Built on a promise and a prayer, awaiting take-off

People from the city have been packing up and heading to Navi Mumbai for years now, encouraged by the more affordable property rates and well-planned nodes with open spaces and greenery.
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Updated on Jun 23, 2011 02:38 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByKunal Purohit, Mumbai

People from the city have been packing up and heading to Navi Mumbai for years now, encouraged by the more affordable property rates and well-planned nodes with open spaces and greenery. Following the announcement of big-ticket infrastructure projects such as the second airport and the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL), areas close to them, such as Panvel, New Panvel and Ulwe, have started attracting people and development.

The one thing going for these areas is the proposed connectivity, say experts. “The strength of both Ulwe and New Panvel vis a vis other areas is the promise of infrastructure. The MTHL and the new airport are the big promises drawing in the buyers,” said Manohar Shroff, secretary, Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI).

Located around four kilometres away from CBD-Belapur, Ulwe is the latest node being developed by the City & Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (Cidco).

Spread over 960 hectares, around 21 hectares in Ulwe have been earmarked for immediate residential development. The erstwhile sleepy village that was inhabited mainly by farmers now finds itself amidst a flurry of development, mostly because of its location — it is just 15 km from the site earmarked for the new airport.

Yogesh Mewani of Ganesha Constructions believes Ulwe will have to fulfil two roles. “It will have to cater to not just those who find Mumbai unaffordable but also those who find Navi Mumbai unaffordable,” he said. Mewani’s company has launched five projects in Ulwe, and plans to start another one this year.

Ulwe’s greatest weakness currently is connectivity. It has no rail lines, and the closest station is CBD-Belapur, more than four km away. The only way to reach Ulwe is by road, via the Amra Marg in CBD-Belapur. “We have proposed an Uran-Nerul line, which will ensure Ulwe has two stations —Bamandongri and Kharkopar. But it will take a minimum of three years,” said Mohan Ninawe, Cidco’s spokesperson.

Panvel’s advantage over Ulwe is connectivity. It has a railway station and is the last stop on the Central Railway’s suburban network. The station caters to both Panvel and New Panvel.

While big players such as the Hiranandanis, Indiabulls and Marathon Builders have projects underway in Panvel, the promise of the airport has kickstarted constructions in New Panvel and gaothans on the outskirts of Panvel.

“Areas such as New Panvel can provide budget housing to people, along with better connectivity than, for instance, Boisar or Badlapur,” said Shroff of MCHI. “Also, as large private plots are available, big developers are planning township projects that will be good for people looking for second homes.”

Dnyaneshwar Yerunkar, who owns a real estate agency in New Panvel, believes “the crux of the area’s real estate development is happening in the gaothans where builders have bought huge tracts of land and are building from 1BHKs to 3BHKs”. Yerunkar said a big problem, however, with many such projects is that “they are too far away from the station”.

Experts predict that Ulwe will be “ready” in the next five years or so. New Panvel will take lesser time because of the existing rail network.

The biggest boon for Panvel, New Panvel and Ulwe — the proposed airport — may, however, may put these areas out of the reach of the middle-class in a while. “Once work on the airport begins, property prices will rise again,” said Shroff.

Property here already costs between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,500 per sq ft. “There has been no concerted policy for the growth of areas like Ulwe and New Panvel. So development happens in spurts, which leads to a rapid rise in prices, followed by a slump,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute.

“The airport hype has ensured that plots are exorbitantly priced,” said Prakash Baviskar of Bhawani Constructions in Ulwe. Another developer, who does not wish to be named, said: “Both these places are, at best, destinations for the future, not the present.”

Ultimately, only time will tell whether these areas will develop into residential hubs for the middle-class.

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