Sanctuaries in Chaotic Cities

A posh home in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A posh home in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Taken up by high-rise offices and apartments, cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa are not the greenest. City dwellers have traditionally lost out when it comes to open spaces and fresh air. But developers are now turning stand-alone houses and apartments into sanctuaries. They are setting aside adequate land for green spaces with some luxurious properties being built in mini-jungles.

Gyms, swimming pools, golf courses and clubhouses have been the selling points for most high-end homes but now sellers have added greenery.

The standards for this measurement vary from spacious, well-kept gardens, rooftop gardens, jogging tracks lined with hundreds of trees and water parks.

Farhana Hassanali, a land management specialist says green spaces de-stress and re-invigorate the soul, making one happy and hence healthier.

“We spend a lot of time in traffic inhaling car fumes, we spend more hours in offices in front of computers or on mobile phones. At home, we are hooked to our smart phones or social media,” she says.

Open green spaces offer a breath of fresh air.

For instance, Amani Ridge in Kiambu, a development with 400 houses, will have two water gardens and seven gardens.

“We have set aside 1.5 acres for the seven gardens. The property will also have a running track and a sports ground adjacent to a community centre,” said George Wachiuri, Optiven Group chief executive, a company behind Amani Ridge.

Previously, property owners chasing super profits were a little reluctant to let architects include much green spaces so as to squeeze in more houses or offices, especially those that are on sale or for letting.

However, another development coming up in Gigiri owned Kenyatta-era cabinet minister Munyua Waiyaki’s family is heavily relying on its vast gardens and an artificial lake to lure buyers.

The Sh10 billion Enaki project will have a garden sitting on 6.3 acres developed by iGreens, a Spain-based company.

The property is being marketed as a sanctuary where people live or jog to the scented frangipani flowers and chirping birds.

Even Nairobi’s high-rise offices are being built with indoor gardens. KCB Plaza, for instance, has green office spaces on the sixth floor, 13th and 20th of the building, complete with the live grass and plants.

Steve Oundo, the former National Construction Authority Board chairman avers that artistic aspects of a property are best hidden in its natural beauty.

“Green spaces bring out both the artist and scientific aspects of a building, blending its exterior and internal environment while creating transition spaces that are at peace with nature. They {green spaces} soften the hard aspects of the building and prevents the mushrooming of concrete jungles in cities,” he said.

Imaginative amusement parks with gated communities are also another selling point.

Real estate firm, Cytonn Investments, for instance, acquired a 100-acre Kiambu coffee plantation that it plans to transform into a Sh13 billion residential-cum-commercial development. It has reserved spaces for amusement parks and recreational facilities.