Centum Eyeing Real Estate, Marina after Two Rivers

Two Rivers
Two Rivers mall. Photo/Courtesy

Listed investment company, Centum Kenya, is now eyeing the real estate sector in the country and the region next even as the Two Rivers Shopping Mall project here in Nairobi is yet to be fully developed.

Centum Real Estate Commercial Director, James Karoki, says the firm has already broken ground for the construction of Palm Marina in Kampala, Uganda – a high end resort and residential mixed-use development project.

The firm has also simultaneously started ground work for construction of the Vipingo Industrial Park in Mombasa, which will incorporate residential and shopping centers.

“Real estate is also going to be big for us in the next few years,” Karoki stated.

“There are lots of opportunities in this market. We need to take cognizance that the middle class is growing. People need to live in a particular area and that is what will densify that area. When that happens you need to tap into what they want to do on a daily basis,” he adds.

The Centum Commercial Director has spoken of the projections for the firm listed in the Nairobi Securities Exchange and Uganda Securities Exchange even as its Two Rivers Mall project that has so far cost Ksh 25 billion is yet to kick off its second and third phase of development on its 100-acre space.

The center sits on only 11 acres. In Phase II of our mixed-use development we will have City lodge, a 5-star hotel, luxury apartments and a fully serviced hospital.

“We have a very short recovery time. However, we have to look at it in terms of the long term play agenda. Our play is Vision 2030. It’s an ongoing development; we’ve got a Phase II and Phase III that have to be developed in the next 15 years.”

The 192-stall mall targets an occupancy of at least 140 stalls by April. Mr Karoki projects full occupancy by April 2018 after the mall’s grand opening on Valentine’s Day, even as the mall grapples with road access challenges, high security requirements and ongoing construction work. He however dispels the notion that Nairobi has a high mall concentration.

“Absolutely not. I don’t think we have. Do we have the right malls? No. Are we getting there? Yes. Are we setting the bar? Yes,” he says. He credits the growth of malls to the growing middle class which he says is yet to be fully exploited.

Kenya is currently the second most developed retail market in Africa, beaten by only South Africa.

“What we can do is play very quick catch-up to them. South Africa is a first-world country in Africa. They are at saturation point, close to 89% saturation in retail. We have very few Grade A retail centers so we need more Grade A retail development to attract international brands.”

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Story By Mac Otani
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