Taj Mall owner Gorasia given two weeks to demolish it

Taj Mall. It has been earmarked for demolition. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • A multi-sectoral committee on unsafe buildings has given the owners of the business up to August 30 to demolish it.
  • The owner, Mr Rameshchandra Gorasia, has dared the government to demolish it.
  • In 2013, NLC revoked the property's tittle deed but the building survived demolition following the re-designing of the Outering Road expansion project.

The owner of Airgate Centre, formerly Taj Mall, has dared the government to demolish his building.

This comes after the proprietor, Mr Rameshchandra Govino Gorasia, was given 14 days by a multi-sectoral committee on unsafe buildings to bring down the six-floor building, said to be standing on a road reserve.

“Do they think I am a stupid person to put up a building like this and then go and demolish it myself? Unless I have gone mad,” bellowed a visibly angry Mr Gorasia yesterday during a press conference outside the building.

UNFAZED

The man, who seemed unfazed by the renewed threat to an investment estimated by the defunct City Council of Nairobi at Sh990 million in 2012 (when it received its certificate of occupation), but which he now estimates at Sh5.5 billion, said he would not “touch the building”.

Mr Gorasia told journalists he was called on Tuesday and told that some people were marking the building with the characteristic red-cross that has become synonymous with buildings marked for demolition.

“I am inviting President Uhuru Kenyatta to come and say that I’m wrong to have constructed on this land,” he said, adding “because the mistake has been done by the government.”

“Who did the transfer to me and issued the title? Who approved the plans and gave the authority to build? Was it not the government?” he asked, challenging the government to deny the permits.

DOCUMENTS

He said the government was reacting to pressure by the public, as he displayed a stack of documents acquired from the government stamping the building as legal.

He said he was willing to give up the building to the government to put up a public utility of its choice instead of demolishing it. The government's multi-sectoral committee chaired by Mr Moses Nyakiongora, in a notice dated August 16, 2018, gave the developer up to August 30 to demolish the building.

EXPANSION

Mr Nyakiongora said the building, situated at the junction of Outer Ring Road, has encroached on the road reserve hindering its continual expansion.

There have been protracted attempts by different government agencies to have the building removed from a section of the four-acre piece of land on which it stands allegedly because it was public land. Trouble at the imposing building that sits at the intersection of Nairobi's Outering Road and Eastern Bypass, and officially opened in 2011, started after an order to move the building through a notice by Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) dated April 10 2012, was delivered at the building, after which a subsequent letter on May 14 the same year seemed to give some leeway.

REVOKED

In 2013, National Land Commission (NLC) once again revoked the property's tittle deed but the building survived demolition following the re-designing of the Outering Road expansion project.

“Upon the expiry of this notice, the illegal development will be demolished or removed from the road reserve and wayleave at the owners'/developers' risk and cost,” part of the notice by NLC had read.

In what seems to be a never ending circus over the demolition of the building, with different government agencies flip-flopping and correspondence moving from office to the other over the decision on whether the building needs to come down or not, the NLC had warned the owner of the then Taj Mall in Embakasi that his mall was on a road reserve and was only left standing because Kura had not asked to use the land for road expansion.

DESIGNS

“The warning basically means that the Taj Mall building will exist as is, until government decides to expand Outering road,” the notice had said.

In 2015 according to another letter dated November 24, Kura said the mall did not need to be demolished for the roads to be constructed. They attached the designs of the roads to boot.

But a document by the NLC had said that the portion on which the building stood was acquired by the government in 1960 for construction of Outer Ring road vide acquisition Plan No.DWG.B13-3/6.

But Mr Gorasia says he bought the land in 1996 and 1994 from one Samuel Kathenge and Abuja Ltd.

He claims to still owe Shelter Afrique $5 million (Sh500m) in loans that he has been unable to pay since his tenants moved following the bad publicity from initial threats of demolition in 2011.

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