Naturally endowed with lush rolling hillsides offering excellent views across glacial peaks of Rwenzori Mountains, Fort Portal Town is one of the leading epicenters of tourism in Uganda.
The town was elevated to municipality status in 1976 and has since transformed from a provincial wetland to a bustling urban centre.
According to Fort Portal Municipality Mayor, Rev Willy Kintu Muhanga, in 2016, the municipal council passed a resolution stating that every new building in town should have a minimum of two floors in order to prepare for tourism city.
Although some of the old properties still exist they are being quickly replaced by new flashier and taller buildings that have changed the town’s skyline.
A key point of the original architectural design was constructing for personal pleasure; the properties were first and foremost supposed to benefit the town’s residents, rather than guests. That explains why most properties were single storied.
David Kanago, an elder and resident of Fort Portal Town, confirms that in early 1980s most of building had only ground floors and were few.
But today, the town is awash with multi- storied buildings that accommodate the town’s middle-class citizens and tourists seeking luxury living in this rapidly developing town. According to the 2014 national census, the town’s population is estimated to be more than 54,000 people.
Because of the rush by investors trying to draw maximum returns, some of the developers flout building safety standards which has resulted in loss of property and risk of lives. For instance, in 2018, Corner Stone Hotel building collapsed, paralysing business for hours and damaging merchandise. The mayor said the collapsed building was one of the many that did not have approved plans.
The town has also seen an influx of plot buyers attracted by the prospects of cashing in on the rising economy. Stylistically, the town is a mixture various architectural styles ranging from classic to contemporary and to modern. Here are some of the buildings that have changed Fort Portal’s skyline.
This magnificent building owned by Catholic Church has a single fully completed floor while others are still under construction. It was opened in 2011.
It has a banking hall located on Kyembabe Road in the middle of Fort Portal Town.
Rwenzori Travellers’ Inn
Owned by local businesswoman Robinah Britin, the inn is located on Kyembabe Road. The double storied building was completed in 2002 and is a popular spot for travellers. It has both accommodation facilities and hotel services.
Reihah Tourist Hotel
This is among the new buildings in Fort Portal Town with three floors opened up in 2014. Its construction started in 2004 with the ground floor. It houses business shops, NSSF offices, accommodation facilities and hotel services. It is located on the junction of Malibo Road and Kasese Road and is owned by businessman in Fort Portal, Abasi Balinda.
Located on Rukiidi III Street DAJ Plaza is one of the new shopping malls that are cropping up in the town.
The multi storied commercial building accommodates shops, offices, and bars, among others.
The plaza, which opened for business in 2014, is one of the very few building that have underground parking.
It is located on Mutaresa Road, this is another multi storied shopping centre which opened for business in 2017.
This modern market facility that was built by government of Uganda with funding from African Development Bank in 2013 has more than 1,000 stalls for vendors with one floor. It is located on Kampala Road.
Located on the Karuzika Hill in Fort Portal Town on Kasese Road, Karuzika is Tooro Kingdom palace. It is a magnificent building and is among the oldest buildings in Fort Portal that was constructed in 1963 by king Oyo’s grandfather Rukidi II who ruled Tooro Kingdom from 1929 to 1965.
The palace was later destroyed by Idi Amin’s soldiers, who used it as their barracks in the 1970s. It had one floor and in 2001, it was refurbished with funding from former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi in 2001 because of his great relationship with the kingdom.
This is the new building that was recently opened up in Fort Portal Town. It is owned by Robert Kayojo. The building which took about nine years under construction, has three floors.
It is located on Nyaika Street about 2.3 kilometres away from Fort Portal Town in the Boma area. It is a hotel facility with variety of services including accommodation, restaurant, and conference among.
It is located on Ruhandiika Street in middle of Fort Portal Town. It was constructed in 2008 with four floors. The building collapsed in 2008 and is currently under refurbishment.
The old buildings
Fort Portal Town also has old buildings that were built in 1950s on different streets that are well maintained. The streets include Balya, Rukiidi III, Lugard and Ruhandiiika.
Some of the buildings on these streets have only ground floors with different businesses including supermarkets, drug shops, and hotels among others.
The old buildings include Fort Portal Municipal Council offices building constructed in 1956, Tooro Kingdom Orukurato (Muhwa) 1954, Bank of Uganda branch building and Stanbic Bank building, all constructed in 1950s.
Currently, there are more than 10 approved storeyed buildings under construction by Fort Portal municipality while other old buildings are being demolished to pave way for new structures.
Last year, Fort Portal Municipal Council came up with physical development plan with the aim of earmarking places for real estate development. The town still has plots of land still waiting to be developed while others are under development.
Currently to erect a building in Fort Portal Town, one has to have an approved plan, approved certificate of environmental impact assessment and building should have more than one floor.
In the past, investors used to build on the banks of River Mpanga while others built without notifying authorities especially in the suburbs of Fort Portal Town.
Cost of land
David Kanago, the proprietor of Giraffe View in Kisenyi Fort Portal says a plot of 50 x 100 ft costs between Shs100m and Shs200m in Kisenyi area.
Kisenyi area is part of Fort Portal town but located about 30 metres from Town main roundabout on Fort Portal-Bundibugyo road.
While in the middle town, a plot measuring 50 x 100 ft goes for Shs200m and Shs400m.
The town has three divisions of West, East and South. Other lower local government including Karambi Sub County, Karago town, Bukuku Sub County and Ibale parish have since been annexed to the Town.
In West Division, in the parish of Kagote, many storeyed buildings are coming up because plots are relatively cheaper going for Shs30m and Shs50m for a 50x100ft plot while in places such as Kasusu in South division, the same plot of land costs between Shs40 and Shs60m.
Becoming a tourism city
Fort Portal municipality was earmarked in the National Vision 2040 as one of the strategic cities for tourism to be implemented in the second national development plan (NDP II).
The Ugandan Parliament in 2015 approved a proposal from its Finance Committee which requires government to immediately embark on the creation a satellite city for Kampala to decongest the nation’s capital.
Currently, government through Cabinet has approved Fort Portal Town to be elevated to become tourism city in the next financial year waiting for parliament approval.
According to the proposal, Fort Portal tourism city will have two divisions for Fort Portal North and Fort Portal Central. The current three divisions and Ibale parish will be merged to create Fort Portal central division while the annexed lower councils will be Fort Portal North Division.