Highway’s super exploits for Juja

With the Nairobi-Thika super highway nearing completion, many townships along the highway have reaped big and Juja has not been left behind, with heightened real estate activity, writes Allan Olingo

The super highway that has changed everything.

The former vast coffee estates are being transformed into residential estates, mainly gated community residential dwellings. The price of land in the area has skyrocketed as its demand soars with improved road travel from the capital city and Thika.

According to real estate consultant Charles Mwangi, the secondary effects of the road construction include employment opportunities, increased economic and commercial activities as well as opening up new economic frontiers. These have had tremendous effects on real estate in the area with the major beneficiary being properties fronting the superhighway.

“Property values in the said areas have in some instances witnessed 500 per cent increment with land owners capitalising on the expected demand when the surrounding areas opens up,” says Mwangi.

For example, 40x80 prime plots next to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), with most of them promising clean documents and all services available, are going for around Sh1.5 million. This is  five times more than the Sh300,000 they were going for about ten years ago.

The rise in the number of proposed multi-billion shilling gated-community estates along the stretch is luring middle-income investors, previously concentrated in Nairobi, into the plains of Ruiru, Juja and Thika where virgin agricultural land is being transformed into residential estates.

Mega cities’ effect

There are many instances of upcoming mega residential developments as a result of the infrastructural improvements. They include Tatu City, Suraya Four ways Junction, Oak Valley Development, Thika Greens, Jacaranda Gardens, Migaa and Golden Mile Park among others. All these projects mark the start of a new wave of both residential and commercial developments in the areas adjoining the super highway. The results of these developments have been astronomical price increases for plots along the stretch.

According to Patricia Githu, a director at Developing Afrika, the developers of Juja South Estate, this area is prime with housing estates mostly because of the available amenities for any home seeker.

“The completion of the super highways is one of the greatest attractions in this area. We are also seeing available amenities like sewer lines, water, electricity and feeder roads, making Juja a property hot cake,” says Githu.

For example, the Juja South Estate targets the middle or medium-sized entrepreneurs.

“We wanted to start a unique project in an area where change will be evident, and where we give people a taste of space, something that they have always wanted. While we visited many sites in various towns, we settled for Juja to give a new taste of well sized home with enough space for room sizes and a compound,” says Githu.

In 2007, Suraya Properties broke ground for the Oak Valley estate within the Juja locality, one of the gated community estates in this area.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Sue Muraya, one of the company’s directors, noted that this was to be a community-oriented development with adequate space for families who desire to see their children grow in a secure community.

“Oak Valley will virtually be a self-contained complex where residents will not need to go far for their shopping because one of the leading supermarket chains will have a branch on site,” noted Muraya.

So, why is this gated community concept catching up in this quiet neighbourhood of Juja?

Community concepts

According to Githu, in an era where security is a concern, neighbourhood is to be jealously guarded hence the gated community concept.

Says Githu: “We also need to understand that these gated communities will be quite essential in spurring growth as they will form mini-economic centres. Many of the gated communities are planned to have shopping and recreational facilities within and apart from creating social harmony within this communities, economic centres will continue to spring up. Overall, this will stimulate economic growth in the area.”

“The communities will open up more area and will bring about a need for social facilities such as health, educational and security apparatus, which means the centres will integrate at social economic levels widening the overall growth in the area,” adds Githu.

Pricing within this locality both for land and property has been an issue but Githu says that to bridge this gap, it will require some sacrifice on their part as developers as far as pricing is concerned. 

“For the price and the size of the house, versus the cost of construction, this fact is evident. We do believe that for the targeted market, what we are charging is affordable,” says Githu.

Most housing estates are selling off at approximately Sh4.5 million for a two bed roomed apartment and Sh8.5 million for a three bed roomed townhouse.

Plots for sale are another key thing, as most people would like to construct their own units at their convenience. Prices of land in the area have been growing on average of close to 100 per cent every year, pushing the lower income groups further from the superhighway that is now becoming popular with the middle-class.

“There is a huge demand for plots. When we floated the plots for sale at the Juja South Estate, with an offer price of between Sh.1m and Sh1.5 million, we sold 114 plots in record time.  This means that the market is there and has enabled us to move swiftly into the next phase of construction.  We are about to put in the market Sunset Park Estate for another set of plots.” says Githu. 

College economy

The plot prices vary depending on the proximity from the super highway. Commercial plots cost anywhere between Sh2 and Sh4 million per eighth of an acre. This means an acre of land for commercial use in such an area costs between Sh16million to almost Sh32million.

According to Gideon Kamau, a landowner, the reason for this high price is that most of these plots are off the super highway. In addition, there is lucrative demand for accommodation facilities by the students at JKUAT and its staff.

“I am selling off plots to buyers who can build four to five-storeyed flats or even a storey of bedsitters for student’s accommodation. My main selling point is the proximity of the highway and JKUAT,” says Kamau.

Scramble continues

Mwangi adds that the scramble for space has intensified with former coffee farms, ranch and sisal farms, abandoned for making losses, are now making fortunes as real estate investors jostle for investment opportunities along the highway.

“Coupled with these is the demand for social amenities — like schools, shopping malls and hospitals — which investors are turning to, hoping to cash in on the new liquid investors and the middle class,” says Mwangi.

The high price of land may bring about the proliferation of more unplanned settlements within Juja and it is a critical social challenge that players in the real estate industry cannot overlook. In the meantime, gated estates are adding glamour to this once dull township.