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Why Rosebank is Joburg’s most popular business district

Why Rosebank is Joburg’s most popular business district

In recent years Rosebank has emerged as the preferred location for office space in Johannesburg. According to an article that appeared in Business Day recently, “Brokers say Rosebank is more popular with tenants due to its pedestrian-friendly environment” and “the district is now winning the race for tenants against Sandton”.

Rosebank has beautiful tree-lined streets that are at a scale that is pedestrian-friendly and the district is located conveniently between various different key city nodes. As a highly walkable neighbourhood, Rosebank’s scale supports both corporate and residential buildings, making for a unique and enriching lifestyle mix.

As more workers return to offices in Rosebank, we asked some of our district stakeholders working in the property development sector for some insights into how Rosebank’s attractiveness has developed and what more can be done to enhance this.

Night time view of The Bank building (right) in Rosebank

MARK CORBISHLEY, CEO of Blend Property Group (who recently completed construction of The Bank building on Cradock Avenue)

What do you think makes Rosebank attractive as a destination for corporates?

Mark Corbishley: We’re seeing a reversal on ‘rotational’ work with companies opting for a 3-day-in 2-day-out model for all staff and focusing on collaboration while in-office which necessitates that all staff need to be in-office on certain days. Our longer-term view is that the office remains essential to fostering culture, on-boarding, collaboration and innovation and that this is best served by having all staff in the office on the same day.

With this in mind attracting employees to the office requires that the office be appealing. Happy employees means happy employers. High on employees’ lists is easy access to amenities and Rosebank doesn’t get better; within a square kilometre we have a fortune of restaurants, shops, gyms and hotels. All within easy walking access to plenty of safe parking and various public transportation options.

What do you think could be done to enhance the walkability and “pedestrian-friendliness” of Rosebank?

Mark Corbishley: Road ‘lawlessness’ and congestion are an issue all over South Africa and Rosebank is not immune. Illegal parking and rogue ubers and taxis create bottlenecks in Rosebank’s already constrained road network which impacts access. Improved policing of illegal parkers and better enforcement of road use would go a long way to alleviate congestion, in turn allowing better access for pedestrians to get in and out of the node.

[Rosebank] is exceptionally walkable but this can quickly be threatened or dampened if crime were to escalate. Upper Rosebank seems to be getting a better handle on crime. The Rosebank Central Improvement District does a huge amount to increase security presence with guards and cameras on the streets and they also assist in maintaining and cleaning our streets. That said, [tackling] crime, litter could always be improved upon and all stakeholders should ensure continuous efforts on this.

Newly installed public artworks on Cradock Avenue

How does the next phase of Rosebank’s development balance commercial and residential interests?

Mark Corbishley: Developers tend to be commercial by nature. They develop to maximise a site’s commercial outcome. Fortunately for Rosebank this has actually played to its benefit; if I look at some of the more recent projects it is a nice mix of both residential (The Median, The Tyrwhitt, Park Central) and commercial (The Bank, 144 Oxford) and this has evolved because of the inherent demand. Developers will build what they can sell; people want to both live and work in Rosebank.

The over-supply of offices nationally and the impact of ‘Work From Home’ has dampened office demand but this may again play into Rosebank’s favour as some of the older, peripheral offices may start to get converted into residential units.

If the city truly wishes to support densification of nodes and the increase in the mixed live / work / play use of space, they would be wise to re-evaluate the bulk contributions policy. Residential contributions are severely penal in Rosebank, running up to R60,000 per unit. Currently, this is a hindrance to creating more affordable accommodation in and close to the node.

Looking ahead, are there future developments that you are aware of that will impact Rosebank’s status positively as an attractive district in which to live, work and play?

Mark Corbishley: Mixed-use “Live/Work/Play” developments are worldwide trends that started gaining traction well before Covid. As an already ‘amenity rich’ node with a great mix of residential and commercial buildings, Rosebank is well-placed to continue playing off this trend and enhancing its offering. It is a self-feeding cycle, as more is activated in Rosebank so more people are drawn to it and so more activations become commercially justified.

The acclaimed Proud Mary restaurant at The Bank

There continue to be developments in Rosebank; off the back of Proud Mary’s success. Blend Property and Trio Brands are opening a new restaurant concept in place of the old Piza e Vino at The Zone@Rosebank and we are working with Old Mutual to upgrade the pedestrian section of Tyrwhitt (between The Bank and Nandos). AngloAmerican (who moved to the district in 2021) seems to be doing a lot along Oxford Road to make it more pedestrian-friendly, which will, in turn, drive more of their staff into the heart of Rosebank. New restaurants continue to open in the new Oxford Parks precinct and in late September We Are Egg will open its flagship 3,000m2 store on the first floor of The Zone (behind Hamleys toy store).

The next big impact to Rosebank will be the development of the old Galleria site currently owned by Redefine Properties. The site has 60,000m2 of bulk in hand with the ability to develop over 120,000m2 if re-zoned. Any development of the site will go hand-in-hand with addressing the pressing issue of the Rosebank taxi rank and taxi holding area and both should have a very positive impact. This is a prime site with a commercial owner who wants to unlock it. I imagine that it is only a matter of time until something is announced on this.

The busy Rosebank taxi rank awaits a major overhaul

JUSTIN BASS, Director Grapnel Property Group and Chairman of the Lower Rosebank Management District

What do you think makes Rosebank attractive as a destination for corporates?

