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How we are making a15-minute city a reality

By , People Daily Digital
Friday, September 3rd, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Renee Nanji is the co-CEO at Tilisi Developments Ltd.

A brief background of your journey.

I was born in Nakuru and schooled there until I was 18 years old. I then went to the United Kingdom to study accounting.

I worked in London for two companies before coming back to Kenya in 2012 to handle Tilisi Developments Limited, which is a family business.

I was allocated the role of branding the project alongside Kavit Shah, who is the other Co-CEO.   

What inspired this project? 

 The 15-minute city concept was developed by an architect in Paris, France and has been replicated in Melbourne Australia too.

What we desire to achieve is a neighbourhood where all your needs can be reached within a 15-minutes walk or ride. 

So, how did the project came to be?

Once land for the project, located on the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway was acquired, we went about masterplanning after a lot of research was done to see what kind of development would suit it.

We came up with a mixed-use development with a neighbourhood where everyone’s needs can be accessed in 15 minutes.

Whether you need to get to the shop, want to do a bit of exercise, want to take your children to school, or you need to visit the hospital, all that should be accessible within a walking distance. 

 The worry of most of these projects is that it will lock out people from certain levels of income. How are you ensuring that everyone is catered for in the project?

The other thing that we are trying to do with Tilisi is that it doesn’t matter which income level you are; the idea is that we will have a housing range that will fit your income level.

The amenities too are for everyone. Consequently, because of the 15-minute access to amenities, there will be improved quality of life and reduction of errand time.

Emissions and congestion too is reduced. The landscaping bit is already done. We’ve planted around 1,000 trees and have also started to build a jogging.

You don’t have to drive and pack somewhere like Karura Forest to have a run.

This concept has already been put in place in Paris and what they found is that during the Covid-19 pandemic, because people were working with smaller communities, they were able to put up policies and these communities became more resilient, and could actually access the amenities that they wanted within a walking distance.

Being a foreign concept, are there modifications that have been done to suit Kenyans?

I think that there is some advantage doing this project in Kenya, because we are a greenfield.

We are not removing or changing roads to set up pedestrian pathways, which happened in the neighbourhoods of Paris.

Here we are starting afresh, which makes it easier to make it work. We are a private developer doing it on a 988-acre (400 ha) site.

Obviously, if its replicated across an area or a county, it’s much more effective than us doing it in small-scale.

There has to be a push from both the private sector and the government for this kind of urban planning to be replicated across the country.

Yes, Tilisi will have its benefits, but it will be effective, as it is part of urban planning too. 

How can the government work together with the private sector to ensure that such projects are implemented?

The 15-minute city is a series of neighbourhoods linked by an already existing infrastructure.

The government has already put in great infrastructure, but we have to set up the right adjustments to ensure that government roads are pedestrian and cycling friendly.

There has to be an urban planning concept and plan and a real implementation process that lasts past the elections. 

What challenges do you face implementing such a project?

There are very few cities built by private developers because infrastructure is expensive and that’s why the government does it.

The idea is there and can be pushed by the private sector who have seen this one working, but there will be few private developers because of the cost of doing this.

The government can assist in pushing this type of projects by assisting with approvals to ensure that they are successful and that it attracts more investors to do this.

We haven’t had those issues, but if the government does this, we would get more developers in the space. 

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