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Goregaon's the place to look at now

Monday, 18 February 2013 - 9:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Every city has its own momentum of development and growth. And suddenly, areas that one thought would not be very exciting places to stay become hotspots.

Every city has its own momentum of development and growth.  And suddenly, areas that one thought would not be very exciting places to stay become hotspots.  Mumbai is no exception to this rule.  Once it was Nariman Point as the business district, then quite rapidly it moved to the Bandra Kurla Complex and to Lower Parel.

The same is happening with housing. Once it was South Mumbai.  Then it was Juhu and Santa Cruz, then it moved to the Lokhandwala Complex.  And while some were looking at Vasai-Virar and Panvel as the next boom-time areas, the suburbs of Goregaon have begun to attract both developers and home-makers alike.

But what made Goregaon suddenly gain appeal?  It was an area that was earlier earmarked for housing people belonging to low-income-groups. 

To discuss what changed the profile of Groegaon, and what has made it one of the hottest development areas, DNA called together a group of experts to discuss the subject of Goregaon.  The panel included (in alphabetical order) Vipul Bansal, Chief Executive Officer; DB Realty, S. Gaiwal, Executive Engineer, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai; Chandan Kelekar, Architect; Ashok Mohanani, Chairman & Managing Director, EKTA World; Nabil Patel, Director, DB Realty; and Shantanoo Rane, Architect.

Moderated by DNA’s RN Bhaskar, with editorial support from Puja Pednekar, the conversation threw up some interesting insights.  Given below are some edited excerpts. 

DNA: Goregaon is a very happening place. And the way it has changed is amazing. But there is possibility for a lot more change to come [as compared to other parts of the city].

Mohanani: I am happy to say that we are in Goregaon. And the reason why we have come to Goregaon, primarily, is the connectivity. It’s a suburb, which is bracketed between the Western Express Highway, the Link Road [both the Lokhandwala-Malad, and the Jogeshwari-Vikhrole roads], SV Road. That is what gives Goregaon its USP.

It’s easy to connect with the business hubs. There are many business hubs near Malad, Hypercity, Andheri, Infinity Mall. We are actually just, 3.5 kilometers away from Lokhandwala – the main Lokhandwala.

People aspiring to have a lifestyle, the neo-rich, the corporate sector, who want to buy a flat in Lokhandwala, those who have missed the bus somehow, now have an opportunity – by moving to Goregaon.

There is a Link Road on both sides of Goregaon – one linking Andheri to Malad, and another linking Jogeshwari to Vikhroli.  Thus the connectivity to the East is simple and convenient. What place is better than Goregaon to stay in? Given the opportunity, I’d like to shift here.

Everything from business hubs, shopping malls, theaters to schools and hospitals is present in Goregaon. And Gaiwal from the Corporation has been extremely important in the development of this entire suburb, bringing it recognition which was lacking earlier.

Earlier, Goregaon was lacking recognition.  People still had that feeling of being in the midst of a clustered, unorganised development.

DNA: In the western side?

Mohanani: Especially SV Road and the station areas. They still need a lot of sprucing up. Big developers and all the promoters in Goregaon have a bright future here.

DNA: There are different facets to Goregaon.

Rane: The most interesting facet is the slum area here. In most of the suburbs, the shirt is clean but there is a dark spot somewhere, and those dark spots are the slums. A total of 37.64 square kilometers of land is covered by slums in Mumbai. Interestingly, Goregaon has only 2 square kilometers of slums --  Bhagat Singh Nagar is the biggest slum pocket here.  This means, in Goregaon, even after reviving such dark spots, there will not be a huge load on its infrastructure, when compared to neighbouring places like Malad which have close to four square kilometers of slums and with little open space.

DNA: In other words, infrastructure like roads, water pipes and others are going to be less choked and congested in Goregaon.

Rane:  Five years from now, if this small slum pocket is developed, Goregaon is not going to be overloaded with the density of slum rehabilitation. That’s why it’s a nice place to be in. 

DNA: Gaiwal, what is your perspective, as a city planner?

Gaiwal: Goregaon is spread across around 3,000 hectares of land. Out of this, 800 hectares is residential, 300 hectares is industrial and 160 hectares is commercial. But 1,700 hectare of land is No Development Zone (NDZ) land.

More than 50% of the area is open.  On the east side, there is a very good view of Royal Palm NDZ and the Filmcity area.  If a high-rise building, 15- storey tall, comes up there, it would have this view. On the west side, you also have the sea view.

DNA: Both sides, you have water bodies.