Justin Bass: Rosebank is centrally located and is very accessible by car and public transport, with direct access on the arterial routes of Oxford Road and Jan Smuts Avenue, which feed to the M1 and greater Johannesburg. One of the most notable events for Rosebank was the opening of the Gautrain in 2010 which is within walking distance from central Rosebank. While the node is only approximately one square kilometre, it includes a world-class shopping centre, restaurants, a hospital and all the other amenities required to be able to Live Work and Play in a leafy, ‘friendly’ suburb. 

In addition to the number of new apartment buildings which have been developed in Rosebank in the past few years, it is surrounded on all sides by established residential suburbs and excellent schools which provide an added attraction to workers and hence corporates to establish their businesses in the suburb.

Walkability, or Rosebank’s “pedestrian-friendly environment” was noted as a reason for “winning the race for tenants over Sandton”. What do you think could be done to further enhance this walkability?

Justin Bass: The size and layout of Rosebank definitely lends itself to being a “pedestrian-friendly environment”, however, it is let down by the deteriorating streetscape including potholed and in some instances non-existent pavements, lack of lighting and some security concerns.

The Rosebank Management District (CID) is very focused on addressing these issues and it devotes itself to working with the City of Johannesburg to try and enable much-needed maintenance and upgrading of the infrastructure and streetscape.

Rosebank’s largest residential building The Tyrwhitt

How will the next phase of Rosebank’s development balance commercial and residential interest?

Justin Bass: In the past seven years Grapnel has developed 385 new apartments in Rosebank.  More recently there have been a number of other projects completed and more in the pipeline which have resulted in a number of options for people to live in modern apartments in the centre of Rosebank.   In conjunction with these new developments, there have been a number of new office developments completed over the same period. When they reach their full capacity, these buildings will bring a new office population of up to 15,000 to Rosebank, many of whom will be wishing to live within walking distance of their office.

The future of successful neighbourhoods lies in the integration of residential, retail and leisure, and commercial properties. Do you know of future developments that will impact Rosebank’s status in this regard?

Justin Bass: The private sector has invested over R9 billion in new commercial and residential developments in Rosebank since 2010. There is clear evidence that Rosebank is very much the preferred location for new office requirements and many who are wishing to relocate to the node from Sandton. There is a pipeline of new residential and commercial developments which will be able to more than satisfy the current and future demand. However, the private sector investment has not been matched by a commensurate contribution from the public sector into the upgrade of infrastructure and services. 

It is hoped that with the help and guidance of the Rosebank Management District (CID) and its various individual members we will be able to facilitate the maintenance and ongoing upgrading of the infrastructure and streetscape in order to accommodate the new residential population and workforce so as to maintain its attraction and extend its capacity to provide the ‘live work and play’ appeal.

BP’s offices at Oxford Parks on Oxford Road, Rosebank

Carollyn Mitchell, IntraProp Director and Chair of the Oxford Parks Management District Board.

What do you think makes Rosebank attractive as a destination for corporates?

Carollyn Mitchell: Rosebank is highly accessible from all parts of Gauteng, it has similar public transport links as the inner city but without the grime and the lack of urban management of the inner city. Rosebank invites the pedestrian to explore, it attracts a cosmopolitan and diverse community by providing a neutral ground where all are welcomed and recognised.
Globally walkability is a measure of liveability when it comes to measuring cities. What do you think could be done to enhance this aspect of the district’s attractiveness?

Carollyn Mitchell: Rosebank and Oxford Parks’ scale of development, the heights approved by the City of Johannesburg, together with the form-base codes to ensure set-backs, appropriate street widths, cycle paths, pedestrian convenience and safety, the creation of an inclusive public environment is what sets Rosebank apart.  The private buildings co-own the streets with those moving through the area to their destinations.  The streets of Rosebank do not exclude the pedestrian, the cyclist, the mom with a pram, the elderly or the disabled. They recognise the last 1km of the journey as an experiential right – a critical component of the amenity of the urban environment.

The Radisson Red Hotel at Oxford Parks. Photograph by: John Hogg

Rosebank’s walkability has also been enhanced because of the strength of its residential offering. How does the next phase of Rosebank’s development balance commercial and residential interest?

Carollyn Mitchell: The focus of the public environment from being not only vehicle-centric is one of the cornerstones to the attractiveness of Rosebank. Rosebank’s scale, walkability and strong, protected pedestrian links through and dividing the blocks is one of the unique characteristics that defines the Rosebank experience as a pedestrian.

There are a number of properties with residential rights in the immediate vicinity of Rosebank which have yet to be developed.  The market is still feeling the effects of the lockdowns and the emerging development trends are not yet clearly apparent.

The future of successful neighbourhoods seems to be in the integration of residential, retail and leisure, and commercial properties. Looking ahead, are there initiatives or future developments that you are aware of that will impact Rosebank’s status positively as an attractive district in which to live, work and play?

Carollyn Mitchell: The City of Johannesburg has adopted the Nodal Review Policy which identifies Rosebank as a Metropolitan Node. In essence, this means that Rosebank is seen as a “mini-city” within Joburg.  The challenge will be to retain the human scale of Rosebank, its unique mixed-use attributes, its strong network of pedestrian linkages, to expand its public transport and cycle path options in order for Rosebank to assert its place as a hub in the urban forest of Johannesburg.

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