Westlake architects to build Ghana’s ‘Millennium City’

When Kofi Asmah left Ghana to travel around the world, the developer was impressed with the amount of riches he found in foreign lands like Cypress and California.

Each time he left his native Ghana, Asmah would return with ideas that eventually developed into a dream: build a city comparable to, if not more innovative than, the flourishing lands he visited.

“When I came to California, I went to the beach and I thought, ‘I want the same for my country,’ ” Asmah said. “I want to build a city that would attract tourists … and a city where there are green parks, like in Dallas, for the people. I wanted to build a city that is purely modern, because the demand for housing in Ghana is too great.”

Today, Asmah is close to his dream. Since May, the developer and chairman of 21st Century Construction Ltd., a Ghana-based private company, has been working with Ghana officials and Westlake Village design firm Heathcote & Associates to build “Millennium City”— a development that would bring various “green” technologies to the coastal African country.

Asmah recently reached an agreement with principal architect Gary Heathcote, who will be heading the project along with associate project manager Eldridge “Eddie” Hammond. Millennium City would be built on 45 square miles of land Asmah purchased during the late 1990s. The site, with about 6 miles of coastal frontage, is about 20 miles east of the capital city of Accra.

Developers hope the project will bring a new way of thinking and living to the country of 24 million people, where housing is scarce and pollution has become a growing problem.

“While we want to provide housing to the people of Ghana, we also want to be sensitive to the environment,” Heathcote said. “People there literally struggle every day to live. We hope Millennium City would bring tourism and international companies that might want to stay and live there.”

Hammond, a Ghana native, has worked on other projects with Heathcote, who was commissioned about 30 years ago to help design a master plan for Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

“When Kofi told me about his vision, I said, ‘Wow, I know someone who can help you,’ ” Hammond said. “Kofi wanted to design a city from the ground up.”

Accra, a former British colony built in the early 1900s, was designed to hold a maximum of 500,000 people. Today, the capital is a bustling town of nearly 3 million, said Nana Yentumi Boaman, chief of staff for one of the seven kings of Ghana, Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin I.

“The city and the infrastructure are overwhelmed,” said Hammond, who was raised in Accra but now lives in Los Angeles. “Because of a period of instability about 25 years ago, people were just building their shantytowns everywhere. Now that there is stability, the government has to play catch-up.”

The country is struggling to improve sewage and garbage systems. It is not uncommon to see villagers burning heaps of trash out in the open, Heathcote said.

Boaman said Ghana lacks recreation areas and other amenities many countries take for granted.

“Most of our communities in Ghana are just made up of buildings,” Boaman said. “We don’t have children’s parks, community centers, town halls or areas for recreation. These are some of the things we want to bring to the new city to make it enjoyable for people who live there.”

The planning team envisions a self-sustaining “green” city complete with its own utility company, police department, new transportation system, airport and university. Its power plant would run on solar and hydroelectric sources, not fossil fuels. The sewage treatment facility would recycle water and sludge for agriculture and irrigation without emitting effluent or solid waste back into the ocean, Heathcote said.

“We are going to take trash and incinerate it to 3,500 degrees, and instead of creating harmful smoke, it will be converted into a molecular state … that will be used for electrical co-generation,” Heathcote said.

There also are plans for desalination plants that would pump ocean water. Instead of a typical filtration system, however, the water would be converted into steam. The steam would then be converted to drinkable water, while the salt would be sold to other countries. With this technology, there would be no brine or effluent to be discarded back into the ocean, Heathcote said.

“We want to make this a self-sustaining community that will not have to depend on the government’s resources,” he said.

Although a price tag has not been attached to Millennium City, it is expected to be in the billions of dollars, and the project could take 15 to 20 years to complete, Heathcote said. Developers currently are looking for foreign investors.

Boaman expects the city to attract at least 1 million residents, plus new companies and tourists.

About 5 percent of Ghana’s national revenue comes from tourism. Boaman expects the number to increase to 10 or 15 percent once Millennium City is completed.

Although the hope is to entice investors to live, work and play in the new city, developers also want to provide housing for low-income residents and schools for the growing populace. The Church of Pentecost plans to relocate a university from Accra to Millennium City, said Apostle Alfred Koduah, general secretary for the church.

“Over the years, the government has reformed the whole educational system, and what was once eight years of high school is now completed in grade 12 … to bring it in line with other countries,” Koduah said. “Because of that, many students have qualified to enter university, but public universities are unable to take that many students. We are praying we will get the resources to develop the university as quickly as possible.”

“It will bring about a lot of change,” Boaman said of Millennium City. “People around the world who have not heard of Ghana will come here. More importantly, it will improve the lives of the people who are living here.”

Source: Ventura Country Star

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  1. sally appiagyei-frimpong says

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