HOPEFULLY the ghost of Newtown’s Mr Chips will be laid to rest in the next few months.
The historic potato sheds in which, as legend goes, the worker was killed by a falling sack of potatoes, are part of a new R1.3 billion retail, hotel, office and hotel development currently under construction in Newtown.
Legend has it that Mr Chips haunts Museum Africa’s costume collection section, where he is often heard ruffling the old clothes and rearranging shelves.
The Newtown Junction is being built on the heritage sites where the old market and its buildings stood.
All historical elements are to be conserved, including the old potato shed buildings, built in 1912 as part of the original Indian market, between Carr Street and Museum Africa, and which have been lying derelict for about 30 years.
The Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market relocated from the city centre to Newtown in 1913, but in 1974 the market was relocated to larger premises in City Deep, and the decline of Newtown began.
Now, with the new centre going up, it is hoped the area will be revitalised.
A walkway and historic railway bridge will link Newtown Junction with Museum Africa and the Market Theatre.
Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Mr Price, Truworths and Foschini have all confirmed they will be taking up space in the new development.
Nedbank is consolidating its offices in the new development, which will comprise a 40 000m2 shopping centre, a hotel, a gym, and four levels of basement parking providing 2 400 bays. Much of the construction will be in line with the Green Building Council of South Africa.
“The entire development embodies a holistic vision – connecting the past, present and future of this built environment with care and flair,” says Atterbury Property Developments managing director James Ehlers.
“Newtown Junction will be sustainable, while preserving Joburg’s history and revitalising our heritage, and create a space that is relevant to those who live, work and travel in the city today. It will be a unique, lively hub where people can shop, eat, relax, linger and connect with one another and the unique and compelling city legacy surrounding them,” he adds.
The heritage-inspired design will retain and restore historical landmarks.
Cobus van Heerden, Atterbury’s director of retail, says: “The age and significance of the buildings means the development is following heritage regulations.
“The buildings will be sensitively adapted into a quality shopping centre that celebrates the cultural significance of the site and its buildings. The architecture will be a mix of old facades and new structures.”
The hotel, he says, will give tourists an appealing option to stay in the inner city and experience the diversity of nearby cultural and entertainment attractions.
Work started in April and the project should take two years to complete.