For years, Mombasa residents have lived in bungalows, taking up bigger spaces than high-rise buildings.
However as land becomes scarce and expensive, and residents desire to live near good schools, hospitals, and entertainment spots and in a secure area, more people are taking a preference for an apartment lifestyle.
Old bungalows are being knocked down to build skyscrapers as some developers buy empty land and erect thousands of homes, maximising the space. The retreat from major cities has also played a role as the demand for housing rises.
The 16-floor Buxton gated community, sitting on a 14-acre piece of land, is one such project. Located on Abdel Nasser Road and about 10 minutes to be the central business district, the development will have 1,400 apartments, a first in Mombasa.
The project is a partnership between Mombasa County and other investors including Gulf African Bank.
What they are selling is city life with a tinge of coastal life as the apartments will overlook the Indian Ocean.
Ahmed Badawy, the Buxton Point chief executive said the Sh6 billion project will be ready in the next two years.
“Mombasa Island is very small, it’s not like Kilifi and Kwale where we still have a vast land. So our option is to go higher,” said Badawy referring to the 16-storey tower that will be part of the Phase Two project.
The project includes 1,400 apartments ranging from one bedroom to three bedrooms with rooftop terraces and an elevator that will be installed to allow access to the high-tower buildings.
“This is to contribute to the cascading effect of our project and spice up its outlook. Phase Two will provide our clients with a fascinating sea view from their apartments,” says Badawy.
So far 300,000 potential clients have made their requests through a government platform, Boma Yangu, says the CEO.
Phase One, which has 584 units will have 104 shops and is at 80 per cent completion.
Despite the shift, the modern apartment life, some of the construction materials will be coastal. They will use coral stone in some parts of the buildings.
“For a long time, most estates in Mombasa have become an eyesore, and maintaining the buildings has become a problem. What we anticipate is when you walk into Buxton estate whether you live in or you are visiting you find an aesthetic appeal, something that looks attractive. That has been lacking in Mombasa,” says Badawy.
He notes high-rise is the option as Mombasa Island has limited space. Other developments that have opted for skyscraper living in Mombasa are the 16- floor Ganjoni Towers, Kizingo Towers, which has 22 floors, TSS towers, and Cannon Towers with 13 floors among others.
However, not all locations can accommodate storey buildings because of the geography of the place.
“Our option is to go higher but even as we do so we urge the county to think through the idea of going in that direction. People can do so in an unplanned manner,” the CEO said.
The apartments range from Sh1.2 million to Sh4.7million, depending on whether it is a studio apartment or a three-bedroom.
Being an affordable housing development, Badawy says, they have limited buyers to purchase one unit per person.
“Before the Buxton Estate, which was on a 12-acre piece of land had 520 households, today we are doing 584 units on one part. By the time we go to Phase Two we would have done approximately 2,000 units within the same space of land and more business than what was there before,” he adds.
The mixed-used development model is not common in Mombasa compared to Nairobi.
In Nairobi, the traffic problem is encouraging the growth of mixed-use developments as more residents looked to avoid the lengthy daily work commute. A report by real estate consultants Knight Frank said property developers are no longer keen on building standalone malls or housing estates. Instead, they are putting up mixed-use developments that incorporate offices, residential areas and other key facilities such as schools, dispensaries, and recreation parks.
The trend is picking up gradually in Mombasa. The Buxton project will have a community centre, kindergarten, social hall, sports courts, green areas, swimming pool, shops, food courts, public exercise equipment, walkways, and more.
“It is about the African social life of interaction. Other estates do not have such amenities we prioritised it,” said the Buxton Point CEO.
According to architect Yassir Brek, who has been in the industry for more than 15 years, most property developers are now adopting high-tower buildings.
“This is due to several factors including security and the services offered,” he said.
Brek says it is cheaper to offer services to people residing in one area than in rural area setups.
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Most city dwellers are now embracing the skyscraper apartment lifestyle.
The land value is another factor considered.
“Building upwards becomes affordable. However, people still prefer the elements of social integration and living in open spaces,” he says.