The Cosmopolitan Hotel, at the corner of Commissioner and Albrecht Streets, is one of Joburg’s most legendary buildings. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Cosmopolitan is big and Victorian, its columned, curly-cued cupola looming high above the street. The crumbling facade is strangely magical, like something from a Tim Burton film.
The Cosmopolitan, once a prominent gentleman’s club, was in a state of disrepair for decades, its lower-level windows bricked up to prevent trespassing. (Read more about the Cosmopolitan’s history here.) But there have been rumblings of change for a few years, especially since the Maboneng Precinct started sprouting up around the Cosmopolitan.
Now, the wait is over. The Cosmopolitan has been made over into a restaurant/retail/gallery space, and it’s officially open for business.
I was lucky enough to take some photos inside the Cosmopolitan in May 2014, when a soon-to-be-stalled renovation had just begun and the place was a complete mess. I’ve been sitting on these photos for two years, waiting for the renovations to finish so I can show the before-and-after. While the renovations aren’t 100% finished yet, I can’t wait any longer.
Outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel: 2014 and 2016
The front of the building looks more or less the same today as it did two years ago.
The area behind the building has changed more substantially.
Same view in 2016. The dilapidated walls have come down and the gravel parking lot is now a sculpture garden. One of those little white houses is about to become a coffeeshop/roastery called Firebird Coffee Works.
Inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel: 2014 and 2016
The most dramatic changes have occurred inside the building.
I somehow forgot to take a photo of the new upstairs entry hall. But here is a room next door, displaying some interesting art. The new Cosmopolitan is being run by Jonathan Freemantle and Daniel Liebmann from Maboneng’s Hazard Gallery, and hence has a huge focus on art.
Another upstairs hallway in 2016. Looks like they might keep the crumbling pink paint — yay.
I don’t have a “before” photo for this, but this is one of the cool new shops inside the Cosmopolitan, by designer Crystal Birch.
Another shop called Black Dog Clothing. There’s the Black Dog owner, Dino Perotti.
The Cosmopolitan Bar: 2014 and 2016
I’ve saved the best for last.
The new Cosmopolitan bar is actually much more than a bar; it’s a restaurant owned by the same chef — Dario de Angeli — who runs Cube Tasting Kitchen in Parkhurst. I had a quick chat with Dario on Sunday and while I was too early for lunch, the scent from the kitchen was extremely promising. I cannot WAIT (rare use of all-caps here — totally necessary) to try this restaurant.
Did I mention that I can’t WAIT to try this restaurant? Oh yeah. I did.
There’s another whole half of the Cosmopolitan building that hasn’t been opened yet, and I’ve got before shots of that part too. I’m sure there will be a second before-and-after post — or, at the very least, a restaurant review — coming in the near future.