Breaking news: Melville will again have a park! The soil has already been turned on 3rd Avenue near 27 Boxes’ new entrance to the upper level of the centre.


Coming soon: a park, a new playground, a plant nursery and much more…

Rising from the ashes of Faan Smit Park, the regenerated public space heralds 27 Boxes’ reinvention as a family destination for the Melville community. Parents and their children will be encouraged to picnic on the grass surrounded by mostly indigenous trees and punctuated with benches and a water feature.

But wait, there’s more, and it’s all good news at 27 Boxes.

Last summer, 27 Boxes was on trial. Citiq Property Services’ new CEO Gustav Holtzhausen opened his door to anyone who knocked and met with representatives of the Melville Residents Association who shared their concerns that the centre was in crisis. Unlike his predecessors, he listened.

Acknowledging the community’s commitment to make it work, Holtzhausen brought fresh hope to the derailed retail centre and issued a challenge to Leon Pretorius, owner of The Countess, who put his hand up when the CEO said he was looking for someone to give it another chance.

With a minuscule budget to begin a turnaround, Pretorius realised he had to do something small to make a big impression.

First up was the metamorphosis of the Wednesday night market. Relocated from the rooftop, Pretorius sensibly took it downstairs to co-exist with the shops in the centre.

On the upper level, a compact food hall emerged. Tables and benches were placed in close proximity to existing takeaway establishments and pop-up kitchens. Word got out and in no time locals voted with their feet in support of the market for after-work drinks and a bite. Durban curry, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Sri Lankan dishes and irresistible home-made cake and chocolates were among the delicious taste sensations that pulled in the people – and each week the crowd grew.


Vote of confidence

From the wings, Holtzhausen was watching and taking note. Satisfied that Leon Pretorius had what it took to turn 27 Boxes into a community-supported centre, Holtzhausen also brought in Brian Green and his business partner Mark Batchelor, the brains behind 44 Stanley’s success story.

Behind the scenes the team met with architects and designers and compiled a list of necessaries to convert the uninviting space into a place locals want to be.


Change is on the way

With a substantial injection of funds, the team is confident that the former retail white elephant is a thing of the past and the bumpy beginnings of 27 Boxes is history. Come Spring / Early Summer, the management team promises to reveal an organic and inviting, user-friendly environment.


Putting a new face on it

The team’s plan of action includes a cosmetic overhaul. “We’re introducing an attractive and fresh aesthetic to make the venue more welcoming and human,” says Pretorius.

Well-defined entrances on 3rd and 4th Avenues will welcome visitors as they arrive. From 3rd Avenue, the public will meander through a new plant nursery, which borders on Kidchen – a cooking school for children – and their parent-friendly tearoom, new additions to 27 Boxes.

The nursery will segue into the park, which in turn is linked to a safe and friendly children’s playground properly incorporating the amphitheatre below. Still a design in progress, the team is consulting with experts to make the new playground a children’s delight with educative features. Preserving the heritage of the site is extremely important and a permanent showcase will be put up to share the history of the site and preserving the small heritage building.


Grand entrance

An impressive new main entrance is planned for 4th Avenue, next to the underground parking, with a wide expanse of steps ascending from the road to the lower shopping level and amphitheatre, which will on occasion host recitals and unplugged concerts. To accommodate this functional and design improvement, the refuse bins will be moved close to the delivery entrance in 3rd Avenue.


Streamlining the look

The so-called bridge to nowhere, which protrudes meaninglessly above the amphitheatre, and high walls towards The Countess on 4th Avenue, will be dismantled, and contemporary steel railings throughout the centre will replace old balustrades.

The dark glass frontage will give way to a see-through alternative and well-placed lighting to transform the boxes into inviting day/night spaces. Some of the boxes will be converted from deep tunnels into shopping-friendly double-volume modules.

A contemporary and calm colour scheme will succeed the current discordant palette and potted plants will soften the environment.


Community first

Cognisant of the recession that accompanies the makeover of 27 Boxes, the management team is taking a leap of faith in the Melville community.

Intent on keeping the community happy, the team is also consulting specialist traders with a view to increasing convenience shopping. With the first hour free in the refurbished underground parking, the takeaway food and freshly baked bread outlets have felt the benefit.

“The new team has believed from the start of our tenure that success largely depends on residents using the centre, so it wasn’t rocket science to give them what they want,” says Pretorius.

It’s exciting times at 27 Boxes. Change is underway to integrate the centre with its environment in this village called Melville. The park, the nursery and the reconstructed playground will co-exist with the take-away establishments, the quirky shops and the market. It is also set to become the venue of choice for meetings and events.

“In Spring we will re-launch 27 Boxes as a destination for the communities of Melville and surrounding areas,” adds Pretorius, “and we plan to give them more of what they want.”

It sounds like a recipe for success.