Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leopoldville 1948 – “Le Grand Léo”

We have seen how by 1928, Leopoldville, Kinshasa and Kalina were brought together along the river to form the European section of Leopoldville (See Jan. 6, 2011).  The development of the colonial administrative district of Kalina, in particular, provided an opportunity for grand planning, with an original design by Gustave Itten, Chief Engineer of the Colony. Itten had laid out the grid plan for Elisabethville (Lubumbashi) in 1910.  The Kalina design incorporated elements of “garden city” planning then in vogue in Europe.
Kalina district in the 1920s

The Golf Course 1930s with wireless towers in the background

The creation of the European city was accomplished by expropriation and successive relocation of Africans away from the river to the south, notably by the realignment of the rail line in the 1930s (See Jan. 23, 2011).  Once sufficient land was secured and distance obtained, this separation was to be rationalized by creation of a vacant, “neutral zone”.  In fact, critics have observed that these were more accurately buffer zones (zones tampon) since Africans could access the area which comprised public space and attendant institutions.  Running east to west these included: Ndolo Airport, the market, Parc de Bock, the Zoo, the Congolese Hospital, the wireless station (TSF), golf course, cemetery and Camp Leopold II (See Feb. 6, 2011).  

Using physical planning to enforce segregation was not new or unique to the Belgian Congo.  Early approaches to tropical sanitation were determined by a belief that diseases, such as malaria, were carried in the air (i.e. mal aria).  Physical separation was reinforced by regulation, a requirement that all Africans leave the European city at night, unless they were an employee (i.e. house help) or had a pass.
A  view of the African cite
In the 1930s, Chief Engineer René Schoentjes, who designed the Gare Central and Albert 1er Monument, was responsible for Leopoldville’s urban planning.  In 1931, he presented a paper at the International Congress on Urbanism in Colonies in Lisbon (“Considerations Générales sur l’Urbanisme au Congo Belge”) which articulated his philosophy on colonial urban planning.  Schoentjes took a paternalistic approach, arguing that Congolese architectural perspectives had not progressed significantly beyond the hut and advocating for physical separation of the races.  Two years later, the Leopoldville Comité Urbain began implementing the neutral zone concept, but because no facilities were provided for the relocated Africans and several Europeans established in the proposed neutral zone obtained exemptions from having to relocate, the outcome was a band 300 meters wide rather than the recommended 800 meters.
Cite plan from the 1940s
Belgian authorities were sensitive to their “civilizing mission” and sought to provide, in paternalistic fashion, housing for Africans, who by virtue of employment, had a reason to live in the city.  At the end of World War II, a “Nouvelle Cité” was begun on 407 hectares in Quartier Dendale (now Commune Kasavubu. Dendale was the head of the Service de la Population Noire).  Within two years, 8,000 Congolese lived there, including future President Joseph Kasavubu.  Subsequently, the colonial authorities embarked on a major urban housing scheme under the Office des Cités Africains (OCA).  In the context of the 10 Year Plan, a decree on urbanization in the colony was passed February 21, 1949.

Housing in the "Nouvelle Cite" late 1940s
The post-war era also set the stage for development of the government district of Kalina, including the residence of the Governor General, plans for whose original monumental design had been cut short by the Depression.  In 1948, architect Georges Ricquier submitted his plan for Kalina to the Ministry of Colonies, with a monumental avenue leading from Kalina Point and the Governor General’s residence, intersecting Blvd. Albert 1er (then under construction) where Le Royal building was eventually built. Ricquier asserted that the new boulevard would exceed the Champs d’Elysées in Paris in scale and splendor.  Ricquier’s plan also called for extensive expropriation of African land to recreate a neutral zone to the south of his European city.

The Heymans plan for Kalina

The following year, following significant objection from Leopoldville, the Ministry of the Colonies judged the Ricquier plan to be impossible to implement and called upon Maurice Heymans, the head of Leopoldville’s planning department, to develop a new plan.  Heymans reoriented the Governor General’s residence from Ricquier’s placement fronting the river to facing back to the city, in line with Belgian practice to allow for public assemblies in the square in front of the building.  Heymans also dismissed Ricquier’s segregationist design, arguing that the buffer zone was too narrow and favoring development of satellite cities, instead.  These came to fruition with the creation of OCA, which saw development of complete cities in Matete, Ndjili and Bandalungwa.
The plan as implemented in 1960 - Governor General's residence and Ave. Ryckmans

In 1952, Heymans was also dismissed, accused of favoring his own interests, possibly for accepting the commission for the Stanley Monument atop Mount Leopold (Mont Ngaliema) the previous year (See Feb. 20, 2011). As a consequence, there was no driving force behind monumental urbanization of Leopoldville either in Brussels or the Congo capital and elements of both Ricquier and Heymans’ master plans were only implemented in an ad hoc manner.

