The Thika Superhighway, arguably the best road in East Africa, is expected to ease traffic congestion and connect the capital to central, eastern and northern Kenya.
However, the road is doing more. Thika Road, as it was originally known, is becoming a superhighway to some of the finest estates in the country.
Property developers eager to cash in on opportunities from construction of the highway have rushed to build multi-million-dollar modern estates, complete with shopping malls and schools, along the key route.
The scramble by real estate investors has seen the replacement of traditional economic activities, mainly coffee and sisal farming and ranches.
As the road whose construction started in January 2009 nears completion, areas along its length that initially housed middle- and low-income houses are being transformed into high-end estates, akin to those in Westlands, Kileleshwa and Karen — exclusive suburbs in the capital.
The projects include Sahara Ridge, Tatu City, Flame Tree, Migaa, Jacaranda, Maki, Oakfield Valley, Fourways Junction, and Thika Greens Golf Estate.
Jacaranda Gardens estate, stands on 20-acres of land comprising 840 two, three, and four-bedroom apartments whose prices range from Sh5.8 million to Sh8.8 million.
At Maki estate, a spacious five-bedroom maisonette standing on a half-an-acre plot sells for Sh18 million.
The houses, according to the developer, Ideal Property Agents, have jacuzzis (large bathtub with a pump that moves the water around), among other facilities.
And as they build the residential areas, developers are optimistic that the completion of the superhighway will lead to an increase in high-end houses.
However, the rapid development of modern residential areas has not impressed “original” residents of existing estates along the route, such as Kahawa Sukari, Zimmerman and Githurai.
Residents fear that low-end residential apartments in the area may be demolished and replaced by newer, high-end estates.
“We were happy when the road was being constructed, since we knew that it would ease traffic congestion. But it has led to an upsurge of modern estates that make our smaller houses appear like slums,” said Fred Bwire, a resident of Githurai estate.
Bwire worries the new estates will drive up rents, which currently run between Sh5,000 and Sh12,000. He said even the highest rent in the old estates is affordable.
Costing twice the amount
“The modern houses are costing twice the amount. We cannot afford the rent,” he said.
“Construction of Jacaranda Gardens began as soon as work on Thika Road started. The estate is now complete. Most people in these areas cannot afford the rent in the estate,” he told Xinhua.
With the new homes commanding much higher rental yields, Bwire fears the existing low-income houses will be bulldozed to make way for more high-end estates.
“If the trend continues, estates along Thika Road in future may become the next Karen.
Investors are seeking high returns from their properties. If demolishing the current houses and putting up new structures will bring high returns, they will do it,” he said.
Besides real estate developers, supermarkets are also scrambling for fortunes the highway has brought.
These include Uchumi and Nakumatt supermarkets with the latter now completing a shopping mall four kilometres from Muthaiga round-about.
“The shopping mall indicates the need to serve a growing population with higher purchasing power,” Architectural Association of Kenya chairman Steven Oundo said.