I’m thrilled that the long-awaited 27 Boxes project is complete and Melville has become host to the most exciting place in Joburg at the moment. You see, for those of us who drive through Melville on a daily basis, the suspense was agonising. For months we’ve watched the shipping containers being brought in, cement being cast, cranes raising boxes on top of others, and endured the dust and trucks and road closures that always come with a big building project. I know that many residents have struggled even more with these things. To my knowledge, CitiQ, the company responsible for the project, has worked hard to keep disruptions to a minimum and to keep residents warned about building hours and road closures. That’s the same company responsible for the gorgeous container silo building in Newtown – Mill Junction (https://joburgsister.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/mill-junction-coolest-digs-in-town/?preview=true&preview_id=1703&preview_nonce=e10e979d4e)
As soon as it was announced that some shops had opened. I popped in to see what the space holds. I wasn’t disappointed. The space is beautiful and incredibly photogenic. There is a lovely flow which delivers a great energy too. I hope they aren’t going to fill all the open spaces inside with things – it’s quite nice for a shopping centre to have a few open areas.
There is a wonderful variety of shops in 27 Boxes – ranging from restaurants of all sorts (indian, soup, italian, burgers…) to gift shops, bicycle repairs, ceramics, flowers and a sock shop. There is a vinyl wall decal shop, secondhand bookstore, and an angel magic shop for all your esoteric needs. There are clothes stores – many of which have local designers’ clothes – and an indian spice store. I’m pretty sure there is something for everyone in this centre. Not all shops are open yet, but I believe they will all be open by 1st July. There is apparently a waiting list for tenants.
The story goes that 27 is not the number of boxes in the centre – that’s more like a hundred and something. Each shipping container is 27 square metres – 9×3. Because recycling these shipping containers is a cheaper option than building with a whole lot of cement and steel, and it’s also a much quicker build, the rental is apparently also brought down to something more affordable than most retail space in urban centres. I stand to be corrected, but I think I heard that each 27m space rents for just under R5000 a month. For Melville, that is almost unheard of!
I like the way that CitiQ has incorporated parts of the original Faan Smit park – the jungle gyms and some trees – and revived the space entirely. I like the way that a tree root that had been pulled up has be repurposed as a piece of art. I like that there is off-street parking (much needed in Melville!).
I think 27 Boxes is a wonderful addition to Melville and I hope that it serves to bring more interesting people into this gorgeous suburb and that it encourages the shop owners in the rest of Melville to up their game a little. I think Melville is fast going to reestablish itself as one of Joburg’s most vibrant suburbs. Let’s hope that brings with it security, crime reduction and an inclusive sense of community. Melville has always been Joburg’s most arty, diverse and interesting suburb. 27 Boxes must surely compliment that beautifully.