Imagine living in an area with very few car parking lots, where you can bicycle to work in two minutes and walk to the station close by to take the metro to attend a client meeting. This may be a reality in the next five years once the transit-oriented corridor project called the East Delhi hub, awarded to National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) by Delhi Development Authority recently, is completed with its marquee 100-storey building and zero surface parking.
The Master Plan of Delhi 2021 has a chapter on transit oriented development (TOD) that has proposed a few corridors around Delhi as part of the first phase. These include corridors on the Chattarpur to Arjangarh Metro stations, Peeragarhi to Teekri Kalan Metro stations, Dwarka Mor to Dwarka Sector 21 Metro stations and Nehru Place to Badarpur stations.
With the Lt Governor Najeeb Jung approving the transit-oriented policy of DDA in February this year, the first TODs to be constructed, however, will be the Karkardooma TOD to be executed by the NBCC followed by one in Sanjay Lake – both in east Delhi.
Balvinder Kumar, DDA vice chairman says, “The TOD policy has been approved by the Delhi’s LG Najeeb Jung and it will be notified by the urban development ministry perhaps in a month. NBCC will take up both the Karkardooma TOD and the Sanjay Lake TOD project which is also a green field development spread across 25 acres. All the TOD projects are part of the redevelopment scheme.”
“The project in Karkardooma involves development of 75 acre of land in east Delhi. It will follow the TOD norms and get FAR of 400. It is strategically located between two Metro lines. It will consist of residential units and space for commercial offices,” he says.
“DDA awarded the land to us for joint development of the project a few weeks back. The East Delhi Hub project will be based on the transit-oriented development norms and smart city principles. The total cost of the project is Rs 4,500 crore,” says AK Mittal, chairman and managing director, NBCC.
The project will be a green complex. It will follow the zero discharge principle. All sewage generated within the project will be treated/recycled in-house. There will be no surface parking. “We will ensure that there is minimum vehicular movement,” he says.
The highlight of the project is a signature tower that will have 100 storeys. Other towers within the complex will have 10-30 storeys. We will try and engage the best architects, even from overseas through an open competition, says Mittal.
Presently, NBCC is in the process of appointing an architect who will do the master plans. Starting April 1, it may take nine months to finalise the design and get approvals from local bodies. Work on the project will finally start on January 1, 2016, and take at least four years to complete, he adds.
The project will include 4,800 houses, 80,000 sq m of retail space, a five-acre park, apart from a sculptures and laser park and a circular skywalk. As far as housing is concerned, the EWS housing will be largely subsidised. Other units in the semi luxury, middle class and luxury housing, serviced apartments etc will be sold to the public like any private development. “We will think of giving concessions to senior citizens once the plan is frozen. NBCC will maintain the complex for 30 years,” says Mittal.
The amount earned from selling properties will be deposited in an escrow account maintained by a high-level committee with representatives from both the DDA and NBCC. NBCC will be paid charges for project management, a certain fee on construction cost, a fee for managing sales and marketing. The surplus amount will be the property of DDA. “In the primary discussions that we’ve had so far, there are plans to sell commercial properties but no final decision has yet been taken,” he says when asked whether the REITs option will be exercised for commercial properties.
Is TOD an ambitious project?
While the intention of the transit-oriented development projects planned for Delhi is good and forward looking, city planners may find it difficult to execute the ambitious project if land acquisition through pooling for the purpose of redevelopment proves to be a challenge.
Also, if the project continues to provide adequate parking and not encourage residents to walk-to-work or cycle to the transportation hub, it may not meet the main criteria of a TOD. It will end up being just another real estate development along a metro hub or a transit-aligned development (TAD).
Simply put, a TOD development must necessarily be high-density, mixed income development with increased connectivity to a mass rapid transport node and offer pedestrian and cycle-friendly environments.
The challenge of executing a TOD in case of a brownfield project (where land may have to be pooled by people living in the area for redevelopment into a TOD) is higher as it may not be easy to acquire land to develop a project as large as a TOD.
Also, if the car parking ratio of residents, shoppers and commuters continues to be as generous as any other existing real estate development, TOD may not be able to live up to its name. If people find it difficult to move around without a car, the concept will fail the walkability test.
TODs are best described with the 3Ds. These include (high) density, diversity (of formats) and distance (from transportation facility such as a metro). Besides the population, a TOD should include diverse income groups and multiple residential and commercial formats. It ought to be a mixed land use development and the distance from the transit too has to be minimum. The Karkardooma project will be the first TOD in the country and if executed well, will set a trend, says Amit Bhatt, EMBARQ – WRI.
It will be a game changer for the entire country if it is executed in the right manner. The Karkardooma corridor development is a greenfield development and therefore acquiring land is not an issue. If it ends up making a substantial difference to the quality of environment which a TOD zone is expected to provide, it will trigger an interest for TODs, he adds.
The biggest challenge going forward is how cities translate the TOD concept into action and ensure that it does not end up becoming yet another real estate project where every inch of space is a means to make a fast buck and generate revenue, say city planners.
Redeveloping land in other corridors proposed in Chapter 19 on transit oriented developments in Master Plan 2021 may be a challenge though.
It will be a challenge wherever amalgamation of land is required and wherever land ownership is fragmented. The major hurdle faced in other corridors will involve rehabilitating people. But wherever DDA has unencumbered ownership of land there will be no problem in executing a TOD project, says Ramesh Menon of Certes Realty.
PORTLAND PEARL DISTRICT
One project that comes closest to the Karkardooma project is the Portland Redevelopment Project in the US. The Portland Pearl District project is a public-private partnership that used transit to leverage large-scale redevelopment along a streetcar line. The streetcar was built to connect two large parcels of vacant industrial land north and south of downtown. This private investment – an estimated $3.5 billion in 2008 – helped the city meet several public goals and objectives, including accommodating a significant number of new housing units.
CURITIBA IN BRAZIL
This is perhaps the oldest TOD. Built in the early 70s, the development by coupling the pedestrian-friendly community with an efficient low-emissions Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and lower car parking availability, has helped Curitiba, the capital of the Paraná state of Brazil, successfully reduce the overall travel of its residents. According to a survey of travellers, it is estimated that the BRT system has led to a reduction of approximately 27 million car trips every year, which translates to nearly 27 million litres of fuel saved yearly.