Now progress is there for all to see, as stone-by-stone some of the largest construction schemes in the history of Kenya begin to take shape.
Upper Hill, dubbed Africa’s fastest rising high-end central business district, is becoming a vast construction zone, leading a building boom that is taking hold on key suburbs of Nairobi as investors rush to meet the enormous demand for high-end offices in the city.
Standing 163m, 5,700 feet above sea level, UAP Old Mutual Tower in Upper Hill has officially taken the title of Kenya’s tallest building – unseating Times Tower as the monarch of the regional sky.
The 33-storey tower, which opened this month, will, however, lose this new title to its upcoming neighbour Britam Tower – which stands 192m tall.
Financial services group Britam has invested Sh7 billion in the construction of the tower that is tipped to be the third tallest in Africa.
The Britam Tower is expected to lose bragging rights in turn to several other skyscraper planned for Nairobi among them Hass Tower 1 – a 330m-high building whose construction is currently underway on a 3-acre piece of land at the Junction of Upper Hill Road and Haile Selassie Avenue.
Also racing to join the league of iconic landmarks of Nairobi is Hazina Towers, a flagship project of the NSSF. The 180m-high tower, which is located on Mokhtar Daddah and Monrovia streets, is expected to outclass its neighbours in terms of architectural design on completion in three years.
Several other buildings with more than 30 floors are planned for Upper Hill and Westlands in Nairobi, among them a 35-floor mixed-use development that is planned in Upper Hill by a consortium of investors including a Dubai property developer Abcon International.
Abcon has joined forces with six local investors – among them Hass Consult – to form a consortium known as Greenfield Developers Ltd., which will develop the property on a 3.6 acre piece of land that it acquired in 2012 at a price of Sh650 million.
The Dubai firm is the majority shareholder of the consortium with a stake of 62.6 per cent followed by Signature Development Ltd (a Kenyan firm) at 18 per cent, Hass Consult at 8.6 per cent, with Elise Adan, the owner of Nairobi-based fashion company Tullia Ltd., holding a 2.6 per cent stake.
Other key shareholders include Jayesh Saini, the chairman of Clinix Healthcare – with a 0.66 per cent stake, Ilmi Investments Ltd and Bliss GVS Pharma Ltd.
The 35-storey tower will feature luxury apartments that will occupy 17 floors – with office spaces occupying 22 floors and 1,320 parking spaces sitting on six basements and ground floors.
Financial services group Alexander Forbes is also seeking regulatory approval to develop twin towers in Westlands, where one would be 20 floor-high offices, retail space for letting and 200 retail parking spaces, while the other would house office suites rising 33 floors.
The move towards constructing taller mixed-use towers has been ignited by a surge in land values in Nairobi, with a consequent need for developers to be more efficient with their sites, say experts.
“With the high cost of land in Nairobi, you have only two options; either you increase the rent – which would mean a lower occupancy rate – or you increase the number of floors, hence the inclination to go vertical,” says Anthony Kinja, a real estate consultant at Wealth Inc. Realtors.
Mr Kinja argues that it is unlikely for investors to build new skyscrapers within the city centre as it would be uneconomical to do so due to the high cost of land.