Business and Law
Jonathan Liebmann
Managing Director: Propertuity
There is a new cultural neighbourhood in Jo'burg and 27-year-old Jonathan Liebmann is its unofficial mayor. The recently renamed Maboneng (Sotho for "place of light") precinct is fast becoming a rainbow nation in its own right. Where once there were abandoned industrial complexes and rust there is now a diverse amalgam of people, businesses and public spaces, thanks to Liebmann and his property development firm, Propertuity.

Liebmann turned his first property investment around at 18. He went on to own a mobile coffee shop and a chain of laundromats, which he grew from one to 17 shops in three years. But more important than the business itself was the doors it opened to a private equity financier who would eventually help Liebmann to make the initial purchase that would launch Maboneng.

Arts on Main, in a converted early 1900s warehouse, has become a centre of creative collaboration in Jo'burg. It offers a restaurant, rooftop bar, exhibition spaces and studio space for some of South Africa's most respected artists, among them William Kentridge.

It was never Liebmann's dream to build a community solely focused on the arts. Main Street Life, which was the major development that followed, comprises apartments aimed at young and established professionals. It also features a boxing gym, dance and music rehearsal space and an independent cinema.

Liebmann's newest developments, The Main Change and Revolution House, offer affordable office space for aspiring entrepreneurs and small-business owners and a massive skate park that is open, free of charge, to the public.

Looking at the rapid and dynamic evolution of Maboneng, "community developer" seems to be a much more fitting title for Liebmann than "property developer".

"A lot of developers just build for the short term," he says. "But this is a place where people are progressing with their careers and passions for long-term growth." - Eric Axelrod