The future potential of Two Rivers Mall Complex…Whats next?

The newest mall in the Country is finally complete and open to the public, it had lots of publicity in the local mainstream media and was launched with great fanfare, even the President of the Republic of Kenya and the Nairobi County Governor graced the occasion, and to be honest it is a magnificent structure, timelessly beautiful. So I know the Mainstream media has moved on to other matters of Public interest after the past week. It’s obvious the mall phenomenon is not over yet and owners of all the other malls in the city were quite jealous of the amount of foot traffic Two Rivers Mall drove, on that week, to its outfit regardless of its distance from the city.

So experts and analysts expect malls and consumerism in general to continue to grow within the county of Nairobi and around the country and are looking out to the next exciting developments like the Montage (Upper hill) etc. But before we forget and brand Two Rivers Mall as just another mall, lets revisit and re-evaluate The Entire Two Rivers Complex project, because it is what it is, a multibillion shilling multiyear project that just completed the first phase.

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Two Rivers Complex is a modern development complex that is very forward thinking in its nature, from conception Two Rivers is not just a shopping mall experience, it is, in my view a first necessary step in creating a new ultramodern forward thinking Metropolis, one which embraces new African designs, create and enhance new experiences and aims to bring an all new modern shopping and consumption experience within a development complex that has and will have high standards in its residential and commercial structures and facilities. One needs to see Two Rivers Mall as part of a complex that could possibly evolve into the next central business district(CBD) of the City.

Let’s face the facts; the inner core of City of Nairobi has degenerated. The core of the city has been overran by unplanned, unstructured developments like stalls that fail to focus on people and experiences. The City County Authority, rife with corruption and short termism has failed to rejuvenate the Central Business district into a desirable modern place that puts people first. The big businesses like banks, stock exchange, Corporate Nairobi have moved out of the city into new enclaves, that were once residential areas, like Westlands, Kilimani and Upperhill.But still, even in these new zones/enclaves are suffering from the same characteristics that befell the main core of the city namely poor planning on infrastructure needs and reliance on infrastructure initially built during the colonial era especially the water and sewerage and road drainage.

So a new approach is needed to rejuvenate the city in a way that promotes equity, productivity and growth of small and medium businesses as well as big businesses through improved quality of infrastructure that is people centric. The beauty of an ultramodern shopping mall like Two Rivers is that in its core, it is built around people, around experiences…not cars, not buildings.

Now, Two Rivers complex is built away from the inner core of the city, it sits on roughly 102 acres of privately owned land near affluent residential nodes. The beauty of this is, with phase one complete…that is the main mall with its anchor tenants which sits on 11 acres, the next phase focuses on new developments on the area of land within the complex, that is, maybe a new hotel, new modern hospital, a new Amphitheatre and conference Centre, new apartments and commercial office spaces.

Now all these new structures will sit and fit within the entire complex, forming a mini Central business district, all linked with basic infrastructure like roads, fiber cables, water and sewerage services, power provided in a new forward thinking mechanism that is sustainable and people friendly, roofs of structures could be covered by solar panels that power the premises, a water recycling plant would assist and encourage reuse of water within these buildings. The complex could also maybe accommodate new means of transport like autonomous shuttle buses, horizontal escalators, mini trams and/or Hyperloop which could be used to ferry foot traffic from one part of the complex to another more quickly and creating new experiences. The beauty is all these things is they can be deployed affordably and with minimal interference from the county and national government because they are being deployed in a controlled private property environment with minimal oversight or influence from these bureaucratic, backward thinking and corrupt entities.

After this next phase, coupled by increased occupancy from private companies like the stock exchange, banks, telecom operators and other interested business entities a new “Sandton” will emerge. Sandton as you know, is an affluent part of Johannesburg city that evolved as a corporate friendly business enclave with its foundations being the Sandton City Mall. Sandton has always undergoes urban renewable that enables small, medium and large businesses to thrive and its emergence and existence forced the City of Johannesburg authorities to embark difficult but necessary long term urban renewal of its inner city core that had degenerated with old worn out structures and sections infested with crime and dilapidated transport infrastructure. Two Rivers Complex needs to go beyond what Sandton embodies, it needs to evolve into something new, something modern, something more futuristic and something more inclusive

So how does Two Rivers Complex evolve into the next ultramodern Central Business District. First my suggestion is: the management of Two Rivers Complex needs to be forward thinking and it starts by focusing on the right demographic target: The Young people. Two Rivers first needs to adopt a strong robust massive Wi-Fi and Internet infrastructure network in its entire complex starting with the shopping mall. Then use this infrastructure to deploy Smart IoT (Internet of Things), free internet to shopper’s/experience seekers (with various caveats of course). The Complex, starting with the mall, need to embrace more and new interactive displays that enhance user experiences.

