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.