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September 26, 2021

Rwanda’s capital Kigali turns into car-free zones with vibrant service hubs

The works to revamp Kigali’s car-free zone are expected to be complete by mid this month, Marie-Solange Muhirwa, the Chief of Urban Planning at the City of Kigali revealed to the press.

The car-free zone was introduced in 2015 to decongest the capital’s Central Business District.

The revamping works started in March this year to turn the zone into a green and recreational zone with more attractive features.

Works were expected to be complete by May 2021.

“The current status of car-free zone revamping works is at 90 percent and then the space will be open to the public for free,” she said.

The area will also be rebranded to ‘Imbuga City Walk’.

“The City of Kigali recognizes the provision of public spaces as a key strategy for transforming the city into a sustainable and equitable place. The Imbuga City Walk is conceived as a pedestrian place, where all in-inhabitants and visitors can enjoy recreation and socialization as a community,” she noted.

According to Muhirwa, the Imbuga City Walk space has been divided into different features.

Kiosks for street business, public art works, public toilets

She said the first part was named ‘High Street’ located in the area between Former Ecole Belge buildings and KCB Bank building.

The space, she explained, is created as a sustainable public space that integrates environmental, social and economic aspects.

The space provides a high level of pedestrian amenity and provides the appropriate setting for social interactions.

“ It contains several elements that include public art works, public toilets, kiosks for street business, an information pavilion, seating, bins, and smart poles incorporating lighting, playgrounds,” she said.

She said that micro-entrepreneurs, at the place, will provide a wide variety of services and amenities to people, at convenient locations – with negligible investment and infrastructural costs.

“They keep streets busy, vibrant and safe. They provide a variety of cheaper food and retail options, infusing mixed- use and encouraging walk-trips as well as generating self-employment for a number of people,” she said.

Entertainment activities and exhibitions zone

Another part of the revamped car-free zone has been named ‘City Plazza’.

The space is located between KCB and BK buildings.

The zone, according to Muhirwa, is a flexible zone, which contains all the permanent and temporary public domain elements.

“To create a great public space, the place has been conceived as an open space for pedestrians to stop, linger and spend time in the street and socialize.

Accordingly, to the diversity of frontages and scale of adjacent buildings, the flex zone becomes a place for different activities, from playing, or temporary creative cultural and entertainment events, creating a variety of ambiances and characters,” she said.

A high level of programmed active uses, she explained, is envisaged in this zone, where the space has been left open and uncluttered in order to facilitate different activities at particular dates or seasons.

“This zone will be used for entertainment activities and exhibitions,” she said.

Areas of meditation, kids’ playground

Among the features, also include the one dubbed ‘City Lounge’ between Makuza Peace Plaza and ECOBANK building.

The City Lounge was created for diversity and flexibility of uses and to establish a convivial and friendly relationship between objects and people, Muhirwa said, explaining that street furniture in today’s public places is considered an effective tool for activating public spaces.

“City Lounge will contain areas of meditation, pause areas, and seated areas for dining,” she said.

Imbuga City Walk will have street benches and free WiFi, green corridor landscaping, kids’ playground among others.

The City of Kigali has started installing public benches in designated gardens and public spaces including Imbuga City Walk to be used by the public in their leisure time.

The exercise started with 75 public benches in 33 identified.

The project is in line with making Kigali a green, clean and livable city.

City garden

Muhirwa disclosed to this paper that the Imbuga City Walk project will also develop ‘City Garden’.

“We will also have City Garden but it is not yet implemented. It will be located in front of the Centenary House building. But because it requires changing road directions to pave way for that city garden, we have temporarily stopped the implementation due to budget issues. It will be done in the next phase,” she said.

Although she didn’t disclose the total cost of the project, the bill of quantities is yet to be finalized.

In 2019, the City of Kigali announced it was open to cooperation with the private sector to run various initiatives in the zone.

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