For years now, Nairobi’s Parklands neighborhood has been on a slow-and-steady come-up. In recent months, the quiet simmer of gentrification, renovation, and new construction has boiled over into something of a frenzy.
Construction was one of the few sectors of the Kenyan economy to be spared the worst ravages of the pandemic period as operational restrictions and reduced opportunities for investing drove businesses to funnel funds into what many saw as a safe haven.
The fruits of this building boom can already be seen in the area around Diamond Plaza, which is rapidly shedding its time-worn feel for a shiny new veneer of fresh polish.
The most striking example is the demolition of Highridge Shopping Centre on Third Parklands Avenue. The neighborhood landmark overlooked the area’s main matatu stage and housed one of the last functioning Nakumatt branches in the country (after what was once East Africa’s largest retailer succumbed to debts and moved to end operations early last year).
The legendary food court of Diamond Plaza itself is also transforming. The early months of the pandemic already saw fan-favorite chaat parlor and pure-veg eatery Ashoka relocate to nearby Sky Mall after many years of occupying the courtyard’s southeast corner. Then, the opening of the Corner Store brought something new to the area’s veggie vending scene.
Now, new machinations seem to be afoot, with developers taking advantage of the ban on in-house dining to upgrade Diamond Plaza’s facilities. On a recent visit, a multi-story structure could be seen rising from the courtyard opposite the food court.
Further down the road, a new restaurant is making a splash. Situated on the corner of Second Parklands and Pramukh Swami Avenue, Red Ginger has begun to tread the now-familiar terrain of upmarket, modern Indian cuisine pioneered by neighboring forerunners like The Mayura and Kailash Parbat.
Red Ginger’s management seems to have bet on the fact that the neighborhood’s upwardly mobile residents remain eager to shell out good money to eat elevated chaats in an upscale environment.
If one recent Google Review is anything to go by, the wager is a safe one: “The location and ambiance is just too good,” Yunus Badri writes. “Doesn’t even feel like it’s in Parklands.”
If the current pace of development continues, there’s a good chance that Parklands itself might ‘not even feel like Parklands’ before too long.