House-hunting in Chennai

A recent house-hunting trip to Chennai took me to fast-developing outskirts – Padur, Siruseri,  Medavakkam, Guduvanchery, Mogapair and beyond.  They provide  the addresses for  upscale residential clusters that are being developed by real estate tycoons such as the Akshayas,  Mantris, DLF, SIS ,  L &T and the Hiranandanis. They talk,  not just in terms of  floor-space,  rooms and tallness of  structures,  but of life style, landscaping, and in-house amenities such as clubhouse, air-conditioned  gym,  swimpool on terrace ,  piped gas supply , garbage chute and  WiFi enabled Net access. I even found an apartments complex with plans for a helipad on top of every residential tower.  They want to transpose to Urappakkam and Siruseri the  ‘gated community’ enclaves  from San Francisco and LA.

Snag is that the areas where these high-end lifestyle dwellings are coming up are decades behind the poorest of  localities in a US city in terms of  basic infrastructure,  be it water and power supply,  public hygine and transport connectivity.  At Medavakkam and Pallikarani you drive through  garbage  dumps lining the main street to access plush apartment blocks under construction.  Velacherry  and Mogapair,  at the other end of the city get  waterlogged after a sharp shower. Bumpy road  and  waterlogging  are things about which developers  say they can’t do much. They come under the jurisdiction of the local panchayat, municipality or whatever.  Local authorities that give plan approval for building  fancy residential blocks incorporating French, Roman and other exotic architectural features would not let developers improve approach roads, without proper permission (read currency persuasion) from a chain of authorities, from the panchayat and local councillor to the district officials. A developer in Mogapair admitted that they are counting on the 2011 elections to get things moving on the road improvement front.

Drinking water appeared an issue everywhere,  except Urappakkam where they source water from wells no more than 30ft deep.  Elsewhere apartment owners have to pay for,  among other  facilities, a water purification plant.  Residents along the Old Mamallapurum Road (OMR) are believed to be facing problems in supply of cylindered gas. Replacement of cyclinders, they say, takes weeks after booking. It is said a lone  gas distributor based in Adyar has to take care of ever increasing demand from growing residential stretch along OMR upto to Siruseri.

SIS Safaa in Urapakkam is enterprising enough to  provide for piped gas supply to apartments through an embedded gas tank to be recharged by Bharat Petroleum. Apartment owners  pay metered gas charges, as they do for electricity consumption. These builders  have also  factored in a garbage chute for swift and efficient waste disposal. They talk of rainwater harvesting for feeding  the green space and Wifi enabled Internet access to individual apartments.  I didn’t hear any developer  mention solar panels and and rooftop wind turbines. One would have thought that those building for the future would factor in these features.  L&T, building a sprawling residential complex  close to the IT Park,  has space enough  to think of  renewable energy backup.

Those  aping real-estate developers in the West ought to go the whole hog. For instance I found in San Francisco a highrise residential cluster runs  free shuttles to the city centre for the benefit of  residents. This is something that could be emulated by Chennai  builders who are into estate maintenance. An in-house shuttle service to the nearest rail/bus terminal , at nominal charges , can be put in place with a club-up of two or more  developers in a given  vicinity.
Monorail network can be another option for connectivity of emerging residential localities with the nearest metro and suburban rail station,  if only real-estate developers would adopt a consortum approach.  Monorail   can run through  residential blocks ;  cut across congested localities en-route where not much rail or road space is available.  A Malaysia-based company, building a monorail network in Mumbai,  is reported to have made a presentation to the authorities in Chennai.  Real eastate developers could expore partnership possibilities with the Malaysian company for monorail networking in Chennai’s growth areas. Far from being competitive, monorail system can be devised to be the spokes and limbs to support  metro rail connectivity.

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3 Responses

  1. Very true of builders and the locan administration and their helplessness for the residents and aspiants….

  2. “Garbage Chute” caught my attention. When we first moved to the US in 1971 we rented an apartment in Queens that had a Garbage Chute. I believe that garbage chute are no longer permitted. I do not know the reason. But, the apartments then had serious problems with roaches and the super pointed to the chutes as the reason.

    • Perhaps the garbage chute was first provided in vashi, Navi Mumbai in stepped blocks (Charles Correa’s) in 1973. They achieved high nuisance value. The reasons were lack of knowledge about segregation of different types – wet, dry, etc., our dependence on house maids, evacuating them at infrequent intervals, not cleaning and disinfecting the inside. The chutes were provided near the stairs and stairwell became a place for badsmell, cockroaches and rats. the practice was discontinued.. of course the material used then was masonry. I recently saw one in a new block in Bangalore but made of stainless steel. People had similar complaints. We introduce certain facilities without giving proper training to all concerned. I was in team for preparation of master plan.I would also like to know about Gated communities as they in my opinion are islands of affluence amidst squalor and slums alround as they neglect to provide any shelter to personnel serving these people , like subziwallha, Dhobhi, house maid, sweeper, etc

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