In the early 2000’s Hillbrow was characterised by numerous ‘bad buildings’, degraded through lack of maintenance and service provision, highjacked buildings, broken infrastructure and dirty and dangerous streets. After working on a series of individual building upgrades in the Hillbrow area from 2002 onwards with the Johannesburg Housing Company, it became clear that there was enough critical mass of ‘good buildings’, either owned by themselves or under good management, in a specific area of Hillbrow centred on Pietersen Street, to start thinking strategically in terms of a neighbourhood. This was putting the so-called ‘ripple pond’ theory of development into practice. It started to focus not only on the buildings but on the context. (It’s not only about the building!)
The eKhaya Neighbourhood Improvement Programme (eKhaya) initiated in 2004 was the first of its kind to envisage forming a residential neighbourhood community in a degenerated low income, high density “no-go” area in the inner city.
There were several aspects to the eKhaya Project:
Continuing the process of upgrading and recycling existing building stock:
Most buildings were in a severe state of decay. In recycling buildings, key questions were posed as to whether the building was sustainable in its current configuration, how it would contribute to the housing stock of the company and what other functions could be included to make the project socially sustainable. Within a series of building, all located along Pietersen Street, a variety of challenges were addressed, from converting an existing residential hotel into rooms with shared facilities – a sought after typology to rehabilitating an iconic 1950’s Modernist building.