Could the latest revival of Newtown be the one that works?
Over the last couple of years, strong attempts have been made for Newtown Cultural Precinct to become the new buzz area to visit.
Previously rundown, the Johannesburg Metropolitan put a programme in place (Igoli 2000) ensuring some of the improvements and revival that you might have seen take form over the last decade.
Newtown is one of the priority areas identified by the City of Johannesburg for upgrading and development. Such areas are identified and managed by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) on behalf of the City.
The Newtown cultural precinct is home to three theatres, two art galleries and a flea market on Saturday mornings. The Market Theatre, which is situated in the centre of the precinct, is host to some of the most celebrated plays and shows in the country. Along with its rich history, the Market Theatre was central to the fight against apartheid in its commitment to being a non-racial theatre.
Newtown Junction, which opened its doors in 2014, can be found just behind Museum Africa where the old potato sheds of the Market building stood - becoming a mixed-use office and retail development.
While a mall might be the complete converse of what this area stands for, it might be just what the precinct needs to revive itself. The R1.3-billion Newtown Junction is also one of biggest multi-use developments to open in Johannesburg's CBD since the Carlton Centre in the 1970s.
Mary Fitzgerald Square is empty, appearing soulless and largely unused; with there little sense of street life and neighbourhood. This is despite several attempts since 2004 to revitalize this area.
One way that Mary Fitzgerald Square has been used over the last couple of years was for concert and festival purposes, but the surrounding streets and facilities have not been adapted to make a safer space to roam the streets if you're unfamiliar with the area.
Some of the existing cultural facilities in the area worth spending time at:
• Museum Africa • Workers’ Museum • The Market Theatre • Kippies jazz club • Several performing arts, visual arts and music organizations. • The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre at the old Electric Workshop • SAB’s World of Beer Museum, • Anglo-Gold Ashanti’s amazing adaptive re-use of the Turbine Hall