Four years ago, Ruaka Town in Kiambu County consisted of a few shops and simple residential flats. However, the area has undergone a radical transformation in the past few years, thanks to the construction of the Northern Bypass.
The construction of the bypass opened up the area and saw investors rushing in to build homes, which are highly regarded for their attractive returns.
Mr Peter Njuthi Karomo, who has lived in Ruaka all his life, says that as soon as the construction of the bypass began, developers started buying plots in the area and turned them into concrete jungles.
But thanks to the bypass, he adds, transport to the city has greatly improved, since one can access it via Limuru Road, while those working along Mombasa Road can use the bypass.
“The area opened up, leading to a demand for housing, which saw many investors come and build flats, rapidly changing the face of Ruaka” says Karomo
Indeed, a person who visited the the town a few years ago, will be shocked at the transformation.
Many of the local people, who previously lived in semi-permanent houses, have also sold part of their land and built fancier homes as wells as rental houses.
Mr John Mwaniki, who runs Jekmass Services, a real estate company with interests in Nairobi and Kiambu counties, says Ruaka has benefited from the congestion in Nairobi: “With easy access to the city, a house here will not remain unoccupied for long. Investors have their antennas up so they rushed here to build houses to reap from the fast growing sector.”
Thanks to the increased population, Ruaka is attracting other services such as banks and restaurants.
Mega real estate companies have also moved into the area, among them Centum Investment Group, which is putting up a project known as Two Rivers at an estimated cost of Sh17 billion. The will be project, a “a retail, entertainment and lifestyle centre”.
Sitting on 100 acres, it will comprise a mega shopping mall, office park, luxury residential apartments, hotels and public amenities.
During a recent interview, the project’s residential engineer, Mr Bernard Masika, said it will be carried out in two phases and should be completed by September this year, and opened in October.
“The project has a deadline because some of the facilities have already been bought, so we have to meet it,” he said, adding that they are working round the clock.
The anchor tenant will be the French supermarket chain, Carrefour. which has booked more than 10,000 square acres of the mall’s 62,000 square metres.
The project will have 1,689 parking bays on three levels within the mall, and 2,000 parking bays in the parking silo.
Ruaka also has developments such as Herisquare Lounge, which has a parking lot that can accommodate nearly 400 cars, Sahara West Park, Village Falls park plus a number of joints collectively referred to as “bypass”.
Also anticipated are the Sh400 million Runda View Apartments, which will be located a kilometre from Ruaka Shopping Centre.
The 53 apartments will have amenities such as a swimming pool, CCTV cameras, fully equipped gyms, children’s play areas and security.
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development has also acquired land near the shopping centre for a multi-use project.
Entertainment joints have also sprouted up in Ruaka, while matatus have established new routes to cater for the residents.
The bypass has also lead a sharp increase in land prices, with a 50 by 100 plot now going for as much as Sh16 million, up from between Sh800,000 and Sh1million.
Mr Mwaniki says that land prices and rents shot up as soon as earth movers began working on the bypass, which cost an estimated Sh8.5 billion.
He says that in 2007, a single room was going for between Sh1,500 and 1,800. Today, such rooms cost between Sh3,500 and 4,000; and getting one is not easy.
And in 2008 a 40x80 feet plot in Membley in Ruiru, along the Northern Bypass, was going for between Sh500,000 and Sh800,000 but after the construction began, the price shot up, in some cases reaching Sh4 million.
“Everybody rushed to by plots here because the road opened up the area and when demand is high, the price goes up,” he said, noting that in Ruaka, a quarter-acre plot costs between Sh16 million and Sh20 million.
Before the bypass was built, rents in Membley, where he lives, were as low as Sh15,000 a month for a four-bedroom home; today it is Sh60,000.
Meanwhile, Mr Karomo noted that before the bypass was built, land was sold by the acre but today, it has been subdivided into plots. As a result, developers, seeking to maximise on space put up rental flats.
“The area opened up and every one wants to live here due to its close proximity to Nairobi.
Those buying plots are developing commercial plots, which are giving them handsome returns,” he added.
He reveals that the retail centre has been designed as an open mall offering a sense of high-street shopping, while protecting shoppers from adverse weather.
Two Rivers Mall will have more than 160 shops selling a variety of goods, and offering different services.
A double room is going for between Sh7,000 and 9,000 while bedsitters, which were rare in 2007, are going for Sh10, 000 each.
A one-bedroom house costs between Sh10,000 and 18,000 a month while a two-bedroom house is going for between Sh18,000 and 30,000, depending on the finishing.
The impact, he says, has not only been felt along the bypass but beyond, adding that after investors exhausted all the available plots near the road, they started moving further afield
In Kinoo, where his company was charging Sh7,000 for a two-bedroom house, the rent has now tripled