NSSF downgrades Nairobi’s tallest tower on safety concerns

Ongoing construction of the Hazina Tower in Nairobi.
Ongoing construction of the Hazina Tower in Nairobi. PHOTO/FILE
In news that is likely to disappoint lovers of skyscrapers, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has more than halved the proposed height of its upcoming Hazina Trade Centre in Nairobi in what seems to be a compromise based on safety concerns by the government.

The Sh6.7 billion project, which involves construction of a 39-storey tower atop the eight-storey Hazina Trade Centre on Mokhtar Daddah and Monrovia streets, was suspended by the NSSF in October last year after it emerged that it would be unsafe to move forward with the venture.

A report by the ministry of public works had indicated that it would be unsafe to go beyond 25 floors since the existing structure beams do not have the capacity to support a building of that magnitude.

Based on that shocking report, the NSSF decided to apply the brakes on the project that had by then risen to 15 floors in order to seek a second opinion from the ministry and other key stakeholders.

The NSSF now says that after considering other options, including reinforcement of the beams, it has decided to complete the building at its current height.

“We have decided to stop at 15th floor and are currently waiting for approvals from the County Government so that we can complete it as it is,” Anthony Munyi, an NSSF trustee, said during the fund’s annual general meeting in Nairobi last week.

Although completing the building at the current level will be a great thing to do considering the project is way behind schedule, it will be sad to note that the bespoke design of the skyscraper will not be achieved – leaving the Nairobi central business district with yet another plain looking structure.

The original design of the building, which is being constructed by China Jiangxi International-Kenya, was inspired by the outline of a Maasai Moran standing with a crossed leg and leaning on his spear – a great architecture that would further beautify the Nairobi skyline.

The Hazina Trade Tower project has had its share of controversy since it was commissioned in July 2013. It was, for example, suspended barely two weeks after its groundbreaking after the tender was cancelled on allegations that the contract was twisted to lock out local firms in favour of Chinese companies.

Days after the project was stopped, then Nairobi governor Evans Kidero asked the developer to obtain a fresh environmental impact assessment report from Nema. Dr Kidero argued that the project would be a nightmare for motorists in Nairobi.

READ: Nairobi skyline to soar higher with Kenya’s tallest tower

Nakumatt, a tenant of the Hazina Trade Centre, was also opposed to the project. The retailer moved to court to stop the project until 2023 when its 20-year lease is scheduled to expire.

The firm said construction was interfering with its business by dumping construction material waste and installing heavy machinery and causing what it termed as “unprecedented nuisance” to the Nakumatt Lifestyle shoppers.

The retail chain, which is in serious financial trouble, is seeking compensation for loss of business to its Lifestyle outlet, a case that is pending in court.