Against the background of Rosebank, a rapidly developing and evolving major mixed-use centre with a vibrant central node with a multitude of facilities, Keyes Avenue, a pedestrian-unsafe streetscape with blank walls, uneven sidewalks, and broken road surfaces in a general state of disrepair, on the North-Western edge of the greater suburb, presented an exciting challenge to the Urban Design and Architecture team.
Rosebank Central is a good example of a Transit Oriented Development (TOD), comprising the Gautrain, an existing minibus Taxi Ranking Facility, a reliable set of municipal bus services, and safe, shaded walkable streets, demonstrating the Rosebank Urban Development Framework and the City of Johannesburg’s Complete Streets Policy at work.
In line with this Framework and Policy, the Keyes Avenue Precinct Plan was developed. A process engaging professional consultants, the variety of existing stakeholders in the precinct like the School, a Church, Art Gallery Owners, the City of Johannesburg, the Johannesburg Roads Agency, and the General Public, recognizing the untapped unique potential of Keyes Avenue as an arts-centered axis, running North to South, resulted in a plan that outlines what is called a “City that Works”.
This Precinct plan recommended a clear “Arts” branded and-positioned urban place with an active street frontage- now called “Keyes Art Mile”. Furthermore, it envisaged a walkable, safe precinct with neighbourhood-orientated mix-use, economic activities on the street level, and diverse ongoing social and cultural activities, representing and capturing the imagination of the inhabitants of Johannesburg.
The first building, the “TRUMPET”, a refurbishment of the Caltex Office building comprises cafes and designer stores on street level and a choice of art galleries and furniture designer showrooms behind the imposing Highveld blue facade has been completed successfully. This development has been graced with wide store walkways, stepping onto widened sidewalks, punctuated with rows of newly planted mature trees, and a paved street surface resulting in a humanely and beautifully spatialised boulevard.
Sculptures mark the sidewalks and various defined open gathering spaces, while a colourful illumination plays across the flat blue facade of the TRUMPET building by night. Once a month this first section of Keyes Avenue is closed off for all vehicle access, and a celebration of Visual Art, Street Food, and Jazz music ensues. The neighbourhood comes out to meet friends and enjoy quality time with their families while young people, representing all the colours of the rainbow, now grow up together in a culture-soaked public space, free from the interpersonal tensions that used to characterize our cities. In an increasingly urbanized world, inclusive Public art and Public space are essential public amenities enriching our lived modern cities.