Ricquier's AMI Building on the Place de la Poste -- 1952
Interestingly, both architects continued to work in Congo.  Ricquier, who designed the Agence Maritime International (AMI) building on Place de la Poste in 1947, received the commission for the Central Bank building in 1953. Located on Ave. Ryckmans, what became of his monumental boulevard, the building was not completed until 1960.  Ricquier also designed the AMI office in the port city of Matadi in 1954.  The AMI building in Leopoldville was notable in having a separate entrance for Congolese.

The Central Bank building -- 2010
Heymans' Galleries Moulaert now Vodacom Building (2010)
Heymans remained in private practice in Leopoldville.  In addition to contributing an unsuccessful design for the Governor General’s residence competition in 1951, he received commissions for the Galleries Albert and Galleries Moulaert commercial-residential buildings on Blvd. Albert 1er in the mid-1950s and the twin Jupiter and Neptune apartment buildings on Ave. Banning (now Kalemie) next to the BMS mission.  These were all designed in the popular “Tropical Modernism” style. In the late 1950s he kept an apartment in the Jupiter Building and managed the Société Immo Familiale.

Galleries Moulaert on Blvd. 30 Juin early 1960s.  Can also be viewed at Pergola Restaurant (Mar. 19, 2011 post)
Galleries Albert Building on Blvd. Albert 1er on Place Braconnier
The Jupiter and Neptune buildings seen from BMS Church, Ave. VanGele
Parliament (ex-Governor General's residence) 1970 - Ricquier's Central Bank (L)
·        Beeckmans, Luce. 2009. “Agency in an African City. The various trajectories through time and space of the public market of Kinshasa”, in: African Perspectives.
·        Lagae, Johan. 2004. “Colonial encounters and conflicting memories: shared colonial heritage in the former Belgian Congo”, Journal of Architecture, No. 9, Summer 2004.
·        Lagae, Johan. 2007. “Leopoldville, Bruxelles: villes miroirs?” in: Vellut, Jean-Luc, Villes d’Afrique: explorations en histoire urbaine, Tervuren: Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale.
·        Pain, Marc. 1984. La Ville et la Cité. Eds. ORSTOM.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kinshasa 2011 - A City Under (Re-)Construction

Kinshasa’s urban face is changing dramatically.  Economically depressed since the early ‘90s, a construction boom is clearly evident across the city, not only in the historically “European” downtown of Commune de la Gombe, but throughout the city.  This is attributed to several factors.  Some cite the introduction of capital and expertise from within the country, in particular the Azande from Orientale Province, BaNande from North Kivu and BaLuba from Kasai.  Other reports talk of Lebanese and South Asian investors.  A thread running through it all – allegations of dirty money.
Place du 30 Juin

Future Tower - Blvd. 30 Juin
Congo Futur, founded in 1997 by the Lebanese Tajideen family, is a major player in the real estate market, though it has a range of business interests including import-export and light manufacturing. The firm began constructing Future Tower on Blvd. 30 Juin in 2004 on the site of a commercial building suspended by the “pillage” in 1991.  During the tense period in the lead up to the elections in 2006, construction on the 13-story building continued.  The company now has several properties under construction: Crown Tower, on the corner of Blvd. 30 Juin and Batetela; a building material retail outlet on Ave. Liberation and an apartment complex.  There have been allegations of money laundering and funding Hezbollah in Lebanon, which the company has denied.  At the beginning of July 2011, the Central Bank of Congo advised all commercial banks in the country to cease operations with Congo Futur.  The company subsequently changed its name to Africa Trading Company and then Kin Trading, but future developments are unclear.
Crown Tower on Blvd. 30e Juin. Le Royal beyond