Gaiwal: There is a good opportunity in Goregaon to convert industry zones into commercial zones. In areas having industry zones, you don’t need to further widen the roads while converting [the industry zones] to commercial unlike as in other areas. 

Also there is infrastructure connectivity.  There are two bridges that can connect the eastern and western sides.  Many malls and cinema houses have come up on both sides [east and west] of Goregaon.  There are two big bus depots on both sides -- Dindoshi and Goregaon. They provide bus connectivity. Also, there are good international schools here. So people living here get all such facilities.

Moreover, they get fresh air because huge areas of open green areas exist here.  Big names in real estate development have started coming up here as they are getting more land. New towers have also begun to include club houses. A sports club has come up both in Goregaon West, and also in Gokuldham in the East. For those who want to enjoy life, most of the things are available here.

At the BMC [Bombay Municipal Corporation], the commissioner has been clearing files relating to Goregaon quite speedily. For the last eight months, most of my proposals have been approved. So there are fewer delays here.

DNA: Vipul, can we have your views?

Bansal: The DB group has a special bond with Goregaon, as we are kind of pioneers in this area.  For a lay investor or flat purchaser, Goregaon provides one of the best opportunities in the entire city.

It’s the only location which connects to all key industries – IT and financial services, cinema and entertainment – that are offered by the city. This is also as close as you get to Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) on a price-point basis. The prevailing rates in Goregaon East are about Rs15,000 to Rs17,000 per square foot. In Bandra Court the cost is around Rs50, 000 while for Lower Parel it is around Rs30, 000-35,000.  Hence Goregaon is the best location as it caters to the IT industry in Andheri and in Malad and entertainment industry or the film cities around.  So this is the hub which is an investment destination, is going to probably, perform better than many other markets.

DNA: In fact, DB was one of the first developers in Goregaon area, isn’t it? Because earlier it was Conwood, which then became DB? 

Bansal:  Yes. I have been involved with this area for a very long time and now DB has large developments and large stakes in this area. Typically, when you go to new areas which are developing there is a lack of social infrastructure. But here it is thriving; there is train connectivity, bus depots, malls, theaters, sports, clubs, etc.  Everything is fully functioned.  The slum ratio is low hence the impact on infrastructure eventually would be much less.  DB has four schools, and Oberoi has got another school and there are several other schools in the areas including those run by the Goenka family trust. 

Here there is a perfect ecosystem for a family, for a young professional, for a senior professional to come and to settle down. It caters to all their needs.

The other benefit from a developer standpoint is that this is one area in Mumbai where there are no height restrictions.  You can have vertical development.  Due to the 4,000 acres or so of the Aarey Milk Colony [a green zone], there is a green view and even the air quality is much better than in many other neighborhoods in the city. 

DNA: You travel on the highway, suddenly the temperature changes.

Patel: Aarey Colony, the Film City, the green patch that Goregaon enjoys, I don’t think any other locality in Mumbai has all these facilities. It is one of the finest protected green-lungs areas in Mumbai.

This is a developed suburb so it’s ready to take on new projects and infrastructure. It is not that dense.

DNA: The ratio of people to area is a lot less.

Bansal: Whenever I travel to Gokuldham, the inner routes give a feel that it’s like any other international city.  Green space, calm and quiet.

This is the only place where you can hear the birds chirp in the morning.

Kelekar:  If you want to get a perspective on  Goregaon, I will need to take you to the ‘60s. At that time Mumbai’s suburbs were developed till Andheri. The state government then began developing Goregaon. It facilitated the development of Motilal Nagar 1, Motilal Nagar 2, Motilal Nagar 3, Siddharth Nagar, Siddharth Nagar Patra Chawl, Unnat Nagar, Shastri Nagar and others. 

Such small housing areas were developed for low-income-groups and economically-weaker-sections.  Later on such settlements were encourages in Charkop, Gorai, Borivali and Kandivali, and Mira Road and Bhayandar, all significantly further than Goregaon is from the city centre.

Nearly 50 years later, there is a need for a redevelopment of this suburb.  Hence, the government increased the FSI [floor space index which represents the amount of built up area as a ratio of the total land area] from 1.2 to 2.5 for all the MHADA [Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority] colonies.  This allowed for local households to get a higher area when the colony got redeveloped, which in turn came from the developer’s share of profit.  Thus, while introducing 2.5 FSI in these layouts, they have thought of comprehensive development, more popularly referred to as cluster development.

For example, in the Patra Chawl layout, we have increased the width of many roads and are developing RGs [Recreation Grounds]. The basic infrastructures like post offices, schools, colleges are also being developed. This is because the higher FSI of  2.5 allows us to offer a better layout and planning. This, in turn, allows for a better living standard for local residents and new tenements can also be created.

