Green open spaces, blanket CCTV coverage, a park and jogging track, school, medical centre — life really is different in the smart townships coming up in prime metro markets such as Mumbai, Pune, Gurgaon and Bengaluru.
With their focus on technology, integrated living and serviced housing, projects like Nahar Amrit Shakti in the Mumbai suburb of Chandivali, Xrbia River Front near Talegaon in Pune and Brigade Orchards in Devanahalli on the outskirts of Bangalore, all built over the past five years, are meeting the needs of the 21st-century buyer.
The heightened security and range of sports facilities, particularly, are a big draw. “I’ve lived in Singapore and Dubai, but it is in our nine years here that my daughter has taken up skating, and I have got back to running,” says Smita D’Souza, 40, a freelance sales professional who lives in a two-bedroom flat at Amrit Shakti with her husband and daughter.
D’Souza says it’s even helped her work.
“With biometric checks for each building, a market and a health centre nearby, I don’t have to worry about my daughter when I take on work assignments,” she says. “In fact, because of the sports facilities, my daughter even qualified for a state-level skating championship in October.”
There is a growing demand for automated and self-sustained housing, says Vamshi KK Nakirekanti, executive director and head of valuation and advisory services at realty consultancy CBRE South Asia.
“A lot of young couples with both partners working long hours are opting for such places because everything’s serviced, monitored and under one roof. But this is still a small elite market as the prices and maintenance costs are steep,” he adds. “The challenge is to keep updating — modern clubhouses, water management, clean energy, everything that a modern person would like to have around them.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
In Bangalore, a key reason why Satyam Das moved from Whitefield to Brigade Orchards was clean air in a city where construction activity can cover entire areas in a film of dust.
“When I scanned the website, I was impressed to see that the complex had a stadium, an eco-friendly water management system and solar-powered common spaces,” says the 27-year-old geologist. He moved into a two-bedroom flat here four months ago.
The exclusivity has become a concern in some ways, though, he says.
“There is an international school here but not a budget school for the middle-class,” he says. “And though I am happy with the biometric security system, it can get complicated. I can’t hire a cook, for instance, unless they have an Aadhaar card.”
There are intangibles he misses too. “When I lived in Kolkata, I could always hear the sounds of people on the streets. That’s gone here,” he says.
It’s a similar case of mixed feelings for writer Gayatri Manchanda, 41, who moved to Raisina Residency in Gurgaon in March from a family home in Pitampura in West Delhi.
Living here with her husband and two children, she is very happy with the elaborate security protocol — visitors are only allowed in after security has called up in advance on a video phone; access to the elevators is by smart card only, as is access to the parking areas.
“I have complete privacy,” she says, “but I do sometimes miss the chaos and noise of the Delhi I grew up in. I miss the freedom of walking to the local market and conversing with familiar shopkeepers. Service is courteous in our modern cities, but not personal.”
The challenge for many smart townships is to successfully provide all amenities inside in the project as they are usually located far from the city, says Pankaj Kapoor, CEO of real-estate research company Liases Foras.
“Though the scale of such projects is allowing builders to employ innovative ideas like water management and sports spaces that are drawing people the projects have to be located far from the city, it is rarely the case that workplaces and schools are located close to such projects. Though companies now are trying to bridge by creating economic hubs but it is a difficult task as schools and offices need a certain density of people which is remains to be seen,” he adds.
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