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A coastal Muthaiga is taking shape in Kilifi, and a rally man is driving it

Oil and transport businessman Amos Ngonjo outside his house in Vipingo Ridge, Kilifi. Vipingo Ridge is one of the many luxury estates that are fast coming up at the Coast

Oil and transport businessman Amos Ngonjo outside his house in Vipingo Ridge, Kilifi. Vipingo Ridge is one of the many luxury estates that are fast coming up at the Coast

Rallying bigwig Alastair Cavenagh calls it “the Coast’s Muthaiga”, and it is easy to see why.

His Sh21 million mansion is considered modest in this neighbourhood that oozes opulence.

The houses are set in the nooks of a bushy ridge that overlooks the distant sea and gently slopes towards rows and rows of sisal plants.

Cabro-paved roads snake through the 600 acres that have been opened for development, with the subtle but visible presence of security guards a reassurance for the well-heeled that their huge glass doors and windows do not need steel bars.

Vipingo Ridge is one of the many luxury estates that are fast coming up at the Coast, but Mr Cavenagh, the chairman of the development, does not seem fazed by the competition and instead chooses to focus on what he sees as considerable future capital appreciation of the property.

BORDERS REA VIPINGO

The property borders the 10,000-acre Rea Vipingo sisal farm, which listed firm Centum is eyeing to turn into another real estate project.

“If their bid is successful, we’ve agreed that we’ll liaise and work closely with them to try and ensure that our offerings complement each other rather than compete,” says Mr Cavenagh.

“They are not looking at the sort of high-end development that we are, but middle-level offers.”

Some of the more expensive houses here are valued as much as Sh150 million, while a two-acre plot in the estate will set one back about Sh30 million.

And with the planned development of a dual carriageway from Mombasa to Malindi, it is believed that these values could rise soon.

Most of the houses are holiday homes that are usually up for rent. Mr Cavenagh’s four-bedroom mansion, a fusion of Swahili and

Mediterranean styles, lets for Sh45,000 a night, for instance. Villas developed for the accommodation of golfers are sold for between Sh42.5 million and Sh50 million.

However, it is expected that with the development of the bigger road, many of the land owners will settle in the houses permanently and commute to Mombasa.

MORE PEOPLE IN FUTURE

“In the future, there will be more people who would like to live here who are working in Mombasa and Nyali.

“There’s a dual carriageway planned because it’s become increasingly commercial in Nyali,” says the development’s CEO, Mr Robert Ward.

“We will become an actual residential community as Mombasa and Nyali grow, not just a holiday home and resort.”

The centrepiece of the development is the 18-hole golf course designed by David Jones, a former PGA Cup captain. Green keeper Damon Kirk believes that it has what it takes to be the premier course in the country.

With a Sh80 million budget for the maintenance of the golf course, it is expected to provide competition to the private golf courses for the hosting of international events.

CONFERENCE FACILITY

The construction of a $2 million (about Sh196 million) conference facility has been accelerated to facilitate the hosting of such events, with the players and their entourages hosted in the golf villas and the private houses scattered around the estate.

“We also hope to be able to attract some of the top-end countries. The country is attracting a lot of interest from overseas companies setting up in Nairobi, and we hope that some of those five-star companies will come down and use the facility,” says Mr Ward.

“The main reason we built the conference centre is to drive accommodation for the property owners and to lay a good foundation for the future hotel.”

Only a fraction of the 2,800 acres has been developed in one phase, with other features, such as a 400-acre animal sanctuary, also planned.

Unlike other developments that have a house catalogue from which plot buyers can choose, Mr Cavenagh says that they allow owners to bring in their own architects.

“We only control the height and built-up square area. It’s nice to have some differences. If everyone builds the same, it ends up looking like an army barracks!”

Vipingo Ridge is competing with a host of other estates that are chasing the holiday homes market for the upper and upper-middle income groups. Migaa in Kiambu, Longonot Gate in Naivasha, and Mandharini in Kilifi are some of the developments that are targeting this market.

With the development of Vipingo Ridge, Mandharini, and possibly the conversion of the Rea Vipingo farm into a real estate park, the hitherto undeveloped Kilifi County could prove to be the new home for the moneyed.

AIRSTRIP

Vipingo Ridge has a 1.5km airstrip that allows the homeowners to fly directly to the estate.

Previously, Fly540 had flights to the estate, but the numbers have been unsustainable.

This could, however, change if the Rea Vipingo farm is turned into a real estate development.

“If they are successful, we have agreed to work together with them to make sure there is no unnecessary duplication.

“For example, we’ve spent a lot of money building a big airstrip, so there’d be no point in them building another,” says Mr Ward.

“Likewise, all other things that will be required to make this a town, such as a hospital and schools — in maybe 10 to 15 years — will be put up on a complementary rather than competitive basis.”

SECURITY

All this will, however, depend on the security situation, which has been volatile at the Coast and has depressed the property market.

“We’ve definitely seen a slow-down since the Lamu attacks in terms of interest in property and the number of building approvals,” says Mr Cavenagh.

“We hope that the government will get this under control as soon as possible so that the Coast can start picking up again. Security is our prime concern.”

Having spent Sh3.3 billion on the first phase, the shareholders are not ruling out bringing in outside capital to develop the subsequent phases.

They contemplate smaller, village-like developments within the property for the second phase.

“Phase Two will be sold more off-plan than plots, so we’ll actually develop them and sell them ourselves,” said Mr Cavenagh.

These developments will be aimed at the diaspora market and foreigners who would rather buy a finished product than struggle to supervise a contractor while outside the country.

DN2

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