Artist's rendering of Rakeen Towers

Rakeen Group properties. In June 2008, President Kabila signed an agreement with the Rakeen Group, one of the principal property developers in the United Arab Emirates, for a $500 million deal involving office/commercial towers on Place de la Gare (now Place du 30 Juin), and 32 story hotel and conference center at the Office des Routes property next to the Athenée facing the Place de l’Independance.  The deal also covered development of a luxury hotel at the Kinshasa Traffic Police (Roulage) headquarters property in the dilapidated former Cercle de Léopoldville, which Sabena had targeted for a major hotel by Claude Laurens in 1954 (See Mar. 19, 2011).
The plan was to complete all of these in time for Congo’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, June 30, 2010.  But, 2008 was a bad year for real estate globally, including the boom market in the Gulf, although construction continued steadily though fitfully at “Place de la Gare” building.  Recently, a construction crane was erected at the Office des Routes site, suggesting work may finally begin on the hotel and conference complex.
Rakeen Towers on Place du 30 Juin - June 2011

The Office des Routes Site - proposed hotel and conference center
Ave. Port looking toward the Rond Point - Flat Hotel Alhadeff on right

Hotel Kadima.  When I moved back to Kinshasa in 2001, I stayed a few weeks at the Flat Hotel Alhadeff next to Building Forescom on Ave. du Port (See May 28, 2011).  This four story nondescript building (no signage or windows at street level) had four studio apartments on each floor.  Previously known as the Alhadeff Arms -- the U.S. Embassy Guest House -- it was built by Maurice Alhadeff, a long established businessman in Katanga and Leopoldville and the Honorary Israeli Consul in the 1950s.

André Kadima, former Director General of the petroleum products firm SEP-Congo, and owner of the Chaumière Restaurant off the Boulevard, bought the place in the late 1990s.  His dream was to open the first Holiday Inn in Kinshasa and knew just where he wanted it – at the end of the Boulevard on the Place de la Gare.  In keeping with his hospitality vision, he opened the African Dream Hotel in 2005 in a converted villa near the Cimetière de la Gombe on Blvd. 30 Juin.  
African Dream Hotel, Blvd. 30 Juin (2009)
The L-shaped building nearing completion on the north side of Place du 30 Juin is referred to as Hotel Kadima, though some have suggested that construction work has been suspended.
The prospective Hotel Kadima, Place du 30 Juin

At stake in all of this real estate development in Kinshasa is the loss of historic structures (See Mar. 24, 2011) and a lack of a planning framework or preseveration movement.  Where Zanzibar and Mombasa have found their colonial architectural heritage to be a complementary asset to their “sun and surf” appeal, Kinshasa is not yet on the contemporary tourist circuit.  At the same time, it must be recognized that in post-colonial states, this heritage is a reminder of a period many would like to forget and is costly to maintain.  An example is the Chateau Margaux restaurant, opened in a colonial era villa on Ave. Mbuji Mayi (ex-Leman) in 2005.  The buffet offered both Congolese and European specialties.  Caught up in the vortex of escalating real estate values, the landlord tripled the rent and Chateau Margaux closed.  Chez Patrick, another restaurant in a pre-independence villa, also closed in 2008.
Chateau Margaux - 2006

Artist's rendering of the Cite du Fleuve
Cité du Fleuve. Perhaps the most ambitious of the real estate projects currently under development in Kinshasa today is the Cité du Fleuve, a 375-hectare land reclamation project on the marshes just upstream from Ndolo Airport, seemingly inspired by the Palm Island development in Dubai.  When complete, it will comprise two islands connected by causeway to the mainland and include upscale residential housing, hotels, shopping, reserved districts for diplomatic missions, academic institutions and a marina.

The large island at the end of 2010
The project was conceived in 2008 by Robert Choudury of Hawkwood Investments and joined by Mukwa Investments of Lusaka, Zambia.  Construction started in June 2009 by Safricas and by mid-2011 the larger, inland island had been completed by pumping Congo River sand into a containment enclosure. Developer Choudury notes that one the advantage of the site is that “no one has ever had title to these lots”.
The river walk nearing completion

From the river, a single two-story building can be seen.  Urban landscaping has been completed along the water front.  Construction of the first villas is under way.  Some day, if completed, the buildings planned for the community will rival those of Sozacom and Galleries Présidentielles as the first sight of the city travelers from upriver see -- a claim earlier ceded by Hotel A.B.C. and later Building Forescom.  Recently, Citilinks Group of Hong Kong, announced plans to redevelop the Calico Printers Association (CPA) site on the rapids downstream from Kinsuka as the “Congo River Resort”.  CPA was one of the properties included in the failed Congotex restructuring of the UtexAfrica textile operation.
Cite du Fleuve - one of the first residential units

Nando's - Ave. Mondjiba at Kintambo Magasins
This brief summary is neither comprehensive nor intended to be a boosterish Chamber of Commerce type report.  Though the developers talk of jobs creation and addressing residential or hotel-room deficits, the fact remains that these developments are targeted at the elite, up-market sector.  So, it was a pleasant surprise to find a bit of adaptive reuse in my old neighborhood -- Nando’s has come to Kinshasa. 

