View Full Version : Joburg Inner City decline of the 1980s
March 31st, 2011, 06:56 AM
I am doing a project on Joburg's inner city renewal for my urban planning class.
So far a lot of the reading I have done on Joburg's inner city, point to a decline happening in the 1990's.
I also have read comments on this forum of people remembering trips into the very attractive, fun, and busy inner city of the 1980's-early 1990's.
However I was reading on the Joburg City website, that the decline of the CBD started in the 1980's, when all the department stores closed up and moved to the suburbs.
I was just wondering if anyone has any information on why this happened. And if the city was indeed still an attraction into the 1990's, or was it just a business centre to go to work, but lost its retail and entertainment functions after the early 1980's.
Any information you all have would be great.
March 31st, 2011, 07:40 AM
Inner city blight started around 1990 and based based on 2 significant factors. a) the emergance of the northern suburbs as an alternative buisness enviroment (starting with Randburg, Rosebank and finally Sandton) close to and in teh Affluent Norther suburbs so people no longer had to commute to the CBD to shop and play and b) the removal of the pass laws resulting in a massive migration of non white citizens into the CBD which they were not allowed to do in the past. This changed the demographics and economics of the inner city and Hilbrow especially went into a cataphstrophic decline with virtulaly overnight buildings becoming slums. Its simmilar to the story effecting places like Detroit and could be summed up as White Flight a term coined when Detriot started looking like a war zone (and still does). Added to this the overall changes in the country with a massive trasition ending 48 Years of Apartheit, rising crime, mass emigration and buisnesses unsure of who their customer base really was. for exaple for years there were no good inner city grocery stores, the CBD resembeled a morge with lights out at 7pm and everyone leaving for the burbs,as people once commuted into teh city to shop and then stoped as the burbs offerd the same but in a safer enviroment, the retail stors closed up as well anf followed the trade. When the inner city demograhocs changed the stores werent ready for thier new customers and feared them. 15 years later the inner city is again cool to live in, bad elements slowey being moved out, the city investing into the inner city and retail making a big comeback as an emerging non white middle class is now the domenent force in SA.
Others will add their opinion but thats it in a nut shell
March 31st, 2011, 05:17 PM
Thanks for the info.
Was there any nightlife in the CBD before? Or did everyone hang out in Hillbrow?
April 1st, 2011, 02:58 AM
Yes there was great nightclubs in Commissioner, Claim and Fox Street.
Dungeon club, Heaven, Idols and Xtasy spring to mind from 1990.. I patiently wait for this to return. I'm back home in a month and wonder what Main St. Life will be like to stay in. Stayed in Mapumgubwe Hotel in Marshall St last visit.
April 1st, 2011, 06:16 AM
the core CBD had limited residential in the old days and Hilbrow was a dedicated high density residential area with most of the play things there. As Makoppa said the CBD had some great clubs, same went for Durban and CT.
April 1st, 2011, 01:28 PM
Clubs......The Doors, ESP (End Street-damn that was a great club to on a hot Sunday afternoon) and of course....uhummmm.....The Summit Club in Hillbrow.
April 1st, 2011, 03:23 PM
I always hear Joburg residents have fond memories of the CBD and Hillbrow.
However since the 1980's, many residents starting fleeing the inner city and stopped going there for entertainment, work, and shopping, preferring to go to the northern suburbs.
If people loved the inner city so much and enjoyed it so much, how come they started not going there anymore starting years before the 1994 elections, etc?
From the sounds of it, the CBD started losing its luster in the early 1980's when all the big stores closed. So if people loved it so much, why did they stop as early as the 1980's, from going down there?
April 3rd, 2011, 08:01 AM
no I belive late 80's early 90's was when the rot set in. I have fond memories of going to into Joburg as a kid in the 80s and it was fine then.
A big part was the abolition of the pass control laws introduced into South Africa in 1887 by the British to contol labor movments on the mines around Kimberley. Reading martins merridiths, Blood, gold and war the making of South AFrica, facinating book .
April 5th, 2011, 04:45 PM
My 10cents worth.
In the US most mid-sized cities are struggling to revive CBDs. Empty hotels sit on every corner. In Dayton, Ohio there are buildings like the Barbican in Jozi that have been empty for over 30 years! All the big department stores closed and moved out. Empty lots indicate where buildings were razed. Even bigger cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus struggle with this (not to mention Detroit).
There are a multitude of reasons. IMO the biggest reason is the lack of public transport and an over-reliance on cars. In Dayton only poor people take the bus. Middle-class people have their own cars. And CBDs are not built for personal car ownership. Without public transport you can't expect big department stores to remain.
Johannesburg shifted the entire infrastructure towards gearing for the personal car in the 1970's. Shopping malls like Killarney, EastGate, Sandton etc sprung up. The money flowed there because parking is easy and cheap. Stores in the CBD closed down. Johannesburg's decline started in the 1970's already. When the Carlton was built in 1973 people were already worried about the move towards Braamfontein, and many said that the Carlton was on the wrong side of town.
At least Johannesburg CBD is full of people. My travels in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana and other states show empty CBDs. Vacant, is the word I am looking for. Everything happens in malls on the periphery of town. Everyone says the CBD is dead and dangerous. I have been advised by most people not to walk downtown. Yet there are revitalization programs - loft apartments, small boutique hotels etc. But for the most part it is quite sad. In Dayton the train station closed in 1988. The Greyhound Bus Terminal closed in 2011. The CBD is clean, but sterile and vacant. It is sad and scary. And people here are calling it the end of downtowns in the mid-west. At least Jozi is still very much alive. Perfect and dead or disorganized and vibrant? I choose the latter. NYC is a mess, if you expect clean and organized. Litter, graffiti and urban chaos everywhere. But it is alive! If you want perfect, live in a Casino-themed hotel. I love NYC because it is so raw and edgy. I have come to the conclusion that I like layered cities. Perfect is boring. To me NYC, and Jozi, is perfectly stunning!
April 6th, 2011, 04:56 PM
well written Jakes