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August 21, 2018

Ukay Centre razed after 25 years

The Ukay mall that was demolished for being on a riparian area on 10th.August.2018/EZEKIEL AMING'A
The Ukay mall that was demolished for being on a riparian area on 10th.August.2018/EZEKIEL AMING'A

The 25-year-old Ukay Centre has been reduced to rubble.

Under tight security on a chilly Friday morning, NYS bulldozers arrived at the site and began demolition. The building is one of the 4,000 earmarked by Nema to be pulled down. They are on riparian land.

By 7am, one end had been wrecked, as tenants and owners watched helplessly in disbelief.

The four-storey centre was in an expansive two-acre area. It was commissioned in 1994. It had 45 tenants — Nakumatt Supermarket being the longest. The mall had about 450 workers.

By Friday, most tenants had removed their belongings. For others, it was too late to salvage their property. Security officers restricted movement.

The Green Belt Movement supported the operation.

The demolition came hours after the High Court declined to issue orders stopping the building from being brought down.

Nakumatt chief executive Atul Shah told the Star that they were never issued with a notice.

“I’ve lost Sh150 million goods and furniture that I got from suppliers who wanted to rebuild the branches,” he said.

The retailer has revamped seven branches — Nakumatt Mega, Prestige, Ukay, Lavington, Embakasi, Mega City (Kisumu) and Nakumatt Nakuru. It had indefinitely suspended operations at the Ukay branch in Westlands after it flooded two years ago.

Ukay Centre property manager Veeral Shah said the management will seek legal redress. He described the demolition as an “unjust act”.

Veeral said the building was not on a riparian land. It was 10 metres from a canalised stream, he said.

Nema requires buildings to be at least 30 metres away from such a natural resource.

“We adhered to all the requirements when putting up the building, including seeking approval from Nema, the National Construction Authority and the Nairobi county government,” Veeral said.

This is the third major demolition in the past one week as the government lanuched an operation to reclaim riparian land. For years, the Ukay Centre has been at the centre of a controversy involvig claims it was situated on wetland.

According to authorities, the expansive Oshwal Centre and Apollo Centre – buildings adjacent and opposite the Ukay Centre, have been identified as the next target in the ongoing demolition.

An officer told the Star on condition of anonymity that the building hosting the Pullman Hotel and a BMW garage next to Ukay parking lot will also be brought down.

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