The South African fast-food chain opened recently in the former Imprimeries du Zaire building at the Kintambo Magasins junction, closed and guarded by Police since it was plastic-bombed in October 1991.  The printing house produced the daily newspaper, Elima, which had become increasingly critical of Mobutu and supportive of the opening of multi-party politics Mobutu had grudgingly conceded.  In the 1950s, the site next to the Mobil Gas station was originally the Ciné Roxy.  During the late ‘70s or early ‘80s Elima contracted Safricas to build the printing plant there.  Libra Commercial Center rehabilitated the structure in 2009 and Nando’s opened in July.
Ex-Imprimeries du Zaire - 2005
Imprimeries du Zaire as completed by Safricas

Peri what?  How about some Pili Pili Chicken?

·        Kahn, Jeremy, 2007. “Amnesty Plan for Relics of the Raj”, New York Times, Dec. 20, 2007.
· “Kinshasa City-Province Development News”


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kinshasa 2011 - A Personal Tour

I travelled to Kinshasa at the beginning of June to participate in The American School of Kinshasa’s (TASOK) fiftieth anniversary celebrations.  A member of the Class of ’69 and present on the first day of classes (See Jan. 13, 2011), the school is a source of many of my memories of  Kinshasa.
TASOK - The walkway down the center of the High School

A path through the botanical garden

TASOK.  The TASOK campus looks good, and with an enrollment of over 300 students, can afford to address the toll taken by deferred maintenance over the last twenty years.  A small botanical garden has been established in the area adjacent the Middle School where the Bonobo Chimpanzees were housed until 2002, and which was seriously degraded by the confined numbers of chimps.  Examples of timber, commercial and fruit species have been identified and labeled.  Reunion alumni planted 50 native trees to commemorate the 50 years of the school and dedicated an anniversary plaque, mounted on a large, mauve Congo River stone, at the entrance to the Botanical garden.

King Albert waiting in the wings for Leopold II -- interesting symbolism

National MuseumOne of the optional Reunion events was a visit to the National Museum (See Jan. 9, 2011), located in the former Presidential Gardens at the bottom of Mont Ngaliema down the road from TASOK.  The Museum has an excellent and well-displayed collection of Congolese art and artifacts, but I was interested in the colonial era statues and monuments, which were unceremoniously removed from their pedestals in 1972 (Henry Stanley’s boots were shorn from the body), following articulation of the Authenticité campaign and stored in the Public Works garage in Kingabwa for 35 years.  Although King Leopold II briefly appeared on King Albert’s monument in front of the Gare Centrale in 2005, the statues have resided at the Museum since that time. 

Detail from the Albert monument - a doctor with FOREAMI, sponsored by Queen Elisabeth

Recently, the statues have been mounted on the grounds around the parking lot, although Stanley still reclines against a retaining wall beside a warehouse which holds shelves of additional artifacts and smaller busts of the Royal family and plaques taken from some of the monuments.  One of the curators explained that they were seeking additional funding to place the full collection on display.  I do not think there is any question that the statues be returned to their original placements, but they remain part of Congo’s history and it is a positive development that they are accessible to the Congolese public. 

Monument du Souvenir Congolais -- WWI memorial erected in 1927 on Ave. Valcke (Justice) in front of the current Supreme Court -- depicting a Belgian Officer, Congolese soldier and Congolese porter. An equal number of porters were required to support the troops. (Sculptor - Jacques Marin)

Statue of Henry Morton Stanley, originally erected in 1956 on top of Mont Ngaliema

A view of the graves in the Pioneer Cemetery

Pioneer Cemetery.   The Museum is located above the rapids within the enclosure around Mont Ngaliema, developed as the Presidential Gardens in 1967, that included a zoo, an amphitheatre and incorporated the existing “Pioneer Cemetery” (dating from the early years of the nearby Red Cross Hospital (1897) and which now houses the offices of the Commune de Ngaliema).  The amphitheatre has recently been weeded and cleaned up and a concert held there the weekend before our visit.  The cemetery was looted when Kabila’s forces took over Kinshasa in 1997 and only a few grave stones and crosses remain.  A recapitulative signboard summarizes the names and occupations of the deceased.

