The Eyethu shopping centre project includes the preservation and rejuvenation of the iconic Eyethu Cinema in Soweto, South Africa. Credit: dbm Architects.
The shopping centre will house a range of retail stores, including Shoprite, OBC Chicken, and Clicks Pharmacy. Credit: dbm Architects.
The Heritage Hall at the Eyethu shopping centre will showcase artworks of the Eyethu Theatre. Credit: dbm Architects.

The Eyethu shopping centre is being built in Mofolo Central in the Soweto township, South Africa.

The project is being developed by the late Soweto business tycoon Ephraim Tshabalala’s family and their partners, including Abland, a commercial, industrial and retail property developer.

The project involves the restoration and rejuvenation of the historic Eyethu Theatre, located on the project site.

The new convenience retail centre is expected to encourage a new generation of performing arts and culture within the Soweto community.

Construction of the facility is expected to be completed by October 2023.

Eyethu shopping centre location and details

The Eyethu shopping centre is being built in the heart of Soweto, in the Gauteng province.

The site occupies the old filling station, Eyethu Theatre, and the existing Eyethu lifestyle centre. Established in 2013, the Eyethu lifestyle centre was founded by Mandla Tshabalala. It is a premium art and entertainment centre and a cultural hub for the Soweto community.

The entrance to the mall is from Machaba Drive.

Retail and other offerings at Eyethu shopping centre

The shopping complex will provide about 10,000m² of retail space. It will be anchored by a 2,700m² Shoprite store. The mall will also feature national fashion retailers and food courts.

Tenants will include Pep Store, Clicks Pharmacy, OBC Chicken, Ackermans, Tekkie Town, Footgear, Bradlows, Westpack, Pedros, Debonairs and Chicken Liken Fly Thru.

Amenities at Eyethu shopping centre

The south end wing of the shopping centre will include a drive-through fast food outlet, Heritage Hall, and a rooftop restaurant. The Heritage Hall will display the preserved artworks of the Eyethu Theatre.

The shopping complex will also house the new rooftop Eyethu lifestyle centre, an incubation hub for small businesses, a hawkers’ market, a taxi drop-off zone and parking spaces.

The taxi drop-off point, mini-market and pedestrian access will be located near the entrance on Machaba Drive.

The north wing will feature a strip food court with outdoor seating and semi-shaded pathways.

Contractors involved

The project developers engaged a number of local suppliers including dbm Architects, a firm based in South Africa.

Matla Quantity Surveyors, a company also based in South Africa, received a contract to provide quantity surveying services.

Ingplan Consulting Engineers was contracted to provide mechanical engineering services, while L&S Consulting was selected to serve as the structural engineer.

Eyethu Theatre background

The Eyethu Theatre was originally built by Ephraim Tshabalala in 1969. It was one of the first black-owned movie theatres in the country.

The Eyethu Cinema was the only prime entertainment location in the 1970s and 80s for the Soweto community and could accommodate more than 1,000 people.

The theatre, which was closed in the 1990s, has since been recognised as a significant heritage, cultural and social site.

Opposition to demolition of the historic theatre

Reports of the impending demolition of the historic theatre ahead of the start of the construction of the new shopping centre led to protests on social media.

The Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation responded to the public uproar and issued a clarification in October 2021, stating that the demolition plan would not be approved without adequate consultation and engagement with the public and relevant stakeholders.

The Provincial Heritage Resources Authority of Gauteng reviewed the heritage impact assessment report and the demolition plan. It then recommended that the shopping centre development plan should incorporate the existing structure, and that parts of the Eyethu Cinema should be identified for preservation rather than being demolished.

The project developers were instructed to retain the steps leading to the main entrance, the facade on the main entrance, the roof and the first-floor facade to the east.

The existing roof is being preserved by incorporating a new suspended floor slab instead of the open-air type to accommodate the multi-functional space.