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Friday Jan 11, 2013

Facelift for Joburg's Chinatown on the cards

Joburg's Cyrildene is set to become a tourist destination.

A precinct plan for the suburb is to be drawn up by the City of Joburg in an attempt to clean up the area and turn it into a well-regulated, traditional Chinatown.

Councillor Van der Molen in front of the Chinese gates under construction.

The area is overrun with illegal structures and dwellings, boarding and guest houses, and the city has been unable to curtail this.

Ward councillor Alison van der Molen said there has been a huge influx of Chinese people to the area in recent years, resulting in people buying properties and illegally building additional rooms to house new immigrants and converting existing ones into accommodation establishments.

She said Cyrildene has become the first place where new Chinese migrants go.

''It is a transient community, and, as they find their feet, they move on," she said. Cyrildene used to be a smallish residential area, with a small business node along Derrick Avenue and the infrastructure was build to accommodate that.

However, with many more people coming into the area, Van Der Molen said, the infrastructure could no longer cope.

''There are also many legal disputes over illegal uses and construction... some have been in the council's legal system for years. There is very little enforcement of building regulations and enforcement of by-laws."

The precinct plan would improve things in the area, she said.

"It will address controls, better planned infrastructure, traffic control and densities.

''If the area is neat and tidy, Cyrildene could become an asset to the city as it would become a tourist attraction like the Chinatowns throughout the world.

''It would also improve and promote the exchange of cultures. It is heartwarming to see buildings going up that are of traditional Chinese architecture," Van Der Molen said.

The Chinese community is constructing traditional arches at each end of Derrick Avenue, similar to others in Chinatowns worldwide.

John Sherriffs, manager of the Cyrildene precinct, said most of the Chinese businesses were welcoming the precinct plan.

"We are hoping that it will address many of the problems. We are also calling for paid kerbside parking, because this has become a problem in the area," he said.

The City of Joburg member of the mayoral committee for development planning, Roslynn Greeff, said she was "acutely aware of the development pressures that Cyrildene and surrounds are under" and have started compiling a detailed precinct plan for the area.

"The precinct plan will respond to pressures in a manner that clarifies the role of this part of the city in the broader urban context.

''The environmental sensitivities of the area will have to be taken into account,'' Greeff said.

She said the plans would have to be consistent with the development principles in the Growth and Development Strategy 2040.

The department, said Greeff, has been working to collate and understand the trends and was using those as a basis for determining the future plan for the area.

The first stage of public participation was due to begin this month and would serve to ''test our interpretation of trends and well as proposed interventions'', she said.

''We plan to complete the compilation of the plan by the end of the current financial year."

The Star


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