Four years after being demolished, the reconstruction of Ras Theatre is to resume in a month’s time, as the Addis Ababa Culture & Tourism Bureau is on the final stage of clearing the 2.7ha of land. The construction of the theatre will cost the city administration 380 million Br.
The renovation of the four-decade old theatre, a.k.a Cinema Ras, is planned to start after the Bureau adjusted the design from 13-storeys to 19-storeys, adding various facilities such as shops, parking lots, offices and restaurants.
The new design also has two cinemas, with a capacity of holding 1,000 people each, an ultra modern theatre hall and four large rehearsal spaces.
The construction will be undertaken in 2.9ha of land, three times the original size of the theatre’s area before demolition.
“Expanding the coverage is necessary to build an ultra modern theatre in the area,” said Awoke Mengesha, communications head of the Bureau. “But, clearing the land was very challenging as the people who were living in the area have refused to be relocated.”
The Bureau, in cooperation with the Addis Ketama District, has cleared the land which was occupied by 40 business people. But they have not fully settled the relocation of two businesses yet.
“We will start testing the soil after completely clearing the land in a month’s time,” Awoke said. “Two business units in the area are not relocated yet.”
Five years ago, the City’s administration, under the leadership of Kuma Demeksa, agreed to award the construction of the Theatre to Metal & Engineering Corporation (MetEC) without floating a tender, at the cost of 300 million Br. Later on, the new administration that came into office in 2013 cancelled the award.
The contract was cancelled as MetEC secured the project without a proper procurement process, according to Biniam Haileselassie, general manager of the theatre.
Founded by Ras Hailu Teklehaimanot, the Ras Theatre was originally the residence of a son of the then king of Gojjam, King Teklehaimanot. In 1974, the theatre was nationalised by the Dergue regime and transferred to the then Government Houses Agency before the Bureau bulldozed it.
During the demolition, Addis Ketema District’s Bureau of Finance & Economic Corporation paid the Agency about 3.4 million Br in compensation. Since then, the construction has not been carried out due to a disagreement over relocation with people who have set up businesses behind the theatre.
Located along Tessema Aba Kemaw Street near Anwar Mosque, the theatre used to have about 120 employees when it was operational four years ago. This, according to Biniam, is going to double after the completion of the project in the coming three years.
Currently, the Bureau is administering four theatres including Hager Fikir, Addis Abeba Theatre & Cultural Hall and Addis Abeba Children & Youth’s Theater.
The Bureau is also constructing a new hall for Addis Abeba Children & Youth’s theatre with 400 million Br. MetEC has undertaken the project, reaching 70pc completion.
Currently, there are more than 30 cinemas in Addis Abeba whereas the number of theatre halls has reached five.