Mowbray Mixed Use Retail and Residential Development

Mowbray Mixed Use Retail and Residential Development

View of no.76 from Corner of Main and Upper Durban Roads.
John Street unit shared kitchen area.
No.76 First Floor Balcony


Elsma CC

Start Year


End Year



Erf 170070





Design Studio Cape Town CC

The Project Challenge

Inner city areas have historically dealt with changing urbanization demands through accommodating housing close to opportunity and work. The proximity to a transport interchange, Groote Schuur Hospital and tertiary educational institutions has guaranteed Mowbray’s attractiveness over time to a range of people. Buildings along the Main Road accommodate small scale trading and residential fabric with walkways and balconies that maintain the texture and vibrancy of the streetscape, while single and double storey residential fabric towards John Street, still largely comprising row houses, has been changing to accommodate offices and workshops.

The ability of the area to deal with transient needs of affordable starter accommodation and retail in well-located parts of the City has evolved this environment and was key to the client’s brief. The project sought to look at residential options that would address affordability, adaptability and the making of a community.

Principles & Approach

The consolidation of five sites gave opportunity to form a series of courtyards, that in association of shared areas between three Main Road buildings and the new John Street residential building, deal with access, parking, security and the meeting and association of tenants.

The residential building on John Street lent itself to providing work from home options and units that are flexible to support larger families or couples that would share a common kitchen area. The need to be sympathetic to the gradation in scaling to the immediate building fabric was considered in section and volume and in the opportunity of mezzanine platforms within the tight modulation of the units. The original shop to 76 Main Road ground level was altered to accommodate 6 trading and office areas with a single access point off Main Road into a display foyer. This created a community in the association of the traders and afforded good business opportunity in the mix of retail. In adding a 2nd floor, No. 76 provided 10 single or paired living units which share bathroom and kitchen areas. The existing structural frame of this 1960’s building set up the layering of these units, from the rear access galleries, wide enough to accommodate tables for sitting in the morning sun, through a shared entrance and service area, to private living spaces with a layered glazed and shuttered façade looking to Main Road and the magnificent views of Devil’s Peak. The shutters create a threshold and covered balcony space to each unit, intended to negotiate street noise, privacy, rain wind and westerly sun.

A successful aspect is that the client is the managing agent and thus there is a direct relationship between the commercial viability and appropriate response in the understanding of the intended market and tenants’ needs. The project highlighted the potential for programmes that address firstly, the demand for both small scale traders and entrepreneurs who value the association to the Main Road and passing trade and secondly, rental housing to cater for students, younger people and more transient populations accessing the city.

76 Main Road  
Ground Floor 6 retail units
First Floor 5 living units (2 double units + 1 single unit)
Second Floor 5 living units (2 double units + 1 single unit)
John Street Building  
Ground Floor  2 living units (1 care taker + living areas to family unit)
First Floor 5 living units (2 double units + bedrooms to family unit)
Total units  6 retail + 17 living units, excl. existing in the adjoining buildings which remained unaltered.