3 March 2012

Kenya: City Council Unveils Plan to Spruce Up Public Places

The Nairobi City Council has started a project to turn public spaces in the city turned into high end recreational parks.

Director of City Planning Tom Odongo said yesterday that the council plans to make Nairobi a social city. "We are starting with the famous Jevanjee gardens and Silanga Gardens in Kibera on a pilot project basis. We can no longer eliminate congestion from our urban areas by using decades-old traffic engineering measures and models. We are essentially using a rototiller in a flowerbed.

And it's time to acknowledge that the collateral damage has been too great,' Odongo said during the launch of the project. 'It's hard to create a space that will not attract people. What we are working on is a public space where one can sit down during the day and have his or her parked lunch. The project if in partnership with UN Habitat and the World Bank.

Odongo added that once the public spaces have been spruced up, property around the said spaces will go up dramatically which will favour the private sector. "The social value of public spaces lie in opportunities for mixing with others and developing local attachment, and in people's memories of places. The possibilities for casual social encounters are a key element in people's commitment to their area, while memories of familiar places create a sense of belonging or safety in a city," Odongo said. "The public spaces also provide an important arena for experiencing ethnic diversity on an everyday basis. Though there could also be tensions at times, certain places in Nairobi are valued for providing opportunities for social contact between different ethnic groups thereby improving cohesion."

Town clerk Philip Kisia said in 60 days, the council will partner with the private sector to spruce up public spaces along Langata Road, Uhuru Highway and in the city estates. "As cities around the world seek new ways to improve their physical, social, and economic environments, they are paying greater attention to the value of public space," he said. "Provision of new plazas and parks, reclamation of existing waterfronts, and beautification of public streets are all increasingly viewed as important strategies for enhancing the quality of urban living." He added: "With scarce public funding available, cities are teaming with the private sector in innovative public-private partnerships to fund these approaches," he said.

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