a new Relay Jeans shop which has come to join Converse and Puma outlets down the same block. The famous Mzi Kitchens used to be here.
Recent years saw return of majors like Edgars Active and Ackermans on Jorissen Street which is around the corner from the Pizza Hut shop. Jorissen Street is actually a prime spot which hosts all four major banks, Standard Bank, Nedbank, FNB, Absa; plus Capitec and African Bank. Jorissen also features fast food giant McDonald’s alongside Mochachos, Nando’s and Pick n’ Pay and a number of popular mainstream clothing shops like Identity, Truworths, Refinery, Studio88, Legit and G-10 Exclusive Wear.
These majors are sandwiched by a host of small to medium sized merchants that have redefined highstreet shopping. Do yourself a favour. When you get to Braamfontein, that’s when you’re tired of the condescending Northern suburbs culture, venture onto the socially dynamic Kitchener’s node of Braamfontein for the small merchants that line up Juta Street, from Melle to Bertha which features The Only Music Shop. Experience a maturing coffee-shop culture that begins at Galata, next to The Immigrant restaurant/pub and the Once in Joburg Hotel (a Poshtel, to Doubleshot and Post Breakfast & Lunch. This could be Silicon Valley in the making if you consider what happens on the other side of the Nelson Mandela Bridge. The Tshimologong Digital Innovation Centre is shaping future shape shifters. And you can mellow down at the Orbit, arguably one of the best live performance venues in Johannesburg.
If it’s a Saturday, try the Neighbourgoods Market on the corner of Juta and De Beer streets and finish off at the Great Dane,Smokehouse or Kitchener’s which is one of the oldest bars in Johannesburg. Have world class fun. Have craft beer Bohemian style. You need not drive. Hop onto the Gautrain at Park Station on the corner of Smith and Wolmarans streets.
A turnaround of fortunes
The current standing of Braamfontein represent a remarkable turnaround of fortunes for the node. A northwards mass exodus of big business that began in the 1980’s had left the CBD and surrounds reeling in huge vacancies. Johannesburg became a ghost town in the making. And Braamfontein was following.
But things have changed on the back of new post 1994 socioeconomic dynamics. New business has emerged to fill in the gaps left by the blue chips of old. New giants have emerged. These include Bornfree Investment Student Accommodation and South Point which is a student accommodation empire that now dominates Braamfontein flats. Lots of old office buildings have been converted into student residences.
Mammoth refurbishments have entered the landscape. These include Braamfonteingate, an ambitious conversion of the tallest building in the Braamfontein node from office to residential space. On completion, the 30 storey skyscraper rental apartment building on 209 Smit Street is billed to have 410 units – 390 one and two bedroom apartments, 16 duplex luxury apartments, 4 penthouses as well as an array of tenant facilities. The developers financed by TUHF promise a coffee shop and juice bar; business centre with meeting rooms, fibre internet, and work stations; an outdoor lap swimming pool with chill and tanning deck; gym/fitness centre and pool and foosball tables.
And now Greenfield developments are emerging with Wits University creating a new residence on the corner of Jorissen and Jan Smuts Avenue. There is also a new Student Housing development coming up next to Braamfonteingate.
These new developments are also propelled by a concerntration of private post school institutions like Birnam College, Rosebank College, Boston City campus and Business College, City Varsity and Damelin. And the strong NGO presence in a list that includes Sisonke Gender Justice, Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) Head Office, Setion27, Right-to-Know (R2K), BDS South Africa, Corruption Watch, Autism South Africa, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and the Legal Aid South Africa.
A surface level observation suggests that movies makers like the Braamfontein node.
This article was lifted from our sister publication SATopShops which specialises in consumer affairs