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Tenants told to vacate Taj Mall ahead of demolition

Bernard Gitau @benagitau

Tenants of Airgate Mall, previously known as Taj Mall, have until August 30 to vacate the building earmarked for demolition.

The government yesterday issued mall owners with a 14-day notice to bring down the building, failure to which it will be demolished.

In a letter dated August 16, the Multi-sectoral Committee on Unsafe Structures chairman Moses Nyakiongora said the building encroached on the road reserve and way-leave, hindering the construction of Outering Road.

“Upon expiry of the notice, the illegal development will be demolished at the owners’ risk and cost,” read the notice in part.

But an angry mall owner, Ramesh Gorasia, dared the government to go ahead with the demolition, saying “rumours” over impending demolition had cost him over Sh3 billion.

“If you want to demolish this building, do it! I am tired of hearing about its demolition now for over five years,” he told journalists.

Gorasia distanced Deputy President William Ruto from the ownership of the mall, terming the allegations “political propaganda”.

Saying he had documentation to show he legally owned the building and warned: “Stay away from my property or I’ll see you in court.”

In a conciliatory tone in an appeal to save his property, Gorasia invited President Uhuru Kenyatta to tour the mall.

“This mall employs thousands of people and if it is brought down, they will suffer. I am ready to surrender the building to the county or National government if the investigations show it is on the public land,” he said.

But if it is established the building is not on road reserve, Gorasia said, he will demand Sh9 billion compensation.

“In 2015, the building was evaluated and valued at Sh5.5 billion but at the current value stands at over Sh8 billion. There is no need to demolish buildings, convert this into a market, university or any public institution,” he added.

Following the notice, the mall was a hive of activity as the remaining tenants packed in readiness to vacate the premises.

The notice comes in the wake of demolition of illegal structures in Nairobi by the government, especially those built on riparian land and road reserves.

The government has earmarked about 4,000 buildings for demolition in the ongoing operation.