Too Little, Too Late? Housing In BKC


Is Residential Development in BKC Slowing Down?

If you are a business honcho, a high-net-worth individual or an executive looking to buy a home in Mumbai, chances are that the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) is your location of choice. After all, infrastructure in the BKC is among the finest in the city and the biggest names of India Inc and multinational conglomerates have offices here. The area also plays host to foreign consulates, contains top hospitals and also some of the most reputed schools in Mumbai. All in all, BKC has everything going for it to be a high-end residential borough, everything that is except enough residential projects to satisfy demand. Land use here is tightly controlled by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the bulk of development in the region has been geared towards commercial and office-space development, leaving little room for residential projects. But that is set to change with the MMRDA now planning to give equal importance to residential development in the region.

“The plan has always been for the MMRDA to develop BKC as a Central Business District (CBD) and then slowly start developing residential areas here. A couple of residential projects have already come up and the MMRDA is planning on releasing more land to bring in more. This is essential because most of BKC looks deserted by evening since most of the offices here are closed. Bringing in more residential buildings here will help maintain a good balance”, says Gulam Zia, executive director of Knight Frank India.

As part of its strategy to encourage residential development, the MMRDA is in the process of auctioning off nearly 20,000 square meters of land in ‘G’ block for residential development. A goldmine considering how starved for land the city is, especially in an area as prime as BKC. The agency has also hiked the FSI of residential projects in the ‘G’ block of BKC from 3 to 4, which means these buildings can now grow even taller. But while you might think this will have real estate developers swarming to bid for land here, a number of them have reservations. Take the Wadhwa Group for instance; the group intends to participate in the auctions but is concerned about the manner in which it is being handled.

“The MMRDA is coming out with one tender which is a 20,000 meter plot. There are not too many people who can cut cheques for a land parcel of this size. It would have been better if they had come up with 4 plots of 5000 meters. This would have opened the space up to more competition. Obviously people would prefer 4 developers with 4 sets of products being created, which would give them more choice in terms of product, design and price. The foundation of what the MMRDA looks at is completely different from what the BKC really needs. Is the MMRDA doing everything it can to get maximum value from this land? The answer is yes. Is it doing everything it can to develop this as a residential hub? The answer is no” claims Navin Makhija, managing director of the Wadhwa Group.

If that was not bad enough, even the hike in FSI is not being treated with a lot of enthusiasm from the developer community. Many claim that the ambiguity regarding height restrictions at BKC will prevent FSI increases from being fully utilized. “The bigger issue in BKC is not of FSI, but of consumption. You can consume this FSI only by going tall and since BKC comes in the airport funnel, we are unable to go beyond a certain height. The government needs to do something to clear this up and ensure that developers do manage to get a better height in terms of going taller, so that they are able to consume the FSI”, complains Chandresh Mehta, director at Rustomjee Developers

While the MMRDA grapples with these problems, experts claim the agency is already facing competition from projects coming up on the BKC’s periphery; in areas like Kalanagar and MIG where developers like Rustomjee, Radius and Kalpataru are able to access cheaper land parcels through redevelopment projects. “It is inevitable. While the MMRDA figures out its plans, these areas on the periphery are already taking advantage of its proximity to BKC to portray themselves as good as or even better than residential projects in BKC proper. Add to this the fact that these projects will get delivered faster, thanks to less restrictive processes and any residential project coming up in BKC will face a tough fight”, justifies Gulam Zia.

This does not mean that the BKC’s importance as a residential and commercial hub will dip anytime soon. But for the sake of rapid and efficient development, developers and experts are asking that the MMRDA put BKC’s development priorities first, before figuring out ways to maximize its revenues from its lands here. “You cannot have the MMRDA developing BKC over 25 years especially when it can be done in just 10 years, so why is it moving so slowly? And the area is not very big, so it can be done. The MMRDA is treating this land as a gold mine; they are not treating this as a city and that is more important”, laments Navin Makhija.

Nikhil Narayan Sivadas, Assistant Editor, NDTV

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