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Culture club at The Cosmopolitan

Culture club at The Cosmopolitan

Meet the pair turning a piece of Joburg’s history into a hot new retail destination.

Urban regeneration and the return to the city have never been more in vogue. And rarely do they come in as presentable a package as Maboneng’s latest lifestyle project, The Cosmopolitan.

The brainchild of art gallery directors and business partners Jonathan Freemantle (above left) and Daniel Liebmann (above right), who together run Hazard Gallery just off Fox Street, The Cosmopolitan developed out of the desire to curate beautiful product together with art, and display it in a setting that would elevate the city centre’s retail offering.

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Jonathan’s background as an artist and one of the cofounders of the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival – and Daniel’s passion for fashion and his experience in retail and clothes (he’s owned a store and started out selling vintage clothes at markets) – make them a formidable combination. But it’s their love of the city that will make The Cosmopolitan a desirable lifestyle destination.

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Hazard Gallery is a multilevel industrial loft space with a bedroom at the top – Jonathan’s home when in Joburg. On either side of the bed are a sculpture by Jake Singer (left) and a Facet Industrial light (right) by Matthew Edwards; shelves hold a linocut by Dale Lawrence (top) and brass-plate etchings by Mat Chivers (below); the mezzanine above the gallery’s main area is the office space

 

Dividing his time between Cape Town and Joburg, when Jonathan is in Maboneng he lives in the loft area of Hazard, a compact but ultra-cool space that immerses him in city life. Daniel lives close by, too, and together they spend much of their time, when not in the gallery, networking at local restaurants and coffee shops with other business owners in the area. ‘This place is full of amazing success stories and fascinating people,’ says Daniel. From Bheki Dube, owner of the local backpackers, to a former car guard turned master printmaker, the area is a clear incubator for entrepreneurs.

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Also on the top level is a display area for art and objects, where the idea to start The Cosmopolitan stemmed from; a retro printer’s cabinet stores various artworks. On top is a lamp by Sacks Design and Victor Ehikhamenor’s Identify Yourself from a recent Hazard show. The printed scarf was part of a recent exhibition by artist Jean du Plessis

 

The building, the venue for their new venture, is an 1899 beaux-arts beauty of grand proportions and ornate detailing. Now its rooms upstairs have been transformed into fashion and beauty boutiques, as well as pop-up spaces for local artists and collaborations. Extending the gallery’s ethos of quality work and local luxury, the two have concentrated on sourcing brands with a point of difference, from specialist milliner Crystal Birch and perfumer Agata Karolina to top-end tea label Yswara.

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Artist Jean du Plessis recently showed a collection of work called The Idea of Constant Change, the large-scale paintings amazingly impactful in the space

 

The original bar area downstairs, an iconic space where legend has it that Charles Glass poured his first Lion Lager, is going to be revived with sophisticated food by local restaurateur Dario D’Angeli, who is also moving his celebrated Cube Tasting Kitchen to The Cosmopolitan.

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The area is in constant flux, with a big focus on property development and also public art – new work springs up constantly, such as this graphic piece by French artist Kazy.K, commissioned by Propertuity

 

Despite all the cutting-edge content coming on board, Jonathan and Daniel made a conscious decision to leave the exterior of the building as untouched as possible, honouring its history while turning it into a space conducive for contemporary brands. ‘I like to think of her as an elegant old lady,’ says Jonathan. This has informed the treatment of the space as well as the aesthetic of the garden – it’s an unexpected profusion of English country prettiness – roses, hydrangeas, cherry trees, birches. This outdoor area will house the sculpture exhibition, which will rotate every three months.

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Details such as the original door sign at The Cosmopolitan will remain as is to preserve the building’s story; the main staircase at the entrance leads up to the boutique area; the facade of the building shows the date it was built – 1899. Its ornate detailing and age make it unique to the area and even Joburg; the decorative turret cuts a striking silhouette on the corner of Albrecht and Commissioner Streets

 

The idea of change and growth is central to The Cosmopolitan and Maboneng as a whole – staying relevant within the context of the city centre’s rich heritage. With the past and the future bookending the project, art at its core and luxury as its focus, The Cosmopolitan is set to add a big dose of beauty to Joburg’s retail landscape.

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The iconic Jan van Riebeeck mural, a collaboration by local graphic artist Freddy Sam and US-based Gaia, forms a fitting backdrop to The Cosmopolitan’s garden, designed by Patrick Watson – the old and new in pleasing juxtaposition

Maboneng at a glance

As Maboneng’s principal developer, Propertuity has single-handedly changed the face of the area. CEO and founder Jonathan Liebmann gives us a snapshot.

HOW HAS PROPERTY PERFORMED IN MABONENG OVER THE LAST YEAR?
The prices in the area have increased, completely outperforming the rest of the Joburg market.

WHAT’S THE MAKEUP OF THE AREA?
Maboneng is approximately 65 per cent residential, 15 per cent offices, 15 per cent retail and 5 per cent industrial

HOW IS THE LIFESTYLE ASPECT DEVELOPING?
It’s grown hugely and is increasing all the time. There are currently more than 40 restaurants and bars in the neighbourhood, from large to hatches.

WHAT IMPACT DO YOU SEE THE COSMOPOLITAN AS HAVING?
The Cosmopolitan lends itself towards our movement of achieving critical mass in the area. This particular development also reinforces Maboneng’s commitment to heritage, art and design.

WHAT CAN A FIRST-TIME BUYER EXPECT TO PAY FOR A TWO-BEDROOM APARTMENT?
The prices vary dramatically: you can find something from R290 000 up to R3.5 million. Typically you’re looking at about R980 000.

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Contact details

• The Cosmopolitan: thecosmopolitan.joburg
• Maboneng Precinct: mabonengprecinct.com
• Hazard Gallery: hzrd.co.za
• Edinburgh International Fashion Festival: edinburghinternationalfashionfestival.com
• Cube Tasting Kitchen: cubekitchen.co.za
• Propertuity: propertuity.co.za

Text and production Julia Freemantle
Photographs Karl Rogers

 

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