- Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Densification and Redevelopment: A case of zones 3, 4 & 5, Nairobi, Kenya    click here to open paper content280 kb
by    Mwaura, Arthur | munyua_mwaura@yahoo.com   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
A review of urban development policies is an innovative planning intervention measure that addresses the challenges and opportunities of city metamorphosis.
The exponential rate of urbanization in developing countries due to an ever-growing population is exerting very powerful forces to urban residential areas, making them undergo internal spatial restructuring in response to social and economic pressures. These socio-economic changes create demand for land and the physical fabric inevitably leading to increased requisition for the reorganization and the restructuring of the urban fabric. With the finite land use resource the scope of choice in urban areas will entail densification, infilling, intensification of land use or redevelopment particularly affecting derelict land or low-density and sub-optimally utilized residential areas.

Kenya has been urbanizing at 7-8 per cent which is faster than the whole of the Africa region. Over the period 1979-1999 the City of Nairobi experienced very high population growth rates ranging between 4.8 and 5.0 per cent. This high population growth rate is exerting pressure on the low-density residential neighbourhoods. Zones 3,4 and 5, in particular are prime high-income low-density residential neighbourhoods in the City of Nairobi that are experiencing undue development pressure mainly as a result of rising demand for housing, office and commercial developments.

Various opportunities and challenges emerge from the need to restructure and reorganize the physical urban fabric of zones 3, 4 and 5. These zones, which are undergoing urban transformation, present varied opportunities such as their physical environmental endowments which are characterized by the well-drained red volcanic soils, leafy vegetation cover and is traversed by many rivers. The zones, which have high land and property values, are largely occupied by high income groups with pockets of middle and low income groups. The zones have equally been well planned and have earlier demonstrated the ability to preserve their low and medium density character and in turn have attracted capital for property development. The zones are equally well-provided with infrastructure and community facilities.

In spite of these opportunities, the zones are experiencing challenges ranging from over-densification, ribbon developments, incompatibility of mixed-use developments and proliferation of business centres beyond the commercial zones. This has led to urban environmental degradation characterized by loss of vegetation cover, open spaces, increased surface water run-off and pollution of the water courses. Other challenges include the pressure on the transportation, infrastructure services and community facilities which are inadequate to cope with the increased demand by the rising population. The City Council of Nairobi is equally faced by the dilemma of resolving the conflicts between the residents and the private developers. The residents prefer to safeguard the image and identity of the cultural, architectural, and historical heritage of their residential neighbourhood against the forces of redevelopment. The private developers, on the other hand, have embraced the force of urban redevelopment effectively contributing to the growth of the urban economy. This has changed the character of the area from a low-density to a medium-to-high density urban residential neighbourhood.

In order to address these varied emerging issues the planning team has made tentative recommendations, which include, among others, the enforcement of the zoning and development control guidelines, the formulation of a comprehensive environmental management plan, geared towards addressing the conservation of the flora and fauna through greening and city beautification programmes and the need to introduce a ring-fenced infrastructure development fund and to increase the improved site value property rating to enable the City Council of Nairobi improve on service delivery.
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