Ferndale on Republic, previously known as the Brightwater Commons and the Randburg Waterfront before that, was initially created as a city waterfront development – a romantic notion in Johannesburg in the 1980s. The waterfront element was removed when it underwent a renovation and became the Brightwater Commons, which introduced landscaping and parks to the development as well as a flea market.
The Moolman Group has been instrumental in developing the new scheme, starting with the refurbishment of the existing cinemas into Kagiso Media’s new Urban Brew Studios. This project then served as a catalyst for the upgrading of the existing buildings as well as the addition of a new 27 000m2 shopping mall. MDS Architecture was approached by the Moolman Group and asked to invigorate the development for the Ferndale on Republic Consortium (Moolman Group, PHG Group & Braam van Huysteen) and rebrand it as Ferndale on Republic. The new additions increase the total GLA to about 42 000m2.
Sean Pearce, a partner at MDS Architecture, says that while some parts of the existing building will be retained, others will be demolished to allow for more efficient parking and to link it with the new enclosed mall. Landscaping will be a key design principle to soften the design and help integrate the old with the new.
“We wanted to retain some of the nostalgia of a waterfront, as well as the greenery and landscaping. For this reason, greenery was used as a design ethos,” he says.
Randburg is experiencing rapid development. Ferndale on Republic has good access from both Republic Road and Hans Strydom with a quieter entrance via Cross Street into the neighbouring Ferndale. “We are trying to create a convenient, neighbourhood shopping centre providing a safe, family destination with feature lighting and pedestrian walkways, with creepers and living green walls. The large parking lot will be broken up by red brick paving and landscaped vertical screens, serving as a strong axial link,” he says. Pedestrians have much greater prominence and further design measures are being taken to soften the area.
Large trees from the existing Brightwater Commons will be relocated to the main entrances to create strong focal points and connect to the past development.
The development will feature ‘green lungs’ around the perimeter where people can relax and enjoy a safe shopping environment. Ferndale on Republic will be a mixed-use development with offices as well as large retailers such as Checkers & Pick n Pay and other national brands. Family restaurants and coffee shops will also be included throughout the new development.
Part of the existing mall attached to the waterfront/building will be incorporated into the new shopping centre mall and will have the feeling of an old railway shed or building. Red brick has been used to provide a warm contemporary aesthetic and the individual buildings create a village feel. “Shoppers will walk through the existing mall and then through into the new mall creating a special connection between new and old. We are working with existing structures and keeping high level windows but introducing new shop fronts and bulkheads. The retrofitting and refurbishment will create interesting interactions and spatial connections between the two structures,” says Pearce.
The interior will also include a lot of greenery to soften the spaces. Lighting and signage, floor tiling and paving will all contribute to a completely different experience.
Kagiso Media’s Urban Brew TV studios and phase 1 (refurbishment and construction of the first parking section) are currently underway and due to be completed in March and June 2019 respectively, with the full development expected to be completed by September 2019.
The co-owners are making a concerted effort to promote family retail again and for this reason, pubs will make way for Spur, Panarottis and other family orientated offerings.
Pearce believes that in its new form, Ferndale Mall on Republic has a romantic attraction. “It is an evolution that retains the good things associated with the development. The design is efficient but sensitive to the residential area adjacent to the site while taking advantage of accessibility and visibility from Republic Road,” he concludes.