Bangalore: The state budget devoted just one line to it, but the announcement of a new policy direction to Bangalore’s development could change the face of the city.
“The government will come out with a policy to facilitate vertical instead of horizontal development in Bangalore,” chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said while delivering his budget speech in March.
The government has selectively allowed higher floor space index (FSI), or development rights, to take advantage of new infrastructure being made available. In areas around the new Metro line, FSI as high as 4.0 will be allowed, the highest in the city, said A. Ravindra, urban adviser to the chief minister.
Pacing up: Bangalore has largely been a horizontally developed city, with even buildings by private developers rising only to 10-15 floors on an average. Photo by Hemant Mishra/Mint.
This new thrust in policy was pushed by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) as it prepares to develop five new layouts on a 15,000-acre sprawl. The planning agency has already issued a final notification for one layout.
The vertical development policy is applicable to BDA layouts as of now, but the state government will explore whether it is feasible to allow private developers to build taller buildings, Ravindra said.
It is crucial for Bangalore to grow taller so it can accommodate its rapidly increasing population, drawn to the city for the numerous jobs it offers in the lucrative information technology and related fields, as much for the easier lifestyle and friendlier weather it affords. But the city’s infrastructure will have to keep pace and FSI, which defines how much space can be built on a plot, is also a function of allowing for essential amenities such as water lines and community space for a given population. The index, also known as the floor area ratio, presently varies from 1.25 to 3.25 in Bangalore. Unlike Mumbai, which had 50-storey buildings emerging from its slums and dilapidated buildings since the beginning of the last decade, Bangalore has largely been a horizontally developed city, with even buildings by private developers rising only to 10-15 floors on an average. Even during the real estate boom of 2005-06, this was unchanged except that apartments found more favour among developers, leading to the predominance of gated communities.
All that is changing now.
In 2008, Tata Housing Development Co. Ltd announced a 32-storey tower in its Aquila Heights project in north Bangalore, replacing the 24-storey twin towers of Bearys Lakeside Habitat as the city’s tallest structure. In 2010, Mantri Developers Pvt. Ltd said it is developing south India’s tallest building in the city, a 46-storey tower with luxury residences called Pinnacle. There are more than a dozen buildings rising to at least 30 storeys that are awaiting approvals.
In the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), which, too, does not have too many tall structures rising above 25 storeys, realty firm Supertech Group recently announced a residential project in Noida in which one of the five towers will be of 80 storeys, or nearly 300 meters tall.
In Mumbai, where Lodha Developers Ltd is building a 117-storey building called World One on a 17.5-acre defunct textile mill land, FSI varies from location to location and the kind of development. For instance, the city allows unlimited FSI in the Bandra-Kurla Complex business hub, and it recently proposed to allow builders to pay for additional use of the development rights.
But urban planners criticize the indiscriminate manner in which cities have allowed skyscrapers to come up without adequately providing for civic infrastructure.
Chandrasekhar Prabhu, a former president of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority and an urban development expert, said Mumbai first increased the FSI and then searched for infrastructure. “FSI was given out freely, and then we worried about if there was infrastructure to support it, which is a totally wrong approach to planning because it should be the other way round,” said Prabhu.
The Karnataka government has a history of underestimating Bangalore’s infrastructure needs. For the 2001 master plan for Bangalore, it estimated a population of 3.8 million; the actual population turned out to be 5.1 million. In the latest master plan, it estimates a population of 8.8 million for 2015, but according to the 2011 Census the city already has 8.5 million people.
For a city infrastructurally challenged in terms of roads and water, private real estate companies have had to share the burden.
“Developers, in some cases, had to build roads for connectivity to their project and partner civic bodies. (In) areas where there is no water connection, there is an extra cost to make provisions, and all these lead to cost escalation,” said Farook Mahmood, chairman and managing director, Silverline Realty Pvt. Ltd, a property consultancy and developer.
Another problem with uncontested vertical growth is escalating prices. As cities become taller, prices naturally rise with builders increasing rates for the higher floors. In Mantri’s Pinnacle project, for example, the penthouses cost about Rs11,000 per sq.ft. compared with Rs5,500-6,500 per sq.ft. for the lower floors.