The Amphitheatre de Verdure

CBCO Francophone Church - Old gate purposely retained

CBCO Church and School in Kintambo.  Recent repaving of streets in Kintambo provides a shortcut from Chanimetal on Ave. Mondjiba to Bandalungwa and Ma Campagne, thereby avoiding the congestion at Kintambo Magasins.  The driver suggested we take that route and I decided to visit the CBCO complex in Kintambo (See Apr. 30, 2011).  The church and school are in use (the secondary school students were preparing for the State Exams) and in good repair.  The adjacent original church of the Baptist mission in Kintambo, which in recent years has served the francophone Protestant community across Kinshasa, has been demolished and is being rebuilt over the original site.   The baptistery and floor tiles from the original building remain.  CBCO is operating a dispensary and health center on the property and these have intruded into the earlier Christian Center.  Changing priorities perhaps, but the marginalization and deterioration of the Christian Center buildings is unfortunate.

The new CBCO Francophone Church will accomodate over 1000 worshippers

The 1966 CBCO Church - serving the Lingalaphone community of Kintambo
The CBCO Kimvula Secondary School in Kintambo

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kinshasa 2011 - Architecture Tour Redux

I returned to Kinshasa June 1st to prepare for the Historical and Architectural Heritage Tour, planned for Sunday, June 5 as part the TASOK Reunion events.  Since the last tour was organized for the 2005 Reunion (See Jan. 9, 2011), I wanted to confirm that all the sites along the way were still there, as well as to scope out a walking component through the original commercial district downtown.

Map prepared for the 75th Anniversary of Leopoldville's founding in 1956

Kinshasa is undergoing a huge building boom.  Whether from pent up demand since the economic shocks of the pillages in the early ‘90s and Mobutu’s demise, or money laundering – or both – the skyline of Kinshasa is changing dramatically.  This is enhanced by reconstruction of major boulevards and avenues, including 30 Juin (See Jan. 23, 2011), Patrice Lumumba, Jason Sendwe, Col. Mondjiba, and Libération, as part of the Kabila Government’s “Cinq Chantiers” infrastructure program.

Ave. Mondjiba near Kintambo Magasins

One of the most visible changes on the tour route is the reconstruction and four-laning of Ave. Mondjiba (ex-Engels), linking old Leopoldville with Kinshasa.  Essentially an extension of Blvd. 30 Juin, the new road will culminate at Kintambo Magasins.  How the increased traffic will be funneled through that “spaghetti” junction is not clear.  In contrast to the widening of 30 Juin, which took several years, residents concede that the Chinese contractors must have learned some lessons, as the work seems to be proceeding well.  Unfortunately, the huge trees, which formed a canopy road through Utex have fallen to the bulldozers of progress.

Ave. Mondjiba at UtexAfrica in 2008
The same stretch of Ave. Mondjiba - June 2011

The Tigo phone company in the former Congotex Direction Generale

UtexAfrica – In 2004, Texaf and the Chinese firm CHA formed a joint-venture, Congotex, to reinvigorate the near moribund textile operation, challenged by the demise of domestic cotton production and competition from cheap imports (mostly from China).  The effort collapsed in August 2007 and 1000 workers lost their jobs.  Congotex put up $1 million for severance, mostly to come from rental of the company housing and physical plant.  The word is that the CHA deliberately shut the place down and shipped the spinning and printing machines to China, though it is unlikely that the ancient equipment would have had much value in China’s economy.  Except for high-end Super-wax prints, most fabric on sale in the city is from China.  The Tigo phone company occupies the former office building.
Direction Generale Congotex - 2006

The French Embassy property - 2004
One positive development is that the French Embassy has finally completed renovations of the original Texaf Admistration building near the beginning of 30 Juin.  The upper floor of the building can be viewed over a substantial wall.

The Texaf Administration building in the 1920s

The Texaf Plant 1920s, Admin Building upper right. Behind it is the road to Kinshasa across the Gombe River (Petit Pont)

Construction fence at former Chez Nicola Restaurant

Petit Pont -- Chez Nicola restaurant (originally the Auberge du Petit Pont until just after Independence) is gone.  In its place is a bedraggled construction fence announcing “Suite Hotel” and showing model floor plans.  Construction appears to be suspended.

