In late 2012, Citiq created Sixty-One on Countesses in Windsor, South Africa’s first residential apartment block made from shipping containers. In early 2014, Mill Junction was rolled out as a novel form of student accommodation in Newtown, with four floors of shipping containers tagged on to 10 floors of grain silos. Umhlanga Junction Extension, a 75-bed student residence built out of shipping containers, launched in Brixton in early 2015. And in July 2015, South Africa’s first “cargotecture” shopping centre launched as 27Boxes at Melville’s Faan Smit Park.

“These early projects led us to believe that South Africans are hungry for something different and visually interesting,” says Paul Lapham, CEO of Citiq, a Gauteng-based property investment and management company. The Melville retail centre appeals primarily to start-ups, smaller businesses and temporary pop-ups, where compact premises mean lower rental overheads. For entrepreneurial business owners it offers a retail space with shorter leases, for testing the market. Retail spaces at 27Boxes range from 6m2 single stores renting for R2,800 to 12m2 double stores at priced at R4,800 a month, excluding VAT.

Lapham says Citiq departed from traditional shopping mall designs and built 27Boxes from shipping containers, bricks and concrete. The group made use of clever design, vibrant colours and cladding. Prepaid electricity meters have been installed inside the stores. There are 150 parking bays too.

While not cheaper to build than conventional buildings (containers need similar finishes), the construction process is faster. “27Boxes adds a constantly changing shopping experience to the bohemian atmosphere of Melville,” says Lapham. Conventional shopping centre stores range from 30m2 to 1,000m2. The shipping containers used for 27Boxes create smaller stores, with corridors for a traditional market environment. The 27Boxes tenant mix includes food and clothing stores, galleries, cake shops and health shops.