013 A view of the Newtown Junction shopping center in Johannesburg with the old Potato Sheds are in the foreground. 100714 Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - A sea of rusty red roofs reminiscent of old mining Joburg, intermingled with a modern shopping centre, sets the scene for the Newtown Junction shopping centre precinct which is nearing completion.

This week the first office workers move into the phase one of the development, opposite the Market Theatre, which has just been completed.

Three old historic shops have been renovated and restored, and form part of a modern building which will house Nedbank offices.

The new development is expected to bring an additional 5 000 to 6 000 people into the inner city each day.

The multimillion-rand development includes the upgrade of the Market and its smaller theatres, which is nearing completion.

The new shopping centre incorporates the historic potato sheds and is also almost finished, with the first tenants expected to take occupation by Christmas.

The theatre precinct and the 40 000m² shopping centre will be interlinked through well-lit walkways and a historic pedestrian bridge which used to run over the railway lines, and which has now been restored.

Informal markets are being planned along the old railway lines, and an exhibition space close to Museum Africa is being built.

The centre, said architect for the Market Theatre precinct, Jeremy Rose, is unique because it has been designed to keep the historic feel and aspects of the old, industrial Joburg.

Although it will incorporate major tenants such as Shoprite Checkers and Pick n Pay, as well as a gym, movie theatres, restaurants and the usual retail stores, the fabric and character of the former mining town will be retained.

“This includes the rusty-red roofs which were the norm for industrial buildings at the time. People used cheap white paint, and mixed rust in it to give it colour. These will be maintained as it reflects the old city,” said Rose.

The old potato sheds, built in 1912 as part of the original Indian market and which have been lying derelict for about 30 years, were dismantled and restored.

“This development is opening up the inner city to a wider Joburg, including Braamfontein. It is the first major shopping centre in the CBD and it will also serve the students and residents of Braamfontein,” he said.

“It is the only place close to the CBD where people can shop for groceries, see a show, go to the movies and have a meal, all in one space.”

There will be plenty of parking with 2 500 spaces.

“The city is growing and maturing. We are hoping that it means the Joburg CBD will not shut down at 5pm as everyone hurries home into the suburbs,” he said.

It is also expected that the precinct will be used for cultural activities such as jazz and art festivals.

“The construction of the Mandela bridge first opened up the area from Braamfontein to Newtown. The Mary Fitzgerald market also helped turn the area around, and this new development will round it off,” he said.

The development is in the location of the old Joburg fresh-produce market. - The Star