Harare City Council, which is struggling to pay salaries and provide basic services to its residents, is spurning a lucrative deal, which has the potential to bring $1,76 million into the city’s coffers.
Councillors are continuing to stall plans by hospitality group African Sun (Pvt) Ltd to expand Crowne Plaza Hotel to include a state-of-the-art conference centre and an international themed open-air restaurant and a bar among other facilities.
The hotel group wants to buy two hectares stretching north into Harare Gardens covering the portion encumbered by Les Brown Swimming Pool as well as the portion measuring 2 050 square metres currently being used as a car park at an estimated cost of $1,76 million.
Although council recently invited the officials to make a presentation to its finance and development committee, they chose only to note the presentation with councillors divided over the issue at a full council meeting last week.
Acting Mayor Christopher Mbanga told councillors that the deal would benefit the city but some councillors feared they might ending up selling Harare Gardens to the group. The councillors shot down the proposal and it was referred back to committee for the second time.
In September last year, African Sun Limited signed an agreement with Legacy Group of Hotels (Legacy) under which the South African company will manage five African Sun Limited hotels including the flagship Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Council minutes showed that in 2010, African Sun signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as a founder for the joint venture agreement for development of a shopping mall and expansion of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
In terms of the envisaged joint venture, three floors of parking, commercial shopping facilities, commercial offices, executive residential apartments and the expansion of the hotel were going to be built.
According to the recent minutes of the finance and development committee, Legacy Hotels advised that their intended development required at most five acres of the 54 acres of Harare Gardens.
“During the presentation, it was also emphasised that the proposed project would jell well with the City of Harare’s vision to achieve a world class city status by the year 2025. It was further highlighted that the project would be a catalysts for development and investment in the Central Business District,” reads the minutes.
African Sun Limited plans for the hotel expansion will include construction of a 1 200 to 1 500- seater conference facility, an internationally-themed 200 seater open-air restaurant and bar, 200 parking bays for use by the hotel and upgrading and maintenance of the public facilities in the vicinity.
It also include the construction of health and racquet sports facilities and incorporating Les Brown Pools. The hotel will also support and assist with the upgrading and maintenance of the whole of Harare Gardens and ablution facilities.