DNA: What, according to you, are the things that are still needed to be done – or what are the things missing -- to make this a vibrant place?

Gaiwal: I agree that there are so many modern layouts including the Siddharth Nagar, Motilal Nagar, Jawahar Nagar, Bangur Nagar and all the nagars. But to develop these areas, the residents should be interested. We still face difficulties in getting all the consents in place. And unless the mandatory 77% of the consent  from the residents is obtained, these layouts cannot be developed.

Mohanani:  I agree. This is the biggest roadblock

And now the government has stopped giving us incentive FSI on premium [like it used to earlier]. So it’s not viable for a developer to enter into redevelopment of such areas. We need long-term sustained policies. We can’t change policies overnight for MHADA redevelopment, for any of the rules relating to redevelopment.

Gaiwal:  What has happened (is that) there are different DC [development control] Regulations – 1991 and the earlier 1967 -- when development control rules came into force. (Another regulation was supposed to come in 2011 [has been deferred] now it is coming on 2014. 

Mohanani: The BMC is doing a fantastic job.  Any plan that an architect puts up, gets the BMC’s approval within three to four months. But the pre-BMC regulations --  before you come to the BMC to require environment and high rise clearances – do take time. . And then now Section 33(5) [has created a problem]

Kelekar: 33(5) is about redeveloping MHADA colonies. In this we have 2.5 FSI. Section 33(5) was amended on 6 December 2008. Now, the government is rethinking the amendments and it wants to increase the FSI from 2.5 to 3.

DNA: So, it should be more attractive to builders, shouldn't it?

Kelekar: Not to the builder. The government is increasing the FSI because government wants some more houses for itself. It wants a share of the flats developed as part of the redevelopment.

DNA: In what way? 

The government wants 20% of the additional space built by the developer for sale.

Kelekar: Now, in 2.5 FSI, the resolution says whatever is the rehab component, the developer gets about 60% to 75% depending upon the plot area, as incentive area.  And, thereafter, the remaining balance as per 33(5), the sharing ratio is of 2:1. 

That is 66% for MHADA from 33% to the developer. This ratio, they have derived probably from the 33(7), which is the city’s redevelopment, cess building  redevelopment in the city area.  Then there is 50% incentive.  Whatever you construct, you get 50%.  But that is feasible only when the real estate rates are high like in the island city.  Now, the government has started rethinking this issue and is considering increasing the developer’s share once you go beyond Dahisar.

So, they are tying up the ratio to the ready reckoner rate now. If you have X-amount of rate in your area, then that ratio is 2:1, but once ready reckoner rate comes down then that ratio changes.

DNA: Is that good or bad for developer?

Kelekar: It’s good.

Rane: One more point. The state policy on CRZ [coastal regulatory zone] is unfair. Goregaon has less encumbrance of slums, but let’s suppose there is a plot of 100 square meters. Around 50% of the plot falls under a huge pocket of slum called Bhagat Singh Nagar. This is between the Creek and Link Road.  Now, this entire pocket of Bhagat Singh Nagar, is affected by CRZ.  For a plot falling under CRZ, the state government gives only 25% incentive over the zonal FSI. Whereas, for redevelopment of slums on normal plot (those not falling in CRZ) as per 33(10), the state gives the developer 3 FSI.

In the suburbs the zonal FSI is one. So you get only 25% extra, that’s 1.25 for redevelopment of the slums.  Now what happens in slums is that the land area which is occupied by slums is invariably horizontal.  So they have already utilized the FSI of 1.

If only 25% extra FSI is given to the developer as an incentive, who is going to come and construct? In Goregaon especially. This is because there is only a small pocket of slums and this can be totally cleaned up, but only if one regulation is applied to it.

It’s a similar story with NDZ [no development zone].  You are not allowed to redevelop an NDZ plot.  You don’t get any zonal FSI or anything. Even NDZ areas occupied by slums cannot be redeveloped under 33(10)

DNA: So what do you do with that slum?

Rane: Nothing. There is no scheme.

Kelekar: It remains a slum.

DNA: If you go to Aarey Milk Colony, there are pockets of slums inside.

Rane: Yes. Even in Mumbai the plots under CRZ are the most beautiful areas. We could have green promenades, bandstands and develop it like countries overseas. Instead, there are slum encroachments in such places and (under the current regulations) we cannot build here. We cannot even remove or rehabilitate the slum in such areas. We should have a policy which allows for incentives to be given to the developer to clear such slums, to beautify the city, and even rehabilitate the affected people. But right now we are doing exactly the opposite.

