Standing at five storeys, the multi-million Grand Manor Hotel was about to open its doors to VIP guests considering its location in Gigiri, adjacent to US Embassy and UN complex.
But instead, yesterday, it was reduced to a rubble, demolished in compliance with a court order that ruled it was a security risk to the diplomatic premises and that its construction had violated approval guidelines.
The owner, Praful Kumar, told court at the time the notice for demolition was issued, he had spent Sh200 million, with the project 75 per cent complete.
The lavish establishment is situated opposite the US Embassy on one side and the United Nations head offices on the other. To its left is the High Commission of Botswana and on the right the Embassy of Morocco.
Mr Kumar had gone to court last Wednesday seeking orders barring the demolition.
On Tuesday, however, a court granted City Hall the power to demolish the five-star facility after it ruled that the hotel being adjacent to the United Nation offices was a security threat.
Yesterday morning, Sany – the much-dreaded excavator - made its way to Gigiri, tearing the condemned building brick by brick.
The exercise began as at 6.30am in the presence of police officers. Pleas by the businessman’s wife and daughters for the county officials to halt the process to allow them salvage some of the furniture initially fell on deaf ears.
Midway through the demolitions, however, the county officers in charge gave the family 15 minutes to salvage items such as refrigerators, laundry machines, mattresses and other pieces of furniture. They were loaded into vehicles and taken to their residence.
Edwin Momanyi, the project’s manager, however, castigated the demolitions, claiming the county had not issued a notice for the same.
He said the building was 99 per cent complete and cited foul play by the county authorities, saying other buildings in the neighbourhood had three or more floors, yet only the Grand Manor was demolished.
“The demolitions are uncalled for because we had complied with all the requirements. The building had been inspected and found to be structurally sound. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a government that gives you food then snatches the whole plate when you are about to eat it,” said Mr Momanyi.
The Nairobi County Government said the owner of the building had contravened the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by putting up a five-storey building that posed a security risk to diplomatic facilities such as the UN headquarters.
The owner of the building told the court they had paid Sh2.9 million to the county for an inspection, but the county officials never did their job.
Nairobi Regeneration Task-force operations manager Julius Wanjau confirmed the building owner had ignored an advisory by the county to cap the number of floors at two and went ahead to put up five floors.
“We moved in as soon as we got the court order. We expect the demolition to be complete by Monday so that we can move on to demolish other faulty buildings in the city,” said Mr Wanjau.
He further revealed that the excavator and other vehicles such as the fire engine had arrived at the scene at midnight yesterday in readiness for the exercise that began at the crack of dawn.
He said this was to avoid creating a traffic snarl-up that would have affected people reporting to work.
Gigiri Village Association had filed a complaint in July 2015, lamenting that the putting up of a commercial structure in the area violated physical planning regulations for the low-density estate.
Residents argued that the area should be limited to low residential, one-family houses as it had no facilities to support the hotel.
James Kamau, a worker in a neighboring house, said the building was constructed so fast and it was not until he saw it being demolished that he knew it had been condemned.
“The developer should blame the officers that approved the plans because he has now suffered unimaginable loss. I feel his pain,” said Mr Kamau.
In August, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission sleuths arrested Kumar after he allegedly tried to bribe Governor Mike Sonko with Sh5 million in Kilifi. He was released on a Sh1 million bond.
Police claimed he tried to bribe Sonko so the latter could allow for the construction of the hotel.