- Convenience drives Nairobi’s real estate market to a new frontier where people live and work from the same location.
When Kishan Bhanderi’s family decided that it was time to diversify their 70-year-old tiles and fittings business in 2009, property development came as a natural option.
In any case, this is the sector that has minted the majority of Kenya’s new billionaires and the family has had a slice of it through its tiles business.
But Mr Bhanderi, who heads the team of brothers that run Nairobi’s Tile and Carpet Centre, says the family had long decided that its entry into real estate was not going to be a run of the mill affair.
“We decided that our entry into real estate would not be to merely join the crowd, but one that would transform the way this business has been done,” he said.
That is the goal that has seen the family develop a commercial real estate complex comprising five office blocks with retail spaces on the ground floor, a parking silo and a 100-room hotel – which Mr Bhanderi says is the architecture that is creating the futuristic workplace.
The complexes, commonly referred to as offitels, have been borne out of a growing desire by the modern worker to occupy a workplace that comes with in-built convenience.
With this has come a shift in demand for commercial space in favour of those that come with additional amenities like the gym and eating places.
Mr Bhanderi says that the inclusion of hotel and the gym in the high end office park was actually conceived by some of his tenants who include multinational companies with large numbers of visiting staff and clients.
“Our tenants wanted it and we decided to convert one block into such a facility and the results have been very positive,” said Mr Bhanderi, explaining that the all-inclusive office setting should help limit movement in and out of the complex, thereby easing traffic.
Located some 200 metres off Nairobi’s Riverside Drive, in the serene neighbourhood behind the University of Nairobi’s Chiromo Campus, the architecture of the complex has heavily borrowed from top business hubs in cities like Hong Kong and London.
Mr Bhanderi, the managing director of the property firm that developed the 14 Riverside Drive Office Park, says recent developments in Nairobi have produced a class of tenants who want top grade office space in a ‘productive working environment’.
14 Riverside Drive is the first significant development that brings together office and hotel space in a fast evolving real estate market.
This concept allows office space developers to play in the league of top notch hotels such as the Village Market’s Tribe and Westland’s Sankara who are focused on the business traveller.
It challenges the decades-old idea of an office, often at the intersection of streets downtown, where tenants and their workers walk across the road to the fast-food café for have lunch.
If Riverside Office Park’s occupancy rates of about 80 per cent are anything to go by, then there is a huge market out here for the kind of office space that is worlds apart compared from the contemporary high rise commercial blocks in the city centre and the upcoming business districts.
“Combining offices and hotels is what developers have identified as the next frontier in the property development, and you are going to see a lot more happening in that space,” Lee Karuri, the managing partner at Dimensions Architects and Interior Designers.
Mr Karuri says that combining the living and working environment has become a new trend that is increasingly dictating the development of office space throughout the world.
“The idea is to integrate the living and working environment, especially for the business traveller,” says Mr Karuri, adding that the model has been used in the fast developing economies such Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
“Residents have an office within their apartment, meaning they can work from their temporary home in the hotel,” said the architect whose firm has designed a multi-billion integrated office park in Nairobi.
The target clientele, he notes, are international travellers including top executives and researchers who ordinarily have to make presentations to different groups during their short stay.
Rosslyn Park Limited is developing a similar property in the high-end Kitisuru suburb, consisting of six blocks.
One block in the proposed project, whose construction is under way, is an offitel – a hotel with apartments, an office, where residents, who are expected to be on short business trips, can host small private meetings and perhaps close a business deal.
In the offitel, a resident has an office within the hotel or apartments for privacy and convenience.
It is estimated that construction of the complex, associated with the Waiyaki family that owns most of the land in the exclusive Kitisuru and Nyari suburbs, will cost Sh4.6 billion.
Plans by the Suraya Property Group to establish a similar project in Spring Valley neighbourhood are also at an advanced stage, though the actual construction has been delayed due to resistance by the residents’ association.
Sue Muraya, a director at Suraya Property Group said that such approaches in the development of commercial buildings had been embraced in other major cities across the Globe including Johannesburg in South Africa.
“There is an emerging segment in the commercial space segment where tenants demand extra amenities like conference facilities within the proximity of their offices,” said Ms Muraya adding “This is the trend the World over”.