Circle a date
Crowne Plaza puts Rosebank back on the evening map
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.