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Westgate Mall targets May re-opening after 20 months

The Westgate Mall is set to re-open in May, about 20 months after the dreadful terror attack that left 67 people dead and scores injured.

A two-phase reconstruction of the high-end mall started late last year and is expected to end in the next four months, people familiar with the matter said.

Businesses on the first floor will open their doors to the public in May, but the anchor tenant, Nakumatt Supermarket, will have to wait longer for its space to be fully renovated.

“We understand that the first phase may be opening in May. They are doing renovation in phases. The second phase may take longer,” said the managing director of Nakumatt Holdings, Atul Shah.

Sony Holdings Ltd owns the mall, where a commando-style terror attack by Shabaab militants in September 2013 captured global attention.

Artcaffe, a high-end coffee shop that operated from the first floor of the mall, is among businesses expected to re-open after the first phase of renovation.

The mall attack was a huge setback to regional retailer Nakumatt, which reported a Sh4.5 billion ($50 million) decline in gross sales in the 2014 financial year compared to total sales of Sh59 billion ($650 million) in 2013.

FLAGSHIP OUTLET

The supermarket says it lost more than Sh1.5 billion worth of stock at the Westgate branch, which was its flagship outlet.

However, a massive expansion programme that has seen Nakumatt open more stores across the country and in the region has helped revive flagging growth.

It is understood that Westgate will offer space to all previous tenants who had signed lease agreements with the management. The rental charges will also be based on the lease contracts, our sources said.

Previous occupants of the mall, which was extensively damaged in the attack and during rescue efforts, sought alternative locations mainly in the Westlands shopping district to keep their brand visibility in the area.

Some of the major brands that booked space at the Sarit Centre, a short distance away from Westgate, included Mr Price, Adidas, Lavis International, Planet Yoghurt and Manix Clothing.

Sarit owners built a floor above the main car park for Sh200 million to accommodate the retailers.

Knight Frank, which managed Westgate, said it is not sure whether it will be retained by Sony Holdings.

“We hope that we will still manage the mall when it re-opens,” said Ben Woodhams, the Knight Frank Kenya MD in an interview.