Working with a Property Investment Fund, the owner of an existing suburban shopping mall to realise a new future by leveraging a consolidated property holding together with the opportunities presented by new city policies.

The mall is well located on a major arterial route linking the Johannesburg CBD and the Sandton – Alexandra Node. Several schools are in the immediate vicinity. The ‘Shopping Mall’ is considered as the nucleus of a ‘Town Centre’ with components of its infrastructure repurposed for leisure activities. A large housing component is plugged into a new connective public promenade and shares parking and service infrastructure with the Mall. The mall is re-integrated into the urban realm through a structured civic entry sequence.


A shopping mall in a sea of parking.

A monofunctional suburban mall created for the middle-class car-owning shopper now an island surrounded by dead parking space, bypassed by pedestrians and failing to capture new markets. Pedestrians and taxi commuters walk through the parking areas to buy from informal trading stalls bypassing the mall.

Photograph of the Highlands Centre parking lot

A New Vision for a Repurposing the Mall into a multi-functional ‘Town Centre’.

In the absence of safe secure accessible urban open space in Johannesburg people congregate at shopping malls for collective socialising. The future of shopping malls in an online world is dependent on differentiating and highlighting this public function. But Balfour Mall does not offer a significant leisure offering to its shoppers. How can a mall be repurposed to engage multiple market sectors, maintaining its commercial heart and adding key functional components to integrate itself into the greater public realm, being a ‘town centre’?

  1. The Property Fund acquires the neighbouring properties; an open site suitable for a large housing development and the adjacent small scale shopping centre.
  2. The City identifies the Louis Botha arterial route as a “Corridor of Freedom” – a major public transit route with new bus rapid transit infrastructure and allows densification along this route. A bus stop is built near the Mall that will be a catalytic intervention.
  3. The City of Johannesburg promulgates an Inclusionary Housing Policy which allows for additional commercial rights if affordable housing is provided.
  4. “Just add Housing”! Can the adjacent land parcel accommodate a significant housing scheme with the required parking integrated into the mall on a counter cyclical basis, allowing the housing to be located within an urban environment that is not structured around cars?
  5. The potential is to re-consider the “suburban mall” as a “town centre” re-integrating and linking the mall into its context, adding housing and leisure components to reimagine the mall in a new socio-political, cultural and socio-economic context.
Arena as the social heart of proposed Balfour Centre

The Key Moves

The shopping centre has “good bones” – a legible circulation spine but successive additions have eroded this.

Repurpose Parking Deck as multi-purpose outdoor sports facility using modified shipping containers and netting.

Open Mall onto Roof and locate the Mall Food Court on this level. The Food Court is considered as an open Roof Top Plaza edged with restaurants and fast food offerings. The Roof Deck is still accessible to cars allowing for drive-through fast-food pickups. This is considered as the Town “Square”, the social Heart of the Centre.

Ground-level parking area with minibus taxi ranking and services: petrol station and tyre fitment outlet. This area can also be used as a temporary event space with a projection screen on the parking deck façade for drive-in movies.

A new parking hub acting as a shared resource for the new housing development and the mall is added. Used on a counter cyclical basis this allows a more efficient use of an otherwise “dead” asset.

Balfour Centre proposed new promenade

A “High Line” Promenade links the shopping mall to the new housing areas as a structured civic intervention. The mall opens onto this space with the existing gym being made visible to the outside. Creating a new open space network enables people to promenade, socialise or complete a run within a secure environment.

The existing adjacent shopping centre and offices are repurposed as a community facility.

A new roofed pedestrian entrance sequence links the mall entrances to a public “Arrival” Plaza. This area incorporates small scale traders and market stalls and links the Mall to the street.

The mall is re-engaged into the public realm.

Plug in Housing

820 new housing units are created with 30% affordable inclusionary units.

The housing is set in an environment of private courtyards linked to a central civic open space.

The housing is presented as a model rather than a complete design allowing flexibility to manipulate the outcomes in relation to the overall vision of the complete development.

Original proposal conceptualised in collaboration with Urban Works, refined proposal by Savage Dodd Architects