Melville gets South Africa’s first shipping container mall


Property developer, Citiq,  has come up with a South African first, a shopping centre made entirely of shipping containers.

The design of the shopping centre is planned to reflect “the vibrant, trendy and somewhat bohemian character” that has made Melville famous. (Image: 27 Boxes)

Brand South Africa Reporter
Ever since some enterprising individual came up with the idea that used shipping containers cannot simply be dumped or cut up as scrap metal, but can be used as structures to replace formal buildings, South African companies have latched onto the idea and are coming up with innovative solutions to property development.

Pop into any township or informal settlement in South Africa and one will certainly discover shipping containers of all shades and sizes being used as spaza shops, phone shops or a trendy hair salon. Big cell phone companies like MTN, Cell-C and Vodacom, realising the benefits of these structures, have also cashed in, putting up container cell phone shops at strategic street corners.

South African property developers are also weighing options of using traditional building methods against buying cheap second hand shipping containers to build bigger structures like low cost flats and houses. Property developer, Citiq, is one such enterprising property company that has come up with a South African first to build a shopping centre made entirely of shipping containers.

27 Boxes shopping centre

The new 2 400m² shopping centre, known as 27 Boxes, will be go up in Melville, in the Faan Smit Park between 3rd and 4th Avenue, a stone’s throw from the suburb’s popular 7th Street.

The development will provide 78 shops and 200 underground parking bays. The design of the shopping centre is planned to reflect “the vibrant, trendy and somewhat bohemian character’ that has made Melville famous, transforming the suburb “into a bespoke shopping centre and parkland’, Citiq CEO Paul Lapham told Moneyweb.

The preliminary cost of the development is pegged at around R12-million but the underground parking bays will increase costs slightly, according to Lapham.

“27 Boxes will not be a normal retail development,’ said Lapham. The retail shops will be small, with an average 14m² in space and rentals ranging from R1 600 to R2 000 per month, much more affordable than retail space in, for example, Sandton City where rentals range between R15 000 to R20 000 per month.

Ideal shopping centre

“Affordable shopping space is geared for the needs of small entrepreneurs, artists, creative people and food lovers. We hope 27 Boxes will provide an ideal environment to attract shoppers and encourage visitors to linger and enjoy what’s on offer from the eclectic mix of tenants,’ said Lapham.

Retail space at the shopping centre will be occupied by a couturier, a bakery, microbrewery, furniture manufacturer, a restaurant, a coffee shop and a boutique garden centre. Art galleries and studios, a children’s playground and an amphitheatre will be thrown into the mix.

Before undertaking any major construction development, most retail developers prefer to have at least 70% of their retail space pre-let. However, 27 Boxes will be different and pre-letting is not a requirement, according to Lapham.

Permanent tenant shops will be complemented by “pop-up” shops available for periods of a week, allowing the centre “to constantly evolve’ its offering in terms of tenant mix. With Citiq having been given the go-ahead to start construction by the City of Johannesburg, the company hopes construction will be done by the end of January 2015, with the retail centre opening its doors in February.

Mill Junction in Newtown

27 Boxes follows yet another of Citiq’s Johannesburg “shipping container’ projects which saw the company convert grain silos into student accommodation in Newtown. The Mill Junction, which uses one of the old Premier Mill silo structures as a base, is topped with four floors of repurposed shipping containers and houses 400 students.

Lapham said shipping containers have long been associated with pop-up malls and temporary exhibition stands. They have also provided the basic building block for a number of internationally acclaimed retail developments. Box Park in London, and a retail park in Christchurch, New Zealand, are both examples of what can be achieved with the humble shipping container, he said.

“We look forward to providing residents and tenants with a shopping experience that will spearhead the revival of Melville,’ said Lapham.

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