Upper Hill, Nairobi: Growing as Africa’s Financial Capital! African Cities, Please Change the Narrative on Non Motorized Transit! Likoni Cable Express Line: Transforming Coastal Mobility The Nairobi Pedestrian: An Unwanted Species Blog Awards: Vote for africancityplanner.com #MjiWetu: Mixed Land Use is not Random Land Use #MjiWetu: Do Walls improve the Security of our City? Nairobi: Mixed Use Zones are Redefining the City Is Nairobi Central Business District DEAD? Nairobi, Kenya, faces a Growing Challenge of Noise Pollution Kenya: Teaching Public Service Drivers First Aid and Safety Any Future for Nairobi’s Dandora Dump Site? Nairobi, Kenya: No BRT due to Poor Planning? Nairobi and the 100 Resilient Cities Programme Nairobi’s Long Rains: A failure in Urban Resilience? Intern at The Global Grid Participation: Using Social Media in the Urban Planning process Nairobi Public Spaces: Viable or open for Grabbing? Kenyan Blog Awards: Blog Needs your Vote! Nairobi: How can buses help decongest? Public vs Private Urban Housing, what direction for Nairobi, Kenya? Aerial Cable Transit: Urban Gondolas for African Cities? How Sustainable are the emerging Private Cities around Nairobi, Kenya? Urban October: Public Spaces for All Nairobi’s Tom Mboya Street: User Friendly or Not? Countering the Increasing Energy Consumption in Growing Cities Kenya: Two Railway Lines Running Parallel on Different Gauges Mi Teleférico: Worlds Highest Cable Car Transports over 42,000 people daily Cable Cars: Introducing the Likoni ‘Air-Line’ in Mombasa, Kenya Planners: Does Security in Urban Centres begin with you? Moving Urban Dwellers through the Air to alleviate Traffic Congestion When the call to drive at 30 kph in Nairobi, Kenya is necessary! Land use management in Nairobi, Kenya is key to reducing congestion. Nairobi, Kenya: Neglect of NMT makes it less safe, less convenient and less attractive. Nairobi, Kenya aims at Regularizing Unauthorized Structures How can Nairobi, Kenya deal with its ‘Buildings of Death’ ? Harmonizing Initiatives: Nairobi, Kenya works towards developing an NMT Policy

Upper Hill, Nairobi: Growing as Africa’s Financial Capital!

Nairobi’s Upper Hill District is a slightly elevated highland area in Nairobi that borders the hot and dry Kapiti plains. In the early 20th Century, it was established as a serene residential area, then known as ‘The Hill area’, for senior railway staff.

As the city has grown and expanded, Upper Hill has gradually transformed into a business hub, with a majority of the colonial bungalows being replaced by skyscraping towers. Major foreign embassies, corporates and government authorities are now located in the approximately 700 acre district. In addition to the top hotel franchises that are setting up shop in Upper Hill, the area also hosts a number of supportive facilities such as private members’ clubs, a 9 hole golf course, Kenya’s biggest referral hospital, not to mention its close proximity to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

However, besides the need for basic support infrastructure such as utility provision, a broader out-of-the box-human centric focus with regard to the planning of the district is required.

Over the last few years a concerted effort towards widening the Upper Hill area roads as a means of improving mobility has been made. As witnessed in many cities globally, however, road widening has been unable to (and cannot) keep up with the increased densification and vehicular use leading to perennial peak hour traffic. The area faces another major challenge in that it has been deprived of Non-Motorized-Transit Facilities and an efficient public transport system. Its close proximity to the Central Business District (CBD) provides it with a big opportunity to enhance and encourage the use of NMT to and from the CBD.

Public Spaces

The area is currently not served by any paratransit facility and therefore the potential of implementing a Bus Transit System to and from the adjacent CBD exists. This would not only encourage use of public transit but would serve as an example for how the rest of the city can integrate its present transit systems into rapid transit.

Use of technology should also not be ignored. Signaling systems at cross junctions that can enhance more efficient mobility is one option. LivingPlan IT in Portugal is establishing systems where urban vehicular mobility control is managed by a sensor system (similar to that of formula one cars) and not by human supervision.

Upper Hill area is a rain forest zone therefore highly fertile. In spite of the increased brick and mortar it is important that the area does not lose its ‘green’ element. Road and building contractors ought to find ways to avoid interference with greenery (especially hardwood indigenous trees) and replace them whenever necessary. The district can easily be distinguished from other parts of the city through safe urban roadside trees. Coincidentally, roadside trees are known to have several benefits including:

  • Reduced and more appropriate urban traffic speeds
  • Creation of safer walking environments
  • Less drainage infrastructure
  • Rain, sun, heat and skin protection
  • Lower urban air temperatures
  • Added value to adjacent homes and businesses

Environmental management is further best served through emphasis on good building standards. Water conservation, green roofs and energy conservation in buildings are all important aspects that can be incorporated.

