For over twenty years, the Louw family of Johannesburg South have been planning and developing the idea for a mixed-use development that would add value to the community while protecting the natural environment. Their vision has now become a reality with the launch of Thaba Eco Village, developed by Balwin Properties. We spoke to Co-Founder and Visionary of the development, Reuben Louw, to find out more about how Thaba Eco Village is redefining urban green living and responsible development.
A stone’s throw away from the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, the idea for Thaba Eco Village began with the realisation that “… to protect a large piece of the environment, we need to have one section that has to be a high-density development to fund the cost of protecting nature and enhancing it.” said Reuben.
Developers, Balwin Properties have stayed true to this original idea by allowing the natural environment of the area to dictate the layout of Thaba Eco Village. The continued involvement of the community, particularly during the early stages, also had a significant impact on the development. “During the application process, we also welcomed public participation to give us some principles and guidelines in terms of height, visual impact, colouring, the type of cladding that you use, creating green lanes so that it’s not a concrete jungle… it’s broken up in sections with green parks and spaces in between…” added Reuben.
Apart from Thaba Eco Village, there is a macro vision being investigated which will bring various green initiatives to the area. This vision is subject to all the required environmental and town planning applications and processes.
“It is important to note that one should not confuse Thaba Eco Village with some of the macro vision ideas going around for the area. These macro vision ideas will have to go through many changes and all the compulsory Environmental Impact Assessments, as well as thorough public participation before a final product can be presented,” explained Reuben.
As a mixed-use development, Thaba Eco Village benefits from an integrated society that adds value to its community through job creation, business development and recreational activities. “An integrated society is where people from different age groups and backgrounds can rub shoulders in a coffee shop. Where a student can live in a community where they live like a millionaire, even if they’re not one yet. The benefits of integrated mixed-use developments are that you don’t need to travel, there’s less public transport, it focuses on a better lifestyle. It’s the concept of live, work, eat, pray, exercise, recreation, all those aspects within walking distance. That’s basically what we’ve always wanted for this development.” stated Reuben.
Thaba Eco Village also forms part of a much-loved area for mountain biking (Thaba Trails, built by South African Cyclist, Wendell Bole), hiking and eco-tourism. The greater community will now be able to access these facilities through the Eco-Centre and enjoy new additions such as a coffee shop, mountain bike shop, Montessori School and more. The use of the trails has always been a valuable way to encourage community responsibility as active users help maintain the trails and report any possible issues. The hope is that the development of Thaba Eco Village will further contribute towards protecting and promoting Johannesburg as a tourism destination where visitors can enjoy all the wildlife and biodiversity that the Highveld has to offer.
You can find out more about Thaba Eco Village here.
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