Braamfontein is an interesting place. There is an exciting mix of ‘urban renewal’, ‘social upliftment’, and <insert alternate hipster phrase of choice here> underway.
Adam Levy must be congratulated for his passion for the area and one of the contributing factors to the influx of BWICster [Sharmanism: (n) Black White Indian Coloured Hipsters] faces to ‘Town’. I’ve pasted some more information about Levy at the bottom of the post from *The Mail & Guardian and what it had to say about the man when he was included as one of their ’200 Young South Africans’ in 2010.
PUMA launched its epic new concept store in Braamfontein this past weekend and like McDonald’s and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, becomes another global player to throw its weight behind the area’s regeneration.
We have written about other successful Braamfontein endeavours such as Neighbourgoods here, which is part of Levy’s Play Braamfontein portfolio. There are also rumours of PUMA launching a social club across the road from the retail store – which we are particularly excited about – but from a business point of view, is Braamfontein ready to sell mainstream brands.
The underground, ‘password-protected’ Great Dane and the hugely popular Neighbourgoods suggests that small business can grow a cult following and succeed in Braamfontein, but my only concern for PUMA is if they are able to move enough stock to make the store a viable investment. People are much more likely to buy a Big Mac with its lower class price tendencies on the way home from Wits than drop a few hundred Ronds on international apparel.
For the sake of the brand, I do hope they succeed, because it will encourage others to invest in Braamies. The more brands invest, the more chance we have to Turnip the Beet …
*If looking out of Adam Levy’s glass-walled apartment on Smit Street in Braamfontein doesn’t leave you in love with Jozi, nothing will.
The light-filled, uncluttered space is pinned above the city skyline between the Nelson Mandela Bridge and the older Queen Elizabeth Bridge, with a prime view over Park Station, the railway lines and the looming towers of the CBD.
Levy trained as a lawyer, but, by his own admission, is a frustrated architect. And he loves the city – particularly Braamfontein.
Reviving the district, which began with the purchase of the Smit Street building in 2003, has become an all-consuming passion for him.
But he’s loath to be referred to as a property developer.
“The word has been sullied by the way people have done it in this town,” he says.
“This isn’t about pillaging; it’s about transformation, it’s about effecting change.”
He is the first to admit that his vision for rejuvenating Braamfontein is not necessarily shared with the City of Jo’burg and its administration. Levy is a vociferous critic of the city’s management, which, he believes, has not delivered on its promises to redevelop the inner city properly, or, when strides have been made, to maintain the improvements.
But he is determined to keep creating what he terms “spaces of aspiration” within Braamfontein. Levy refurbished the beautiful old building across the road from his apartment block; painted a merry, eye-catching green, it is home to the Café De La Vie.
In 2006, Levy began the redevelopment of the Alexander Theatre, which had been closed for a decade, but now operates as a live-music venue. And earlier this year he bought the Milner Park Hotel, with its century-old bar, Kitchener’s Carvery, increasingly popular with Jozi’s cultural and music underground. Behind his home at 70 on Juta, Levy is completing work on a redevelopment that will see the creation of 10 new retail spaces and five new creative office units.
“We’ve got to be hopeful, we’ve got to be positive. There are amazing people here, they need to be looked after,” he says. “We need great, young, renewed leadership. We need people to stand up and say we want to do it differently.”