Metros, wind farms and skyscrapers: the biggest urban projects to hit Africa in 2015

Dar es Salaam: Africa's fastest-growing city. Image: Getty.

Cities in Africa are growing fast. Over the past 50 years, the continent's urban population has doubled, from 19 per cent to 39 per cent; and by 2030 that population is expected to almost double again.

As a result, projects across the continent are springing up to meet the new wave of urban dwellers. Here are a few developments to watch out for in 2015. 

A brand-new metro system

Testing has started on the US$475m light rail project in Addis Ababa, expected to be running by May 2015. Stretching for a combined 32km, two lines dividing Addis Ababa north-south and east-west will serve 39 stations in underground and overground sections.

Africa’s tallest skyscraper 

 Image: Middle East Development LLC.

The Al Noor Tower is a 114-floor skyscraper planned for the Moroccan city of Casablanca. At 540m, it's set to be the tallest in Africa and will cost over $1bn to construct.

The final height is meant to act as a tribute to the 54 countries that make up the African continent,  and the mixed-use building would house a seven-star luxury hotel, art gallery, spa, fine-dining restaurants and luxury boutiques, alongside an exhibition centre and offices.

Africa's biggest wind farm

Kenya has officially given the go-ahead for a giant wind farm in the Lake Turkana region. The farm will play host to almost 400 turbines, is expected to produce around 300 MW of electricity, and according to a media statement will save Kenya approximately $78m in fuel imports every year. The project aims to produce 20 per cent of the country’s current installed electricity generating capacity when it comes online in 2016.

This will be a wind farm soon, we promise. Image: Lake Turkana Wind Power.

The fastest-growing city

Work begins on a Dar es Salaam highrise in April 2014. Image: Getty.

In a recent report, the African Development Bank predicted that Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, will be Africa’s fastest growing city between 2010 and 2025, growing from 3.3 million to 6.2 million people – an 85 per cent increase. Nairobi, Kenya, and Kinshasa, DRC, are expected to be the second and third fastest growing cities by 2025, at 77.3 per cent and 71.8 per cent respectively.

A city built from scratch 

Work has started on a "new city" in Modderfontein, Johannesburg, which is expected to cost around 84bn South African rand ($7bn). Improbably, it's expected to look like this:

A city of giant pimples.Image: Shanghai Zendai Property.

According to The Business Report, so far they've started small with construction on 300 residential units and a few roads. 

Rashiq Fataar is the founder, Editor in Chief and Managing Director of Future Cape Town, where this article was first posted.

 


 

 
 
 
 

Space for 8,000 new homes, most of them affordable... Why it's time to demolish Buckingham Palace

Get a lovely new housing estate, there. Image: Getty.

Scene: a council meeting.

Councillor 1: They say it’s going to cost £369m to repair and bring up to modern standards.

Councillor 2: £369m? Lambeth balked at paying just £14m to repair Cressingham Gardens. They said they’d rather knock it down and start again.

Councillor 1: Then we’re agreed? We knock Buckingham Palace down and build new housing there instead.

Obviously this would never happen. For a start, Buckingham Palace is Grade I listed, but… just imagine. Imagine if refurbishment costs were deemed disproportionate and, like many council estates before it, the palace was marked for “regeneration”.

State events transfer to Kensington Palace, St James’s and Windsor. The Crown Estate is persuaded, as good PR, to sell the land at a nominal fee to City Hall or a housing association. What could we build on roughly 21 hectares of land, within walking distance of transport and green space?

The area’s a conservation zone (Westminster Council’s Royal Parks conservation area, to be exact), so modernist towers are out. Pete Redman, a housing policy and research consultant at TradeRisks, calculates that the site could provide “parks, plazas, offices, cafes and 8,000 new dwellings without overlooking the top floor restaurant of the London Hilton Park Lane”.

Now, the Hilton is 100m tall, and we doubt Westminster’s planning committee would go anywhere near that. To get 8,000 homes, you need a density of 380 u/ha (units per hectare), which is pretty high, but still within the range permitted by City Hall, whose density matrix allows up to 405 u/ha (though they’d be one or two bedroom flats at this density) in an area with good public transport links. We can all agree that Buckingham Palace is excellently connected.

So what could the development look like? Lewisham Gateway is achieving a density of 350u/ha with blocks between eight and 25 storeys. On the other hand, Notting Hill Housing’s Micawber Street development manages the same density with mansion blocks and mews houses, no more than seven storeys high. It’s also a relatively small site, and so doesn’t take into account the impact of streets and public space.

Bermondsey Spa might be a better comparison. That achieves a density of 333u/ha over an area slightly larger than Lewisham Gateway (but still one-tenth of the Buckingham Palace site), with no buildings higher than 10 storeys.

The Buck House project seems perfect for the Create Streets model, which advocates terraced streets over multi-storey buildings. Director Nicholas Boys Smith, while not enthusiastic about bulldozing the palace, cites areas of London with existing high densities that we think of as being idyllic neighbourhoods: Pimlico (about 175u/ha) or Ladbroke Grove (about 230u/ha).


“You can get to very high densities with narrow streets and medium rise buildings,” he says. “Pimlico is four to six storeys, though of course the number of units depends on the size of the homes. The point is to develop a masterplan that sets the parameters of what’s acceptable first – how wide the streets are, types of open space, pedestrian only areas – before you get to the homes.”

Boys Smith goes on to talk about the importance of working collaboratively with the community before embarking on a design. In this scenario, there is no existing community – but it should be possible to identify potential future residents. Remember, in our fantasy the Crown Estate has been guilt-tripped into handing over the land for a song, which means it’s feasible for a housing association to develop the area and keep properties genuinely affordable.

Westminster Council estimates it needs an additional 5,600 social rented homes a year to meet demand. It has a waiting list of 5,500 households in immediate need, and knows of another 20,000 which can’t afford market rents. Even if we accepted a density level similar to Ladbroke Grove, that’s 4,830 homes where Buckingham Palace currently stands. A Bermondsey Spa-style density would generate nearly 7,000 homes.

There’s precedent for affordability, too. To take one example, the Peabody Trust is able to build genuinely affordable homes in part because local authorities give it land. In a Peabody development in Kensington and Chelsea, only 25 per cent of homes were sold on the open market. Similarly, 30 per cent of all L&Q’s new starts in 2016 were for commercial sale.

In other words, this development wouldn’t need to be all luxury flats with a few token affordable homes thrown in.

A kindly soul within City Hall did some rough and ready sums based on the figure of 8,000 homes, and reckoned that perhaps 1,500 would have to be sold to cover demolition and construction costs, which would leave around 80 per cent affordable. And putting the development in the hands of a housing association, financed through sales – at, let’s remember, Mayfair prices – should keep rents based on salaries rather than market rates.

Now, if we can just persuade Historic England to ditch that pesky Grade I listing. After all, the Queen actually prefers Windsor Castle…

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