North Bangalore has been hailed for quite some years now as the most- sought-after destination for both commercial as well as residential developments. The rosy picture painted is such that it gives the impression of land being grabbed no sooner than offered, with developers and corporate houses vying to launch projects at the earliest possible time.
The Bangalore International Airport, once operational, was to hasten this process further, resulting in the whole region booming with business and residential activity within a short time. But a reality check on the same gives a totally different picture with merely 300-odd projects cleared since 2004. Projects so far announced are invariably in the proposal stage rather than implementation stage.
So, what went wrong? Even when developers cry themselves hoarse about the high marketability of this region, why would this hot area still remain largely empty, sans the promised growth? Is it the acute water shortage of this region deterring greater residential activity? Is it lack of clearances in allocation of government land? Or is it the global recession slowing down commercial growth, in turn impacting the take-off of this region?
Says Amit Bagaria, Chairman, and Asipac, “Acute water shortage in this area has certainly had a significant role to play in diluting activity. Because of the natural gradient of this region, groundwater is very low, with the water table featuring at as deep as 350 to 450 feet. With Cauvery water yet to reach this region, water can be a serious concern especially in a high-rise apartment complex.”
According to him, the low residential activity in the form of such high-rises deters large retail outlets from setting up shop here. “It is a Catch 22 situation. The lack of retail outlets and malls prevents significant residential activity as you need basic amenities and emergency services to live in an area.” While connectivity is indeed good, business houses were unable to proceed with plans because of the lack of allocation of land by the government, he adds.
As for proximity to the international airport triggering growth, he says, “That is not a criterion for an area to develop. Internationally, this has not been true and many examples, from New York, London Heathrow and Paris to Kuala Lumpur, can be cited. The area around HAL airport developed not because of its proximity to the airport but because of its positioning in the CBD.” He avers that the ‘proximity-to-airport' was more a sales statement by developers than bringing in a picture of a realistic developmental model.
Demand, not fully active
Concurs Naveen Nandwani, Director-Bangalore, Cushman and Wakefield, “Demand has been damp since 2009 from corporate houses and this has continued into 2010. Market is improving, yet the demand continues to be in the Outer Ring Road where ready space is available.”
Stating that developers have obtained land parcels but have postponed projects in North Bangalore, he adds that the distance of this region from the CBD, and the lack of social infrastructure in the form of schools, malls and hospitals, are proving to be major deterrents.
While the various infrastructure projects planned, like the high speed rail link to BIAL, would act as a boost to this region as would the upgrading of NH 7 into a six-lane signal-free expressway, the actual growth in both residential and commercial activity would take another five years, according to him.
Agrees Bagaria, “Nothing significant is likely to take place over the next four to five years. To trigger the activity in the region, some kind of basic infrastructure in the form of retail outlets would need to be in place first.”
As for real estate prices continuing to be high in this region, Bagaria attributes it to being set in the years 2006-07 when the market was booming. “Developers are unable to bring it down now.”
Guru Prasad, Managing Director, Chaithanya Projects, shares similar sentiments. “Existence of good roads and good connectivity is not the only criterion for a region to boom. The same is true about proximity to the airport. Whitefield did not develop because of its proximity to HAL airport but because of the essence and character of the place.”
Contending that it took a decade-and-a-half for Whitefield to reach the present level of growth, he adds, “For a region to develop, it is important to have the social infrastructure in place. It is also important for the work place to be in close proximity. Trips to work are daily while to an airport is perhaps weekly even in case of frequent travellers. This factor, in essence, negates the argument of proximity to airport boosting growth.”
Prasad is, however, quick to add that North Bangalore will be a growth spot in the future but “will take another decade or perhaps more to reach the scale of a place like Whitefield.” “A development similar to ITPL could trigger a surge in demand but to ensure that, land holdings need to be different.”
He further adds that land holdings here are so structured that it will take a while before they can be diverted to the right kind of development, encompassing office spaces, retail, hospitals, school and such, something that happened more easily in Whitefield.