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A new chapter for Nairobi’s Westlands as new buildings sprout

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Regus Office Space in Nairobi Westlands Museum Hill

Described as Kenya’s social and entertainment centre for expatriates and the wealthy, Nairobi’s Westlands day time activities fade compared to its nightlife.

By midnight, the area located 3.1 kilometres northwest of Nairobi central business district, starts to dress long queues of traffic jams as partygoers make their way to their favourite restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

The morning sun finds little, other than litter in evidence of the night merry. This trait is, however, fast giving way to a fast day life as commercial banks, telecommunication, and other corporates move their headquarters to the zone.

“The high appetite is driven by penetration of donor communities and NGOs in the country who need good working offices that are less crowded and highly well maintained. Westlands is such a good address,” says Mr Kariithi Muriithi, a risk analyst who has been involved in advising investors in property development.

Known landmarks such as the Sarit Centre, The Mall and Unga House, and a cluster of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs are slowly being replaced by skyscrapers as investors move to meet the growing demand for rental spaces.

And in this, a new skyline is taking shape at Westlands, as new buildings come up. Looming as one approaches the roundabout is Twin towers, a combination of a great deal of concrete and glass rendering the left side of the residential-cum-commercial centre a sophisticated touch of architectural finesse, the latest from the Seyani Brothers.

The Delta Towers, as the structure has been named, will rise 18 floors above the Westlands grounds. It is being built for Jaydev Mody, the Delta Corp Indian honcho, an entrepreneur with interests in real estate and gaming industry.

“The Kenyan real estate market is rapidly growing, and is getting to a point where there is a rising demand for what can only be described as a wholly higher level of design and delivery,” said Mark Properties managing director Ravi Vasta.

As the project gets its final touches, the Delta Towers will have some imposing neighbours.

On the other side of the road, Symbion Architects are putting up a 10-storey Villa Rosa Kempinski, a Mediterranean-styled work complete with fountains, porches, corbels and wrought iron details that preserve the views of entire Chiromo surroundings.

Across Ring road, facing the Westlands matatu stage terminal, Park Plaza limited is building a 10-storey office structure named Sky Park, an arc of an edifice. Take a little walk further and get acquainted with more of these budding high-rise structures.

The 9 West, an 11-floor structure of sleek glass at the junction of Ring road Parklands and Lower Kabete road, just around Maasai Market and opposite Sarit Centre has reshaped the skyline in the western side of Westlands.

Fedha Group of Companies owns the 11-floor Fedha Plaza on the Parklands—Mpaka Road junction, opposite the Holiday Inn, while Pacis Insurance has built Pacis Centre around the same locality.

On the other side of Safaricom House is the just-completed West End Tower, which has taken four years after Dreamcatchers Limited and Camelot Estate sold it.

Previously known as Camelot House, the 8-floor 150,000 square feet worth of edifice located on 1.5 acre plot is a creation of Shamla Fernandes and actualised by Laxmanbhai Constructors.

At a time when speculation of real-estate glut is rife after a decade of property boom in the Kenyan market, Westlands is experiencing a confident cadre of developers pressing on with the ambitious structures designed to impress and bring in income.

“The investment environment in the construction market is favourable at the moment; both in terms of financiers and length of approval processes by the authority,” says the City Council of Nairobi’s (CCN) director of city planning Rose Muema.

Real estate developer Mark Properties unveiled Le ‘Mac, a 22-storey high-rise apartment and commercial tower on Waiyaki Way on October this year. The building, expected to be complete in 2015, is set to be among the tallest in the area.

It will provide a mix of office and retail space on the lower floors, and one- and two-bedroom residential apartments in the 16 upper floors.

Mr Vasta, its director, says the Dubai-styled housing project is targeting wealthy buyers and renters seeking accommodation in exclusive environment.

“We have huge demand for luxury apartments in this market but the ordinary apartments offer nothing close to what is required,” he says, adding that the top floor will host an elevated swimming pool and a sky club for residents.

One-bedroom apartments are selling at between Sh14.4 million and Sh15.5 million depending on the floor, where the homes in the higher floors are costlier on the argument that they offer wider views of the city.

According to Ms Muema, the 1973 City Master Plan envisaged a period in time when the central business district would grow to the maximum, becoming constrained from further expansion, especially in commercial trades.

The government introduced block planning of the districts in 1987 leading to rapid rise of commercial hubs around the city like Upperhill and Westlands.

Experts in the market allude to common factors leading to the massive explosion in the commercial properties in Westlands.

Also there is the element of old riches; civil servants holding large swathes of lands but are aging.

“You know it reaches a point when one knows that he or she needs to release some of the properties they have when the money is right and age has caught up with them,” says Mr Muriithi.

Other factors are piracy money, and international investors mainly in the hospitality industry. According to the city planner, adoption of technology by CCN may have contributed to the increased property frenzy.

“It used to take a long time, say six months, before a plan was approved. Now with architects submitting their plans online it only takes two weeks to receive an approval or non-approval,” said Ms Muema.

Also, due to high land prices, developers are maximising on their limited plots to aim higher.

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