By Kudzai Chawafambira
HARARE – Ximex Mall has been demolished to make way for a car park, causing outrage among hustlers and real estate agents.
Once a paradise for Harare’s hustlers, the mall was knocked down last year amid reports the owners wanted to construct an 11-storey building.
The double-storey Ximex was on prime real estate in the heart of Harare’s CBD just adjacent to Joina City, a 24-storey colossus that soars above Harare’s now crowded skyline.
Businesspersons who used to operate at Ximex said they had hoped to acquire space in the said new building, but were unable to do so since it had now turned to be a car park.
“Does it make sense to destroy a building to set up a car park in Harare’s CBD. What is the logic in that?” quipped John Masara, a businessman.
“When they demolished Ximex, we thought they were going to raise a modern, shopping and financial behemoth.”
“What is this?” charged a hustler selling mobile phones next to the car park, who declined to be named.
National Social Security Authority (Nssa), which owned Ximex Mall, said plans to construct the 11-storey building have stalled due to lack of funds.
James Matiza, Nssa’s general manager told Daily News yesterday that “due to liquidity challenges, it is not possible in 2015 to start construction because Nssa is still building up resources for the project.
“Actual construction is dependent on availability of funds as Nssa is depending on surplus funds to build resources for the project. Instead of shutting down the place, a car park was agreed as a temporary measure to draw revenue from the site.”
While Nssa was not at liberty to disclose how much it was investing in the ambitious project, the venture is reportedly within a $10 million to $15 million budget.
Matiza said Nssa had considered the option to refurbish or renovate the old Ximex Mall versus redevelopment.
“Initially, it was proposed to renovate, however, the building was later found to be structurally unsound for tenants to continue occupying,” he said.
“This led the authority to adopt the option of a complete redevelopment of the site into an 11-storey building.”
Matiza said that plans had already been drawn up and approved by Harare City Council with the intention to redevelop the site in phases.
“The first phase would be basement, ground and first floor for parking and retail only with no offices. Construction was, however, delayed due to the legal battle with the previous tenants which took longer to resolve,” he said.
Matiza noted that tenants had stopped paying rentals during the legal battle with Nssa, which meant that no revenue was coming from the building until demolition.
The proposed multi-purpose building will comprise offices and a plaza, he claimed.
Before the demolition of the infamous building and subsequent establishment of a car park, Nssa had a protracted legal battle with tenants, which began more than five years ago.
The Ximex Shopping Mall was designed along North American lines to house shops that sell internationally-recognised designer labels from clothing to footwear as well as high-technology electrical gadgets.
Nssa acquired Ximex in the late 1990s from the late businessman Sam Levy for Z$1,5 million. It was once an up-market shopping mall but deteriorated with informal and illegal traders infesting the premise.
According to Nssa, the project was part of a comprehensive 10-year investment plan targeted at securing quality investment properties.
The plan was consistent with prevailing developments in the economy since 2009 and would be continuously reviewed to align with the authority’s long-term goals. Daily News