Story of suburbia

Last Updated 07 January 2010, 12:34 IST

That the city has changed is a Bangalorean’s pet peeve, reflecting the sea change that there has been over the years. Prime residential and commercial areas are choked. Roads are not planned for higher traffic and recycling existing projects for higher density, similar to practices abroad, may not be feasible unless there is an efficient public transport system in place.

“Suburbs with better infrastructure will ease congestion in the city and improve living conditions. It will also lower pollution and reduce traffic woes,” says a spokesperson of Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj. Adds Surendra Hiranandani, Founder and Managing Director of Hiranandani Upscale, “Suburban development will ease Central Business District (CBD) congestion. There is need for planned and sustained suburban development.”

Need for space
It is impossible for Bangalore to grow without the development of suburbs. “The population of the city is expected to cross 10 million within the next decade. The only way we can ensure sustainable development is by decongesting it through the development of areas on the outskirts. The key is also to see to it that these areas enjoy seamless connectivity to the CBD,” says Sajan Poovayya, chairman of FICCI – Karnataka State Council.

Ravindra Kumar, principal architect of Pragrup – an architectural consultancy firm has a different take. “It is probable that a major reason for the drop in real estate prices is because of overproduction on the outskirts of the city and limited production in the central, developed parts and the CBD.”

He feels that oversupply is a function of the relationship between supply and demand. Real estate in suburbs cannot help residential and commercial spaces to a sensibility that a design mechanism can initiate. He adds, “If the primary reason for a drop in residential prices in the region is oversupply, it suggests that demand is lower than it is in the CBD. There are still instances in the CBD, of homes being bid for much above their offering prices.

“This suggests that the closer a submarket is to the centre of the region, the greater is the supply-demand balance.”
Managing Director of Shriram Properties Murali M opines, “This year will witness a huge demand in the affordable/middle income housing market. Land prices in and around the city will not be able to support the demand. Consumers will be forced to look at investment opportunities in the suburbs to suit their budget.” 

Mutual growth
In fact, it is not just the space crunch in prime localities but cheaper prices in suburbs that will increase the demand for commercial space.
“The NICE Corridor and upcoming Metro are positive developments. If basic amenities are provided, people will definitely move to the suburbs, which is why we provide well developed roads, drain and sewerage systems, power, water, play area, walkways and vast open spaces while constructing projects over 20-40 acres of land,” says Ali Vakil, director of Marketing and Communications at Vakil Housing Development Corporation (VHDC).

Real estate has played a pivotal role in the growth and expansion of Bangalore’s suburbia. With land parcels being scarce inside the city, developers started constructing residential townships and also commercial spaces to make those locations self sustaining and attractive for prospective buyers.

“Simultaneously, the boom in the IT/ ITes sector prompted multinationals to increase their headcount and such companies soon moved to larger campuses which could come up only in the city’s periphery. In such a scenario, the government too provided proper infrastructure in the outskirts to attract more investment to the state, eventually fuelling the city’s growth,” says L N Vaidyanathan, executive director of Nitesh Estates.

Adds Shashi Kumar, head of real estate investment advisory at Birla Sun Life Asset Management Company, “There is great scope for development of residential properties in the ticket size of Rs 18 – 30 lakh. Demand is quite high for properties in the 700 to 1,200 sq ft range. This holds true as residential spaces in the main city are not available in this price range. The population density in suburbs will also aid the demand for residential spaces.”

Facing the challenge
The main challenge is to have demand drivers for suburban areas. Secondly, a large anchor developer who can spur development in suburbs and create interest for buyers/end users is important. Connectivity and physical infrastructure facilities are a must for a developer to venture into these areas.

Similarly, social infrastructure is a prerequisite for an end-user/buyer.
“A majority of buyers of residential projects look for education and medical facilities. Connectivity, access to retail, entertainment facilities and security are also major concerns. Corporate and IT/ITes offices also give priority to social infrastructure and connectivity to take up space for operations,” says a spokesperson of Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj.

Managing Director of Sobha Developers Ltd J C Sharma says, “Another problem that often arises is shortage of water and other basic facilities. Developers need to highlight open layouts, green spaces, community halls, play area, gardens along with eco-friendly techniques such as waste management, storm water management, use of solar water heater and water harvesting.”

Peripheral development
Support infrastructure then, remains the primary challenge. “Execution of the same becomes a mammoth task and is reactive in nature. Authorities should ideally aim at identifying the potential suburb, develop infrastructure and then encourage commercial development followed by residential development,” says Hiranandani.
“It’s a good idea to develop small towns around larger cities as satellites. For example, Kolar can be developed as a satellite town around Bangalore. Historically, Kolar has had the benefit of strong public infrastructure.

“That should be used as the bedrock to develop a modern suburb with high speed connectivity to Bangalore,” says Poovayya. “Also, upgradation of the existing railway links between Kolar and Bangalore will help free movement of human resources,” he adds.

The challenge lies in changing the regulatory mindset. Creation of an independent body, which is responsible for development of infrastructure as well as town planning and eventually development of suburbs, may be of immense help.

The suburbs need to be developed in such a way that they are a city within a city.
This requires meticulous planning. Suburbs do seem to hold the key to shaping and organising balanced realty development in Bangalore. What are realtors waiting for?

(Published 07 January 2010, 12:34 IST)

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