Aug 22 , 2020

A Dubai-based construction company has begun revamping the Addis Abeba Municipality headquarters for 1.8 billion Br. Involved in the refurbishment of the office of the Prime Minister, ALEC Engineering & Contracting LLC is contracted to work on landscaping, renovating offices and building new facilities inside the premises of the Municipality, covering a 50,000Sqm area. The project was approved by the city cabinet in mid-May and is expected to be completed in a year.

ALEC will build a cocktail bar, a clinic, a children's playground, a library and a parking lot that can accommodate 150 vehicles. The refurbishment includes renovating eight training rooms with executive lounges; over 600 offices; offices of the mayor, deputy mayor and the press secretariat; along with a meeting hall for the cabinet. ALEC will also renovate the theatre hall that has 850 seats located inside the premises.

Launched by former Deputy Mayor Takele Uma, the project is managed by a newly formed Megaprojects Construction Office. The Office handles projects considered to be mega projects that require over one billion Birr in investment. It is currently overseeing the Adwa Zero Kilometer and Mesqel Square projects, as well as the under-construction headquarters of the Addis Abeba Transport Bureau. The 20-storey building with three basements is located near Megenagna roundabout.

ALEC, which has already finished demolishing the interiors of the building that is located in the heart of Piassa, was awarded the design-build contract without a bidding process.

The company was selected based on its track record following the legal procedure, according to Shemiles Eshetu, general manager of the City Administration's Megaprojects Construction Office.

"It's part of the procedure to select such companies considering their profile," said Shemiles.

Established in 1999, ALEC was involved in the construction of a recreational centre on the premises of the Grand Palace. It has also completed and delivered the renovation project for the Office of the Prime Minister.

"The idea of the project is to have a high-standard Municipality," said the general manager, "but while keeping the original design of the building intact."

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Adanech Abebie has also visited the new refurbishment project last Friday.

The Municipality was designed by an Italian man named Arturo Mezzedimi and was built by another Italian construction company, ESBU Construction. The construction of the building was started in 1965 while Zewde Gebrehiwot was mayor of the city.

There have been previous renovation and expansion trials in the past, including the construction of the fence, the renovation of the lobby, and a plan to expand the offices inside the compound due to the need for more space. The expansion project, which had a participatory planning, failed to proceed.

“It pains me how this project is being executed, not because of the renovation, but the way and the process of how this project was initiated," said an architect who wanted to remain anonymous. “In this time and age where spaces have to be decentralised, overwhelming the space for political use is incorrect."

“It should be used for a symbolic purpose as a city centre for people,” said the architect. “It had a life before with the theater and had a playful aura.”

The refurbishment project will also be connected with the third level of the Adwa Zero Kilometer Project with a bridge. The Adwa Project, a museum which commemorates the Victory of Adwa, is under construction at the centre of Piassa adjacent to Menelik II Square. The museum is a 4.6-billion-Br project that composes meeting halls and recreational and fitness centres.

The bridge will encompass a VIP car entryway and a park with a playground.

Currently, the Adwa Project has reached 22pc completion, just two percent less than its target. The project is en route to finalising its 11 blocks and a multi-functional wall for tennis and other sports activities.

These projects join the Mesqel Square Municipality Rehabilitation project, the widening of roads leading from the municipality to Mesqel Square, which has reached 44pc completion. A double-decker parking lot with a capacity to serve over 1,500 cars and featuring six lifts was awarded to Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC) last fiscal year for 2.5 billion Br. CCCC is contracted to complete the project in eight months.

The last floor of Mesqel Square project is expected to be completed by next week if the concrete fillings are done, according to Shemiles.

"We're sure the project will be completed for the upcoming holiday of Mesqel," he said.

Most of these buildings are very old buildings, hence it is a very good decision to do a retouch while keeping the structure of the buildings, according to Mesele Haile (PhD), a construction engineer who applauds the project.

"However, most of these projects should also give chances to local construction companies to be involved, because many of them are capable of handling these kinds of projects," he added.

When the Administration wanted to start the project, it should have consulted architects at Addis Abeba University (AAU) since it would have been good to involve professionals, according to Fasil Giorgis, associate professor at AAU and chairholder of the Conservation of Urban & Architectural Heritages.

"We've recommended that the new renovation project not deviate from the history and the architectural character of the building," said Fasil. "The project was speedy since our feedback was asked for only after the construction company had already designed the first draft."

The infrastructure inside the compound has to compliment the current time, and additional facilities are also needed like pavement for disabled people and office structures, according to Fasil.

"It's also better to question the background of the designing company if they have any experience in a historical renovation since it requires special expertise," he said. "We haven't seen the final version of the design, but we hope the City Administration has taken our advice into account."

PUBLISHED ON Aug 22,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1060]

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