Accra High Street loses lustre, congestion, security, modernity push companies away
The once famous Accra High Street, a much sought-after business address in the capital city, is fading away in glory, as insecurity, lack of space and modernity have combined to unsettle a lot of companies, leading to their relocation to more vibrant areas in the city.
Now known as John Evans Atta Mills High Street, named after the late President Atta Mills about a decade ago, the High Street, a testament to the city's past prospects, has lost its lustre and prestige, as blue chip companies such as Shell, now franchised to Vivo Energy, Cadbury, Vodafone, Standard Chartered Bank, Absa, formerly Barclays (which has maintained its head office there for over 100 years), an CFAO, which operated Multi Stores, have all moved away and relocated in more modern and vibrant locations such as the Independence Avenue, the Airport City and Cantonments, leaving behind a trail of abandoned structures.
Cadbury, now Mondelez International, for instance, has turned the building that was once its head office on the High Street into a warehouse.
Even the eateries and the Cathedral Clinic, all of which had been a part of the High Street, were out of business at the time the Daily Graphic monitored activities in the area.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) which had its offices along a street adjoining the High Street has also relocated to the Independence Avenue.
A Daily Graphic team that studied the activities on the street and the movement to the new locations, especially those settling on the Independence Avenue, for more than five weeks, observed that the shift in allegiance was largely due to the fact that the Independence Avenue offers more spacious and appealing spaces for businesses to flourish, as well as a wider selection of amenities and facilities for customers.
The offices on the avenue are also relatively easier to access than the High Street which has become prone to congestion and dullness.
A high street must have a complement of some buildings and facilities to obtain its name. The must-have buildings and facilities include a Lighthouse, a Cathedral, a central bank, commercial banks, an insurance company, post office, shopping malls and many retail outlets and so on.
The JEA Mills High Street was once the epicentre of the city's economy because of its regal buildings such as the Bible House, the MCMXXVI Customs office, the Jamestown Lighthouse and grandiose shops such as the City Mall, as well as its proximity to the bustling Makola market.
However, the High Street is still the address of the head office of GCB Bank, Absa, which has started the construction of a new and modern head office building on the Independence Avenue.
Having shed its former glory, the JEA Mills High Street is now taking on a rather drab and lackluster appearance, with some of the iconic buildings which once housed multinational and indigenous companies left, seemingly, to the dust.
The Corporate Communications Manager of Vivo Energy Ghana (Shell Licensee), Shirley Tony Kum, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said Vivo had to relocate from the High Street due to the growth in the number of its employees, which required a bigger space for business operations.
She said there were also challenges with parking space as there was little or no room left in the area for a car park, raising safety concerns, with employees parking their vehicles across the streets.
In the view of Samuel Quaye, 70, who has been selling office cabinets in one of the abandoned structures on the Street, the High Street started to lose its commercial value when the road was converted into a “one way” lane about a decade ago.
He said many of the businesses that operated from the area had relocated, leaving the area slow and stagnant with little to no commercial activities.
“In the past, when it was a double lane, people found the place suitable to do business but now all the people are leaving because the place is slow and not many commercial activities goes on there,” he said.
Mr Quaye, who was reading the Daily Graphic newspaper when the team approached him for an interview, explained that the businesses had to move from the area to seek opportunities elsewhere.
The Independence Avenue, on the other hand, is a bustling and energetic location that is gaining traction among entrepreneurs and businesses.
The area is quickly becoming a hotbed for commercial activities, with businesses flocking there in search of new opportunities.
As businesses continue to migrate to the Independence Avenue, it has fast become the premier business address for banks in the capital city.
For instance, Standard Chartered Bank has its modern office on the Independence Avenue.
Absa Bank, which still operates from the High Street, is also constructing its latest office complex at the Independence Avenue.
A statement from the bank indicated that finally, after 104 years of operating its head office on the Accra High Street, Absa was now preparing to relocate.
“The real estate that will be occupied by the bank is in a vibrant financial hub of the capital city, along the Independence Avenue, close to the Ako-Adjei interchange,” it stated.
The Managing Director of Absa, Abena Osei-Poku, was forthright in her remarks about the underlining reason behind the decision.
“The time is right for us to chart a new direction in our relationship with Ghana, which will hopefully last beyond another 100 years. The dynamism of the global workplace makes it difficult for our old head office at High Street to rhyme with the evolving digital ecosystem,” she said.
“Our new building will be designed with only the latest trends of the digital workplace and innovation for the benefit of our employees, customers and stakeholders,” she said.
Ecobank, Republic Bank, Cal Bank, Zenith Bank, Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank all have impressive structures on the Independence Avenue.
Meanwhile, Ghana Re, World Trade Centre, MTN Ghana, Shippers House of the Ghana Shippers Authority, and the GNAT Heights have all contributed to the area's impressive growth into a business hotbed in the capital.
In addition, the Accra Financial Centre, located in majestic proximity to the National Theatre, the National Theatre, the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel also provides an extensive selection of possibilities to enterprises in the vicinity.
Once a city with low-rise buildings, Accra is now characterised by a skyline of modern high-rise office complexes, residential towers and shopping malls.
This transformation has been powered by rapid urbanisation, a growing middle-class and the influx of foreign direct investment.
The construction of high-rise buildings in Accra has been driven by a combination of factors such as the influx of foreign investors, which has
resulted in an increase in real estate development.
In addition, the government has allocated large sums of money to infrastructural projects throughout the city, including the construction of roads and interchanges.
This has enabled the development of new residential and commercial buildings in and around Accra.
The new developments have brought a sense of modernity to the city, while also providing a much-needed boost to the local economy.
Marine drive project
Terry Davidson, an acclaimed developer of high-end, luxurious spaces in prime locations, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, expressed regret about the High Street's slump from a bustling business centre into an antiquated shadow of what it once was.
However, he expressed the hope that the multibillion dollar marine drive project planned along the shores of Victoriaborg would reinvigorate the
The Accra Marine Drive project is a 241-acre urban redevelopment scheme of Accra’s seafront.
The project origins can be traced back to the era of the first Republic when the government sought to establish Accra as a major tourism destination.
According to the Project Coordinator of the Marine Drive Project, Dr Kwame Nyantekyi-Owusu, the prime beachfront tourism enclave would provide essential infrastructure to support the country’s developing cultural and creative industries.