Another important issue is that playgrounds and recreation grounds are the ‘breathers’ of a city.  However, such pockets in Goregaon are occupied by slums. We cannot develop such areas.

We request the state government to look into this matter and into clauses like 33(10), 33(5), 33(7) and others. 

DNA: Anything else that could be better in Goregaon?

Bansal: The redevelopment process in the city can be much faster if the rules are tweaked. For example, rationalization with respect to ready reckoner rates.

Another issue is that the wild life aspect in the Goregaon area needs to be monitored better because it creates needless panic.  It’s wonderful to have the kind of wild life next to Goregaon and the National Park in Borivali. But [stray incidents] create a very bad image.

DNA: How can that be addressed?

Bansal: The forest department needs to do that.

Patel: And they should see to it that there is proper fencing.

DNA: Shantanoo what are your thoughts on the policy changes?

Rane: Fortunately, these things are now in front of the CEO of the SRA [slum redevelopment authority].  Both the former and the current CEO have keenly listened to our problems and have begun to appreciaqte them. They are trying to come up with a new regulation for CRZ. Through this policy is in its early stages, they are trying to create a win-win situation.

Now they have started considering the specific problem of CRZ, NDZ, PG, RG.

Nirmalkumar Deshmukh, the new CEO of SRA was previously the collector in charge of the suburbs.  He is doing a fantastic job right now because he understands the suburbs very well.  He is a trying to work out a positive solution to put in front of the state government.

Hopefully, (soon) we’ll be in a situation where when we take a ride in a helicopter, we will be at least be able to see the PGs [play grounds] and the RGs [recreation grounds]. We used to joke that such grounds have been so completely camouflaged by slums that you cannot even see them anymore.

Kelekar: Recently, the Supreme Court has directed the government to review its policies governing the CRZ prone areas. The government is planning to change its rules and has already formed a committee to look into this aspect.

DNA: So, if there is a slum in an NDZ, there is no policy at the moment to address that. Is that also being addressed in the policy?

Gaiwal: No. Nothing is like that.

DNA: At present that remains a blind spot?

Bansal: When NDZ are converted into redevelopment zones, addressing this problem could be possible. But until then, I don’t think government will think of any such policy.

Gaiwal: Importantly, there is a combination of infrastructure and FSI.  The developer wants more and more chunks of (land) to be developed and he also wants increase in the FSI.

DNA: Would it be safe to say that in the view of what we discussed the highest towers in Mumbai will now come up in Goregaon?

Bansal and Patel [together]:  Amongst the highest.

Patel: There are height restrictions in most of Santacruz, Vile Parle, and Kurla. Goregaon has an advantage that is enjoyed by South Mumbai up to Mahim, Prabhadevi.   People in Goregaon can now live in towers that as as high as those that have come up in South Mumbai.

More towers mean more greenery, more open spaces because of the green nature of this area. We were so moved by the greenery around this area that we bagged the IBGC Gold Certification for the building, it’s the only completed project in Goregaon to have this certification.

DNA: Can you explain the IBGC Gold?

Patel: Indian Green Building Council is a green body that gives such approvals. Ours is the First in Mumbai and the third in Maharashtra. Certainly, it is difficult to get the Gold Certification for a high rise building.

Bansal: Goregaon has a very bright future because this is the Bandra of tomorrow.

Mohanani:  Its an excellent opportunity to invest. Prices here range between Rs11,000 to Rs17,000.  The upside is that Goregaon is barely three and half kilometers from Lokhandwala and at half Lokhandwala’s price or one-fourth of the price of Bandra.   Anybody who wants to live here or a buy a second home or for investment purposes, will find this an excellent opportunity. There such good quality schools in this area that students come to study here from places like Bandra.

Kelekar:  Also there is corporate migration. 

Mohanani: BKC is the driver.  People realize that there advantages such as price, equal or better amenities, by opting to live north of BKC than to its south.

Kelekar: It’s a super opportunity to upgrade your lifestyle. What you can’t do in Bandra or Andheri, I think you can do it here.

Mohanani: Both the airports, the domestic and the international airport can be reached within 15 to 20 minutes.

Patel: We are matching the quality of construction, amenities that the best in Mumbai offer.

Bansal: The point is service (that we provide). Real estate has evolved over the last 7 to 8 years. Today, as developers we are in the business of providing a lifestyle solutions to our customers. For an executive or a business man, I think the new modern buildings are not only efficient in green spaces, open spaces and club houses, but also have facilities like concierge services.

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