BMS. The former Baptist Missionary Society mission station, now the Congolese Communauté Baptiste du Fleuve Congo, is undertaking what is euphemistically called “auto-financement”, leasing land on the former mission station for private construction.  Given current land prices prevailing in the city, these large properties in prime real estate markets are very attractive.  Concrete and reinforced steel foundation works below grade suggest a major apartment building is going up. The two century-old wooden houses appear to be in good repair, but a new construction fence blocks the view of the river. 

One of two wooden, prefabricated houses on former BMS station

The Patisserie Nouvelle, Ave. Beernaert - 1950s

Bingo Royale Casino - 2009

Continuing up to the river, crossing the Place de la Poste is the Bingo Royale Casino, formerly the offices of Hewa Bora Airlines and originally the PEK department store (Plantations et Elevages de Kitobola, part of the Compagnie Coloniale Belge -- CCB).  The PEK plantations and ranch at Kitobola were located outside of Tumba in Thysville (Mbanza Ngungu) Territoire. Kitobola was originally an agricultural demonstration station of the Congo Free State.  When the Minister of the Colonies announced plans to sell Kitobola in 1918, the CCB was created in Antwerp in July of the following year.

The PEK store looking south on Ave. Beernaert -- 1920s

Checking out the walking tour.  Reaching Building Forescom (See May 28, 2011), I went on foot down Ave de la Paix (Cerckel) past the JVL butcher shop (now Pro Credit) and the Mampeza Company.  At the corner of Paix and Equateur (ex-Beernaert) a major multi-story office/commercial structure is under construction.  A sign indicates “5 a Sec”, the dry-cleaning company which converted the early 20th Century building into a dry cleaners around 2005. Originally established by NAHV (Nieuwe Afrikaanse Handelsvereniging, See Mar. 13, 2011), the firm lost market share after Independence and the building passed to local investors. Prior to the dry cleaners it housed Extrème Pizza.

The 5 a Sec dry cleaners -- 2006

NAHV store - 1960

Hopital de Ngaliema's sports facility on CBCO station

Similarly, at CBCO in Kintambo, a cellular telephone tower and a three-story sports facility accessible from Ave. Montagne for the Hôpital Ngaliema up the street attest to the same financial approach.  One assumes that the revenues will be used to support church work in the Capital and the churches in the interior.

The Patisserie Nouvelle - 2006

Turning up Ave. Equateur; Avenue Beernaert was the main commercial street of old Kinshasa, crossing Ave. Aviateurs at the Place de la Poste.  The Patisserie Nouvelle opened in October 1941 – it has maintained the same name for the last 70 years. Opposite is a building vacated by Elf Petroleum, originally the Portuguese Club.

G.B. Ollivant (l), Hotel Stanley (r) Ave. Hauzeur & Beernaert

On the corner opposite the old Stanley Hotel, later Musée de la Vie Indigène and now Gallerie du Fleuve (See Feb. 20, 2011), is another construction fence with the concrete shell of a 22 story building towering above it, the Congo Trade Center.  When I left Kinshasa in 2006, the building on the corner housed GTS Express (a freight forwarder) and Ets. De Cock, which had bought the Travhydro group in 1987, including the adjacent lot on Ave. Wagenia (ex-Hauzeur).  Originally, the building was the G.B. Ollivant store, part of the Lever Brothers group, which in Congo included Marsavco and SEDEC.  The web informs that “Ollivants” was the place to buy your pith helmet and silk shirts.
GTS and Ets. De Cock - 2004

Congo Trade Center under construction 2011 - Galleries Presidentielles behind (L)

The Congo Trade Center is being built by Modern Construction with South Asian capital.  When complete, it will include a 240-room hotel, a shopping mall, grocery, six restaurants, a casino, bar and nightclub.  Modern Construction is also planning or has under construction: Modern Plaza (a 5-Star hotel), Modern Bella Casa and Modern Paradise.
Artist's view of the Congo Trade Center

Gare Centrale - urban rail is coming

Gare Centrale.  The creation of the Place du 30 Juin in front of the Gare is a master stroke.  It anchors the expanded Boulevard du 30 Juin and provides public space of a kind which is rare in Kinshasa.  It has become a popular place for Congolese stroll, congregate and take pictures.  High rise buildings are going up around the square, which should increase street-life here.

Place du 30 Juin - Gare Centrale