Jun 25 , 2022

Lensa Mekonnen, head of the Land Bank & Development Corporation, strives to overhaul unutilised land under federal agencies in Addis Abeba through a programme dubbed "Revamping Sheger."

Officials of the Corporation, which was established in 2018 with five billion Birr in capital, estimate 755hct of underdeveloped and undeveloped land are available for the implementation of the project. Many of the 300 federal agencies and state-owned enterprises are based in the capital.

The Corporation has thus far audited 3,700hct of land under federal agencies, including the Civil Aviation Authority and Ghion Hotels Enterprise.

Under the leadership of Lensa, the Corporation called for an expression of interest from architects for the proposed programme nine months ago. Nearly a dozen responded, and two firms have reached the final stage to submit a conceptual design for developments in 140 sites, divided into five hubs.

Lensa served as the chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Tourism Organisation before her appointment to head the Corporation in 2018.

The concept designs developed by the two companies were on display at Addis Hall last month. Officials say the exhibit was meant to collect feedback from the capital's residents, which will be used as input during the evaluation stage. A jury comprising experts from the Corporation, university lecturers, and independent professionals will make the final decision.

“The winning concept design will be selected within a month,” said Lensa.

Incorporated in 2007 with an initial capital of 20,000 Br, Benyam Ali Architects is one of the firms that submitted a concept design for plots categorised under four hubs.

Its design for the area around Addis Abeba Stadium, designated by the Corporation as one of the five hubs that stretch from Ghion Hotel to Mexico Square, includes an outdoor running track. The design for the second hub stretching from Sidist Kilo to Entoto Polytechnic College proposes the construction of an innovation district.

“The concept designs were prepared based on the potentials of the areas,” said Benyam Ali, general manager of the company.

Fekreselam Gebrewhad, lecturer of urban design and development at Kotebe Metropolitian University, applauds the efforts to consider the characteristics of the areas under question in the design, but cautions the work should align with the city's master plan.

Incorporated three years ago, The Dream Factory Plc is the other firm in the running. It has submitted concept designs for plots categorised under three hubs.

The company envisions converting the area around Addis Abeba Stadium into a convention center.

“Our concept designs focus on the promotion of conference tourism,” said Sherbano Mazhar, team leader at the company.

The company dedicated 11 experts to the project, of which three are team leaders.

Lensa says the firm with the winning design will be involved in the development of the projects from design to supervision. However, the Corporation has yet to come up with a concrete execution plan for development..

“We haven’t decided on a method,” said the CEO.

The Corporation envisions another property development initiative to be executed on close to 100hct of under-utilised land under federal institutions. Four month ago, it invited prospective international developers to submit offers for the construction of 15,000 housing units, three convention centers, and two horse racing venues on 70 plots located in prime locations in the capital.

Lensa and her officials are looking for developers who have been in business for at least 10 years and with experience managing projects above 350 million dollars in value. The Corporation expects developers to bring external financing with no government guarantee requirements.

Six international firms have shown interest, according to the CEO.

Fekreselam cautions that carrying out these programmes is a much more complex task than it looks.

“The execution of plans like these implemented at such a large scale needs the approval of all the federal agencies and the office in charge of the city's master plan," he said.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 25,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1156]

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