The main north entrance to La Lucia Mall soon after it opened in 1974.
The main north entrance to La Lucia Mall soon after it opened in 1974.

Then & Now: A trawl of the mall

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Nov 27, 2021

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The old picture this week features one of the province’s premier shopping centres, La Lucia Mall, and was probably taken soon after the centre opened in 1974. It was posted by Theegan Gounden on the Facebook page Durban Down Memory Lane.

When La Lucia Mall first opened it had 45 stores. Today it boasts more than 130 and attracts about 4 million shoppers annually.

The original building was designed by Bentel in 1972 as a 12 000m² shopping mall. In the early 2000s, Bentel redesigned La Lucia.

Having undergone four extensions, the centre had evolved to 40 000m² and required a comprehensive external and internal refurbishment. The main design feature was a centralised oval-shaped atrium and court with a tensile cable glass roof.

In 2019 the mall completed another major revamp that modernised its retail space.

The main entrance to La Lucia Mall today is obscured by the undercover car park. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

In the post, many Durban North residents had fond memories of going to the mall.

Karl Stumke lived across the road in Emerald Isles and remembers playing in the foundations when it was being built.

Another resident remembers learning to ride her bicycle in the car park while yet another learned to drive and park at La Lucia Mall on Sundays. Others commented on the style of the cars, and noted there were no car guards “back then”.

This was before malls opened on Sundays and La Lucia was one of the first to do so. James Corr describes this as being something of a drawcard.

“Back in the day things were a bit dull on Sundays,” he writes.

He also notes the original mall was the “only shopping mall I’ve ever known that was carpeted”. Those carpets came in for a number of comments, good and bad.

An aerial view of La Lucia Mall shot from Saratoga on Forest Drive across the M4. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/ANA

Many remembered specific shops, either because they had worked holiday jobs in them, or because they stocked their favourite ice-creams. One remembers the Beef & Barrel was a great steakhouse, while Richard Rorke remembers the ice-cream shop selling ice cream with “real pieces of bubblegum” in it.

Ann Powell Wirtz remembers organising a bed-making contest there in the early ’80s for Pres Les Linen.

“We were demonstrating the latest trend in bed linens ‒ duvets. No one knew how to successfully change the covers,” she writes.

For Cheryl Verrijdt, a trip to the mall was a monthly expedition. “We were living in Eshowe and once a month, a group of us would go down and trawl the mall. It was a real treat to look at all the shops and have lunch out,” she says.

The main north entrance to the mall today has changed completely, as photographer Shelley Kjonstad’s pictures show, being hidden by the undercover parking. In an effort to get the full extent of the modern mall, she shot an aerial picture from the block of flats Saratoga in Forest Drive on the other side of the M4.

The Independent on Saturday

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