One of Gaborone’s oldest shopping malls, Main Mall is due for a major face lift as a creative agency will soon introduce pop-up retail business models in the area.
Pop up retailing is a non-traditional trade, also known as pop-up shop—whereby short-term and temporary retail and other events are hosted, according to project manager, Kago Monageng from the company at the forefront of the transformation.
Planned in 1963 in preparation for Botswana’s independence, the Main Mall is the oldest in the city, and is tucked in between the Civic Centre and the National Assembly. With the mushrooming of new and modern shopping malls, with prospects of enhanced shopping and relaxation experiences, the death of the Main Mall was predicted in the early 2000s.
However, it has managed to stand the flashy and fast paced evolution of the shopping mall development sector in the country. Now, Gaborone City Council (GCC) estate management department has granted Demographix Communications temporary land use and zoning approval permit to ‘make-up’ the eastern part of the mall. The company will occupy the space for a three month trial period with ultimate long term plans to transform the space and bring features such as street film studio. The area will be transformed into a green space, with attractive cubicles and seating spaces made from recycled materials will be put up.
“This project is part of the ‘I Love Gabs City’ which started off with documenting the city, so when the GCC made calls for creative use of spaces we thought this could be an ingenious way to transform the area into a business and creative centre,” said Monageng.
He explained the motive is to transform it into a business hub targeting youth businesses to offer the space to showcase their ideas and products.
“Under the pop-up shop model no retailer or vendor occupies space permanently as the theme keeps on changing. For instance, this week can be dedicated to the fashion industry and we will have players in that sectors exhibiting and the following week it is another theme.” However,
The intention, he said, is to change how vending is done- to make it more attractive and appealing to a greater market. He added street vendors operating here have already been briefed on the upcoming development.
“We are not turning public space into a private area, we have consulted these people and have taken one on board to manage the project but I cannot say names at this point,” he said.
A letter of notification from Demographic Communications to occupants of the place dated September 9 2016, reads “the objective of the project is to create a creative use of space, turn the space into a place, uplift the image of Main Mall, create seating spaces and also create a platform for business to network and advertise”.
A male sweets, airtime and newspapers vendor welcomed the development.
“At the moment the place is not very attractive, but if we could have nicely designed cubicles and space to hold products more customers could be attracted to our products I think,” he said.
But to the woman who sells lunch just adjacent to this man, the project brings in a lot of uncertainty.
“I am not sure how my business will be affected. I hear they are going to make us pay a fee towards proper management and upkeep of the space. So, I really don’t know what it brings for me,” the vendor who preferred anonymity said.
Nonetheless, the GCC town planning and estate division has already given the green light. GCC estate manager Aristocrat Daman said in an approval letter dated July 14 2016, the permit relates only to the specific location identified and the pop up shop would not affect pedestrian circulation.
“The applicant pays a ground rental fee of P25.00 per square metre per month,” writes Daman.