Cir­cle a date

Crowne Plaza puts Rose­bank back on the evening map

Finweek English Edition - - Something Els - FRIK ELS frike@fin­

CITY DIS­TRICTS’ FOR­TUNES wax and wane. Neigh­bour­hoods go from posh to poor, from fash­ion­able to fetid (and some­times back again) with reg­u­lar­ity. That’s true ev­ery­where but more so in younger cities. I don’t see Kens­ing­ton Palace in Lon­don or Paris’s 7th Ar­rondisse­ment go­ing down the drain any­time soon, but saw a story about Aca­pulco in Mex­ico last week. In the same area where the likes of El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor held her wed­dings and the cream of Hol­ly­wood hung out in the Six­ties, there was a gang­land shoot-out in which 16 peo­ple died. Celebri­ties have made way for drug and slum­lords.

Prob­a­bly nowhere in the world do those changes hap­pen with such ra­pid­ity as in Jo­han­nes­burg. Hill­brow has be­come short­hand for that process. As so many old Jo’burg­ers like to re­gale you with, in the Sev­en­ties Hill­brow was the place to party in cos­mopoli­tan style and was the clos­est thing the then apartheid state had to a hip­ster colony. Even in the early Nineties you could walk the streets and sam­ple some of the more edgy de­lights a city such as Jo’burg could pro­vide.

To­day it’s still cos­mopoli­tan and you can party. But the down­side is a fridge land­ing on your head as part of those cel­e­bra­tions.

While not quite such a rad­i­cal ex­am­ple as Hill­brow, there was a time when Rose­bank’s fu­ture also seemed some­what un­cer­tain. The Rose­bank Mall, long the prime ex­am­ple of its kind, was looking a bit run­down and tired and Ox­ford Road was turn­ing into a Smal Street. Among other things, to tackle the prob­lem the district fathers had the bright idea of clos­ing down the clubs, restau­rants and venues around the Con­stan­tia Cen­tre, now rather pre­ten­tiously called the De­sign District.

Hardly more than a sin­gle block, it was one of the ar­eas in Rose­bank still vi­brant dur­ing the Nineties and one of the few places in Jo­han­nes­burg where you could hang out at night. It at­tracted out­side vis­i­tors (it cer­tainly helped the lo­cal econ­omy through food and bev­er­age in­vest­ments) and pre­vented the streets from emp­ty­ing out. Af­ter the crack­down it be­came ghostly at night and empty dur­ing the day. Only the peepshow man­aged to stay open. And they called it progress. A decade of small-scale, mod­estly suc­cess­ful up­grade projects fol­lowed.

The Grace Ho­tel up the road is cer­tainly as up­scale and dis­tin­guished a place as you’d want in a place like Rose­bank, and the Hy­att’s not bad ei­ther. But Rose­bank still lacked a proper han­gout. That is, un­til the new Rose­bank Ho­tel opened up. Thanks to a R315m re­fur­bish­ment (al­most a re­build) and a de­sign that’s stylish and play­ful without try­ing too hard, the neigh­bour­hood has a new des­ti­na­tion. There’s stand­ing room only on a Fri­day in the Cir­cle Bar af­ter work – and with good rea­son: just try a Stiletto from its cock­tail list. The Rose­bank Ho­tel first opened its doors in 1932 and was sold to the In­tercon­ti­nen­tal group’s Crowne Plaza fran­chise post its re­fur­bish­ment.

Wel­come back, Rose­bank.

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