Redeveloping Chennai’s Anna Salai: Easier Said Than Done?


Anna Salai in Chennai is on the fast track to development with major projects including a metro rail and redevelopment being planned here. But is transforming one of Chennai’s oldest micro-markets easier said than done?

A New Plan For Anna Salai

Say ‘Mount Road’ and most people in Chennai will fondly recall stories of Old Madras dating back to the days of the British. Anna Salai, as the region is called today is testament to Chennai’s old world charm and comes packed with small stores, luxury hotels, hospitals, schools and shopping complexes. Now, in order to keep up with changing times – a redevelopment plan is being worked out with proposals being out forward to upgrade its infrastructure, redevelop old buildings and even enhance connectivity through a metro line.

Well connected to the Central Business District and most of the sought-after localities in the city, this redevelopment plan could revive the commercial market in Anna Salai and also spell good news for residential pockets in the region. Homes here cost about Rs 9,000 per Sq. foot in Guindy, Rs 20,000 per Sq. Foot in Cenatauph Road and Nungambakkam and Rs 18,000 per Sq. foot in T Nagar. But once redevelopment takes off and the proposed metro line comes in, experts believe these areas will definitely see a spurt in prices.

Challenges to Redevelopment

But redeveloping Anna Salai is no easy task and comes with a number of formidable challenges, including fragmented ownership of land which has prevented the government from unlocking existing land banks. Nearly 2 million Sq. Feet of commercial space can be made available for development in Anna Salai, but only if the city’s civic agencies are able to persuade existing land owners to participate in the redevelopment process.

That’s not all. Most of the buildings here date back to the 1960s and 1970s, back when no one could have expected the vehicle population in the city to rise so dramatically. As a result, most of them do not have parking facilities and emergency measures. This is one of the main reasons Anna Salai has very little quality office space that can be categorised as grade A. Most buildings are in the grade B and C categories, which big firms aren’t interested in.

Developers Want More

Another factor preventing developers from constructing new buildings is a lack of Floor-Space Index or FSI. Most old buildings had achieved an FSI of 4 to 5 as development regulations were not very strict before the 90’s. But the present rules do not permit an FSI of more than 3.5 FSI (including premium FSI), which makes landowners hesitant to go in for redevelopment.

In spite of the challenges, a few developers have already announced joint development of office spaces here. For instance, Akshaya Builders is redeveloping Shanti Theatre into a multiplex while Express Infrastructure is launching a residential project next to the Express Avenue mall.

Top developers include Prestige Constructions, Ceebros, Real Value, Chaitanya and the Khivraj Group. Many pan-India developers are also showing interest in Anna Salai and are actively scouting for land parcels here.

Reporter : Smitha TK
Web Editor : Nikhil Narayan Sivadas

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