The East African real estate market is currently thriving, with the likes of leading property developer and urban management services firm, Athena Properties at the forefront of this change.
AFRICA’S LIFESTYLE DEVELOPER OF CHOICE
Established in 2013 with a concerted focus on large mixed-use developments, the Company has been answering East Africa’s call for an end-to-end construction service that allows for a seamless and comprehensive offering including; land acquisition, master planning, urban planning, project management, construction management, development management and project finance right through to asset management.
Athena Properties is one of seven wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Centum Investment Group, the leading investment Company in East Africa cross-listed in both Kenya Securities Exchange and Uganda Securities Exchange. With a Group goal to become sub-Saharan Africa’s lifestyle developer of choice, Athena Properties has quickly established itself as the preferred development partner in East African real estate through its multi-million mixed-use development projects. Kenya in particular has been an area of substantial interest as the country is currently working hard on achieving a significantly decentralised public sector by embracing the urban management concept; encouraging the spread of the population across areas outside the city which is then managed by pro-active local authorities.
“In line with the Group’s strategy to participate in the development process from start to finish, Athena Properties involves itself in mixed use developments and the creation of urban nodes, providing a complete end-to-end solution that addresses East Africa’s compelling need for infrastructure development and urban management; targets which are currently unmet,” explains Chris Ochieng, Managing Director of Athena Properties.
“Urban management involves co-ordinating and integrating public and private activities with the aim of building a more competitive, equitable and sustainable city or development, as well as responding to the ever-changing consumer demands and capitalising on the synergies created by a mixed-use development to ultimately create a state-of-the-art development that embraces ‘Smart living’,” he adds.
By working across desirable locations in Uganda, Kenya and other East African markets, Athena Properties is keen to capitalise on urban development trends that will enhance its foothold in the region, which it hopes to achieve via the Two Rivers and Pearl Marina projects in Kenya and Uganda respectively.
Two Rivers is located within the diplomatic blue zone in Kenya in close proximity to various foreign embassies and the UN headquarters. The project addresses the local need for all associated services that will make this function as a mixed-use development in one of the region’s most affluent areas.
The development sits on a prime 100 acres and will integrate retail, entertainment and lifestyle facilities, modern office parks, residential apartments, healthcare facilities, hotels, civic, recreation, public amenities and state-of-the-art reliable infrastructure. The development is being constructed in phases and when complete will have an estimated built up area of 852,000 square metres.
Two Rivers is anchored by the largest retail centre in sub-Saharan Africa, outside of South Africa, and the construction is scheduled to be complete by end of 2015. The retail centre has a gross lettable area (GLA) of 62,500m2 and will comprise ultra-modern designs with piazzas, event spaces and a vibrant entertainment area on three levels along the waterfront. The mall will be anchored by Carrefour Hypermarket who will be making its first entry into the region. The mall will have a vibrant retail mix with approximately half of tenants being international and set to open their flagship stores in the centre.
On top of the mall structure, there will be two office towers with a GLA of 20,000m2 offering premium office environment with Grade A facilities to serve the increasing demand in the region. The mall also offers adequate parking space for shoppers with 2,000 parking bays available in the initial phase. The development will also incorporate sports and recreational facilities including public open spaces, an outdoor amphitheatre, water play areas and sports facilities.
“Leveraging synergies from the Centum Group, who have investments in healthcare and education facilities, we have a vision to develop premium world-class masterfully planned urban addresses, set within a controlled and secure environment, that will be the leading regional destination in East Africa and beyond for a long time to come,” details Ochieng.
Moreover, the development is a self-contained destination that has attracted regional and international investor attention as Ochieng further highlights: “We want Two Rivers to achieve a self-sustainable status so we have had to ask how we can address environmental and sustainability issues to build something that is both innovative and practical. In light of this, the development is designed as a smart city and has its own 46 MVa power substation, a 7.5 MVa energy centre to offer back up power, a 2MVa solar farm on the mall structure, a water treatment plant capable of producing two million litres a day, and uses state-of-the-art building technologies including US$10 million dedicated to security.”
Two Rivers is nearing completion and is due to open its doors in the first quarter of 2016.
DESTINATION OF CHOICE
Athena Properties’ most noteworthy project in Uganda is Pearl Marina, located on the Garuga peninsular in Entebbe; just 12 kilometres from Entebbe airport. The new waterfront development and resort town sits on 389 acres of land along a three kilometre-long stretch of Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world.
“We want the Pearl Marina mixed-use development to be considered Uganda’s destination of choice; a premium integrated waterfront destination, for tourists and locals alike, that meets world-class building and design goals. Since approval of the initial master plan in December 2012, Phase 1 has now begun and we are one step closer to realising the 1.4 million square metres final gross building area,” says Ochieng.
Pearl Marina will provide premium tourism and residential facilities including hotels, conference facilities, luxury apartments, villas and marinas, as well as a hospital, international school, modern office park, retail centre and a wide range of sports and recreational activities. These facilities will be supported by high quality self-sustainable infrastructure including the use of renewable energies and a water treatment plant.
In addition to these multi-million dollar projects, Athena Properties has several builds currently in the conceptualisation and planning stage; including 10,500 acres of prime land in Vipingo, Kenya for a mixed use development, two malls in Nairobi and similarly, two hotels in the Kenyan capital. The Company also has a series of professional services projects that provide end-to-end solutions in the pipeline.
HUB OF EAST AFRICA
For projects of such a large size, it is important that Athena Properties fosters healthy relationships with not only local and international suppliers, but the local authorities to in order to get the best out of its developments. Furthermore, there are several other factors that make a business efficient, including the adoption of technology and securing staff with a high skill level.
By adopting technology throughout the Company’s internal processes, Athena Properties is able to easily manage its finances, projects and supply chain better than ever before; which provides a long-term cost return and improves efficiency levels.
As present, Africa is undergoing rapid transformation as it is poised for remarkable economic growth prospects; and Athena Properties is preparing itself for this transformation.
“Undoubtedly, the key to the future is to both embrace technology and create a talented pool of young workers, empowering them to take part in the building of a nation.
“As an indigenous Company, it is important to develop not just the physical infrastructure via our projects. We have a responsibility to hire and nurture technical skills locally through convenient, urban living. In order to do this, the Group established Centum Business Solutions to equip Africa’s key resource [people] with the skills to excel in the race towards a developed continent,” comments Ochieng.
Leveraging the Centum training arm, Athena Properties is able to offer a 12 month training scheme tailored to individual staff needs, resulting in the necessary specialisms and a more efficient workplace.
Kenya is often considered the ‘hub of East Africa’, and Athena Properties is equipped with all the right ingredients to capitalise on this economic vision. With a keen eye for further expansion opportunities into neighbouring Tanzania, as well as further projects in Uganda and Kenya, the Company has worked hard to establish a strong footing in East Africa, before exploring the possibility of further opportunities on the continent.
“No other competitor works on projects of the same scale in East Africa. Combine this with our fully-integrated service offering and attitude towards continuous improvement and this completes our status as a partner of choice in the region,” Ochieng concludes.