The Two Rivers complex needs to see how it can incorporate experiences that resonate with today’s youth into its entire premises. Today’s energetic tech savvy youth are the key for future prosperity for the entire mall complex especially if the mall is to survive the rise of online ecommerce from sites like Jumia, Kilimall and other entrants that have led to the death of malls in developed countries like the United States of America(US).Many malls in the US have been abandoned in the last two decades or retrofitted into office spaces due to failure to innovate and counter online technology trends adopted by the millennial generation.

To avoid or mitigate this trend into the future, Two Rivers Mall Complex needs to innovate and evolve, it needs to focus on new experiences that resonate with the millennial generation things like Gaming lounges, coffee cafes, chilling spots, cinemas, co-working spaces, sports bars, skating ring, night clubs etc. as well as kid’s areas like amusement parks etc. into its fabric. This is what the millennial generation gets excited about, Imagine a gaming lounge filled with young men and women playing the latest FIFA 17 or Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, Imagine cafes filled with young teens instagraming and chilling as they talk and enjoy drinks of their choice, Imagine Young people chilling on CK square watching a concert/international rugby match or something on the Huge Screens mounted on the walls while cheering, Imagine young people queuing up at an IMAX theatre to watch the latest movies or chilling in a movie/series lounge binge watching series/movie trailers before the main movie plays, Imagine young teens taking time to learn skating Imagine young men and women on their computers working on the next big thing in one of the co-working spaces in the complex, Imagine young men and women drinking and cheering their favorite sports teams in the sports bars and later moving to have a great night at one of the new nightclubs in the complex, imagine small kids and their young parents having fun with rides and water sports in the amusement park. These are the kinds of experiences Two Rivers Complex can provide, these are the things young Kenyans are doing in their spare time or on a day to day in their homes, friend’s places and selected spots in the city and around the country.

The impact of these kinds of establishments in variety is, they will increase foot traffic, increase engagement within the complex and eventually increase the attractiveness of the Complex to the populace in the surrounding area as the next place to work, play and grow. Such establishments have the ripple effect of keeping the young and old engaged with the entire Two rivers experience for decades and drive traffic to its other facilities like conference centers, hospitals, apartments, offices. This in turn could attract banks, the stock market and a few government entities who will want to be part of the experience for their own interests.

Increased rental value of created apartments, office spaces, lettable areas with increased occupancy preferable kept at 90% and above can and may be enough to finance and maintain new projects within the complex. I believe the true purpose of The Two Rivers Complex Project is to act as a beacon and show us what is possible if robust forward thinking leadership in the National Government, County level Government as well as proper engagement with the Private sector through robust public private partnership can achieve for the city and other towns if proper planning and execution by the right personnel.

It’s important to realize that, with the kind of ideas the Two Rivers Management is thinking and implementing together with some of the ideas I am proposing as well as the ability of the entire project to innovate and embrace new trends with a local twist the entire project will and is employing thousands of Kenyans and empowering them with more permanent and stable high quality jobs while playing its part in growing the formal and informal sectors of the local county economy and the wider state economy through building robust local consumption companies and presenting a local ready market to them. This could be the legacy of Two Rivers to its owners.

The importance of encouraging local companies in the relevant areas to take up tenancy is key in enabling growth of the complex and these businesses. International brands are valuable but they can be well complemented by forcing local brands to raise their standards so as to compete with them effectively. The Two Rivers Mall Complex should strive to experiment, test and deploy modern cutting edge technology where applicable in building and enhancing its image and experience for its visitors and future residents.

So, in my opinion, what’s next for Two Rivers? I think it’s just the start of something that may transform the face of the city and its environs by setting new standards, showing us as Kenyans what is possible. I know malls like Two Rivers encourage consumerism but if you think about it, the same company behind the project (Centum Investments) is working on an industrial park that will focus enabling, enhancing, modernizing and revitalizing local manufacturing but that is a story for another time.