The newly converted and refurbished Dorchester Mansions brings additional social housing to the Johannesburg inner city, reclaiming another Hillbrow building to deliver decent, affordable, residential accommodation.
Dorchester Mansions was officially opened today by Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC). The seven-storey building provides 64 apartments, including bachelor units, one-bedroom flats and rooms with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. JHC has learnt from its upgrading of other buildings in the neighbourhood that these are the kind of rental units preferred by people looking for a home in this part of the inner city.
Dorchester Mansions stands on the corner of Goldreich and Twist Streets in upper Hillbrow, just one block away from JHC's Bonvista Mansions. It is close to the Constitutional Court and the Hillbrow Heatlhcare Precinct and there are schools and parks nearby. It also offers easy access to the city centre, to Wits and the University of Johannesburg, and to Joburg's northern suburbs. The building is nearly fully let and new tenants have been moving in from the beginning of March. Formerly The Dorchester Hotel, the building is something of a landmark in Hillbrow and it reflects the various regenerations that characterise this inner city precinct. It was built originally as a Jewish residential hotel, catering to Hillbrow's early immigrant population- mainly people from central and eastern Europe. As the residential and business constituencies of Hillbrow - and the wider inner city - underwent a significant shift through the 1980s, The Dorchester was bought by two Hungarian brothers. They opened an adult only club on the premises, and although no longer residential but run as an hotel, they kept the establishment in excellent condition. Twenty years on and The Dorchester is once again a residential building - providing social housing for rent, for a new wave of people moving into the Johannesburg inner city. JHC acquired the building in late 2008 and continued to run it as a hotel, with some interim modifications, while investigating the design options for its conversion to residential apartments. When the hotel was closed in June 2009 so that conversion work could begin, JHC donated all the hotel's beds, pillows, linen, blankets, towels, kitchenware and other hospitality furnishings and equipment to a number of needy community organisations in the neighbourhood - including the Twilight Children's shelter in Hillbrow and the Itumeleng Old Age Home in Soweto. The basement, reception and former hotel lounges at street level have not yet been converted and JHC is considering various opportunities that would make these spaces most useful to the community - whether as business premises, or for community services, or as facilities for social functions and gatherings. JHC is an independent, private sector, social housing institution. Since 1995 it has pioneered the development of social housing for low- and moderate-income earners in the Johannesburg inner city and beyond. It is a Section 21 company and a registered not-for-profit organisation. Today, JHC owns and manages 27 buildings, providing homes to more than 9 000 men, women and children and offering JHC tenants a range of community support services. The eKhaya Neighbourhood Improvement Programme, which JHC initiated in lower Hillbrow in 2004, in an area where it owns four buildings, now covers a wider stretch of city blocks. As more property owners have joined the eKhaya Neighbourhood Association, it has made a significant impact in the upgrading of buildings and improving neighbourhood cleanliness and security. With another cluster of well kept and well managed social housing buildings now emerging in upper Hillbrow, the benefits of neighbourhood renewal are sure to become evident in this area as well.