For any city or district to succeed in its purpose of existence it must be planned and designed for the people who live and work there. Ideally, the process ought to be adopt a highly inclusive and people driven approach. It should enable the people who work there to have easy access to and from work either through walking or public transit facilities. With no existing public spaces, considering how public spaces (like parklets and safe roadside sitting areas) can be created within the vicinity of a business district is essential. These would naturally differ from those of mixed use or residential areas as most of the usage will be around lunch hour.

Several other Business districts have planned themselves over the years as financial and business hubs. Songdo International Business District (Songdo IBD) is a $35 billion smart and sustainable city that is setting new benchmarks for urban development. In its development, it has adopted strong pointers from major cities such as having a park (Central Park, New York), canals (Venice), opera house (Sydney) among others. The district has gone further to integrate these with technology to improve living and working standards.


Canary Wharf is another major business district located in Tower Hamlets, East London. It is one of the United Kingdom’s two main financial centres. Constructed on an abandoned industrial area, the district is home to European headquarters of numerous major banks, professional services firms, and media organisations. The Canary Wharf master plan has a clear framework of streets, public squares and green space. Local artists and landscape architects were phenomenal in creating memorable and functional gardens, plazas, fountains, shopping arcades, and waterfront promenades. Canary Wharf also features tree-lined boulevards with designated areas for VIP drop-offs, taxis, and bus stops.

What other planning approaches should Upper Hill take in order to improve workability as a financial district? What measures should be taken to ensure that the area does not get degraded over the years or overtaken by urban challenges?

African Cities, Please Change the Narrative on Non Motorized Transit!

Non Motorized Transport means have gradually gained popularity in several of the world’s cities. In countries like the Netherlands, modes such as cycling are a way of life. In other cities such as Bogota, pedestrianization of streets has been promoted as a means of improving mobility and retail business. The promotion of Non Motorized Transport […]

Likoni Cable Express Line: Transforming Coastal Mobility

The recent announcement of the proposed launch of the Likoni Cable Line Express comes at a critical time when mobility at the coast is in dire need of a transformation as well as an upgrade. Continuous urban sprawl at the coast coupled with increased population and a projected busier port has created further demand for […]

The Nairobi Pedestrian: An Unwanted Species

One of the most notable scenes in the city of Nairobi is the large number of people walking. Many of these people walk from the informal settlements to the industrial area and middle income neighbourhoods. It is understood that approximately 47% of residents in Nairobi walk to work. With a troubled and chaotic paratransit system […]

#MjiWetu: Mixed Land Use is not Random Land Use

Recent trends in urban development have encouraged cities to transform in a more ‘people oriented approach.’ This trend places emphasis on the importance of cities to be commuter friendly (walkability and connectivity), environmentally sustainable and to create opportunities for human interaction and cohesion. A strong sense of place in cities and communities has also emerged. […]

#MjiWetu: Do Walls improve the Security of our City?

Slightly over two decades ago, most residential fences in middle class areas of Nairobi consisted of natural trees like cypress or key-apple. For a city that doesn’t drain well, this manner of fencing greatly benefited it during the wet season, providing adequate paths for rainwater to flow towards the many small rivers that pass through […]

Nairobi: Mixed Use Zones are Redefining the City

Both Homer Hoyt’s Sector Theory of Urban Development and Ernest Burgess’ Concentric Zone Theory highlight how cities grow outward from a core district (the Central Business District) towards the periphery with distinct land use zones.  Without good land use management, cities run the risk of growing too far out, a concept known as urban sprawl. […]

Is Nairobi Central Business District DEAD?

The Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) has undergone a gradual transformation in the last few years that has seen it turn into a large bus yard and parking area for public transit vehicles (towards the east), a queuing zone for authorized buses (around the centre) and a large taxi park (towards the west). Retail stores […]

Nairobi, Kenya, faces a Growing Challenge of Noise Pollution

Noise Pollution is defined as a form and level of environmental sound that is generally considered likely to annoy, distract or even harm other people. The sounds we hear become noise when they are unwanted, that is, when they interfere with thinking, concentrating, working, talking, listening, or sleeping. By virtue of rapid and continuous growth, […]

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