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Alternative cities developing fast

india Updated: May 12, 2007 01:29 IST
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They are small havens of serenity tucked away in corners not far away from the bustling city. They can afford to be away from the city because they are small cities themselves. Spread over 200 acres or more, the independent townships are fast creating an alternative urban lifestyle. They have the modernity of the big city, but for the choosy middle-class they provide also an escape from the overpowering stench and snarls of the overcrowded city.

The peripheries of all metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore today are dotted with townships that promise well-planned neighbourhoods, better community living and less stress.

Township development has always been encouraged. Prior to 2005 the only realty segment that was allowed 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was township development involving 100 acres or more. Integrated townships got a further boost when in March 2005, the government further liberalized FDI norms. The new norms allowed 100 percent FDI investment for the development of serviced housing plots of atleast 25 acres, or a minimum built up area of 50,000 square meters.

According to real estate experts, most cities have reached saturation point and have no space for the constantly expanding population. Planned, integrated townships on the outskirts or beyond the city have thus emerged as an alternative.

The modern township today also aims to rid the harassed masses of the daily commuting grind. International investment bankers Lehman Brothers for instance have headquartered themselves in one of Mumbai’s earliest townships – the Hiranandani Gardens, in Powai. The reason is not difficult to guess: with good quality housing available in the Hiranandani complex, the senior executives did not want to commute too far. Much of DLF’s development in Gurgaon is based on the same concept.

The modern township is typically aimed at the upscale professional – those in the IT or ITES and BPO industries, and with little roots in the city they work in. The myriad townships coming up on the outskirts of Pune or Chennai have been planned by developers to cash in on the highly-paid market of professionals and executives who have been drawn to these cities but can’t fit into their traditional cultural milieu.

“We are targeting the large numbers of IT professionals wanting to shift their offices and homes into planned townships,” said Surender Hiranandani. The developer has just launched a 110-acre township project on Chennai’s Old Mahaballipuram Road called ‘Hiranandani Upscale’.

Architect Sanjay Puri, who is currently designing three townships in various parts of the country, aptly says that a township isn’t just another bigger housing complex. It is about creating a whole new, environment. “When you are buying a house in a township, you are really buying a new lifestyle,” says Puri.

Puri is busy these days as his new project in Virar, in the outskirts of Mumbai has just taken off. Once complete, the project Evershine Global City, a 300-acre big township promises to change the total character of this distant suburb. Fifteen acres have been set aside for an educational complex, and a 12-acre park has been planned right in the heart of the project, something on the lines of a central park and the roads are a 100-feet wide, not seen in the posh localities of Mumbai as well.

Another township, fast coming in Sonepat, in east Delhi is a mammoth 1,100-acre spread which has lifted property prices and value of the surrounding area as well. The project is slated to have an amusement park as well.

“Our focus is to create a walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-school concept where everything essential like a mall, grocer or hospital is within walking distance. We also aimed at structured development so that the buyer knows what is coming up in his neighbourhood.,” said Satish Magar, chairman, Magarpatta Township Development.

The 400-acre Magarpatta City in Hadapsar, in the outskirts of Pune claims to be one of the first integrated, planned townships in the country. With Cyber City, which houses several multi-national companies, many people working there have bought houses in the township. From service apartments for women to working women’s hostel, the developer is now planning a 200-bed hospital to make it a complete experience for the residents.