Harare urban renewal projects stutter

Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
A few years ago, Harare City Council announced two ambitious projects that were set to change the face of the city, as part of the city fathers’ bid to attain world class city status by the year 2025.

The projects included the revamping of the First Street Mall and the Mbare urban renewal project, whose main anchor was the proposed state-of-the-art Shawasha Shopping Mall.

The uplifting of First Street Mall was announced a year ago, while the Mbare urban renewal project’s groudbreaking ceremony was done in 2005.

For the First Street Mall project, the city council was going to partner with Econet Wireless to give a major face-lift to the commercial area.

The deal was to see Econet Wireless repaving pavements and designing clean family-friendly sitting areas with water features, a children’s play area, translucent seats, benches, open air theatre sitting and solar phone charging ports.

Econet also planned to redo the First Street Police Post by deploying an eco-friendly and energy efficient container with air-conditioning, surveillance monitoring screens with split view, patrol self-balancing electric scooters and coffee and water dispensers.

While it seems nothing tangible has happened on the street, Harare City’s acting communications manager, Mr Innocent Ruwende, insists the deal is on course, except for some delays.

“The deal between City of Harare and Econet to renovate First Street Mall, which we call the Smart City Concept, is still on,” he said in an interview.

“There have been slight delays because the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has not yet been signed, so we are just waiting to sign the MoU between the two parties and the work will start. As soon as the MoU is signed, you will see changes.”
Mr Ruwende said the parties were still to agree on the date for the signing of the MoU, which was now likely to be done next year.

“First of all, I want you to understand that our partnership with Econet is that of transforming First Street into a mall street, pedestrianised mall, where there will be no vehicles moving along the streets,” he said.

“We are looking at revamping the old pavements, roadways and the sitting areas so that ambience of the street resemblesthat of a modern city.

“As you know, for a long time not much work has been done on First Street Mall, and the Smart City Concept will see us achieving our vision, as well as setting an example to others.”
Mr Ruwende said the other city’s urban renewal projects were also on course.

“There are two sides to the urban renewal project; there is Harare Urban Renewal Project launched by Mayor Herbert Gomba in July and that one is still ongoing and we are trying to spruce up the city buildings in line with our vision to modernise our city,” he said.

“To begin with, we have started painting Town House to set an example to building owners. And we have sent out warnings to the building owners to repaint their buildings. We also take in consideration the economic challenges that we are facing, but we need to do the best to change the face of our city.

Mr Ruwende said they were seeking a new investor for the Mbare Urban Renewal Project, especially for the Shawasha Shopping Mall.

“We have some investors who are working on Shawasha Market Mall and we are continuing to look for other investors to partner with us,” he said.

The ground-breaking ceremony of the project was done in 2005, but 14 years down the line, there’s nothing to show for it.
Mr Ruwende said the city’s partner in the US$30 million Shawasha project was dragging his feet and council was thinking of terminating the contract.

“We are currently looking for a new investor after the company we had awarded the contract failed to develop within a reasonable period,” he said.

The mall will be built on the open space situated at the corner of Remembrance Drive and Cripps Road.
Shawasha Shopping Mall is expected to go a long way in uplifting the face of Mbare as well as providing many other benefits such as job creation, decongesting the suburb and, providing much needed trading space.

Key features of the complex include 6 000 vending stalls, a modern shopping mall that will accommodate banks, retail shops, food courts, traditional meal canteens, and sports facilities.

The project also includes the refurbishment of 58 Mbare hostels and construction of new apartments that will cater for about 30 000 people at places such as Tsiga open space, Mbare flats open area, infill flats on Ardbennie Road and infill spaces close to council offices.

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