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An easy life in these townships

An integrated township brings together employment generation, residential, retail, hospitality and leisure, medical and educational facilities in one location. AJAY PRASAD gives the details of this latest trend in property development.



Self-contained: An artist’s impression of the Technocity campus created by Sathya Shankar.

Imagine a life where you can walk to work or shop from the comfort of your home, or where your children can hop-skip to school. Forget the long, frustrating commute, the honking horns and the pollution because everything you need is close by. Idyllic, one might say, or too good to be true. But that is precisely the concept which forms the basis of the latest trend in property development — the integrated township.

In the lexicon of the property development industry in Kerala, “township” usually refers to a collection of apartments and villas, along with a few amenities. Several such projects are under way across Thiruvananthapuram and other parts of Kerala, but an integrated township or development is so much more.

As the name implies, such a project brings together or “integrates” employment generation, residential, retail, hospitality and leisure, medical and educational facilities in one location. Thus, an integrated development provides its residents or tenants with almost everything that they need in their daily lives within a small radius — the much promoted “walk to work, shop and school” concept.

Typically, an integrated development has one or more centres of employment generation. In the Indian scenario, these are mostly large IT/ITES parks, but in the case of large developments, employment generation could be from a cluster of industries, such as IT/ITES, manufacturing, R&D and biotechnology. This is accompanied by residential facilities, in the form of apartments, villas or town homes.

Larger developments may aim to accommodate their entire workforce within their boundaries, especially if the development is situated in a remote area. Usually, integrated developments target 10 to 25 per cent of their working population with accommodation. A mid-size shopping mall and one or more hotels as well as serviced apartments are also found in most such developments.

While Kerala has a relatively mature property market, the integrated development wave is yet to break here, possibly due to the difficulty in acquiring large parcels of land. However, it is likely that several large projects across Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and some oother cities may be announced in the coming months.

A large standalone IT park, such as the 4-million-sq.ft Technopark can put as many as 10,000 vehicles on the roads, while an integrated development around the IT complex can cut this number by half or more. Thus, instead of reducing the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to reduce pressure on infrastructure, the government should provide incentives for the development of integrated townships.

Technocity

The proposed Technocity campus in the suburbs of Thiruvananthapuram is likely to be the first integrated development to be officially announced in Kerala. The State government plans to join hands with leading developers to develop the satellite city in about 450 acres of land. With up to 15 million (1.5 crore) square feet of IT/ITES industries planned in the largest IT project in State, it will also have 30 per cent space allocated for residential units, hotels, shopping malls and multiplexes, hospitals and educational facilities.

The government’s Special Purpose Vehicle, Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd. (KSITIL), will develop the urban infrastructure — a 220 kV substation, water purification and sewage treatment plant and so on — which means that the 1,50,000 professionals who work at Technocity and the 50,000 people who will live there will not burden the creaking urban facilities in Thiruvananthapuram.

By offering world-class facilities within a 1-km radius, Technocity aims to dispel any qualms that IT professionals may have about relocating from the metros. The government is all set to invite bids from top developers. The project is expected to take off in early 2009.

(The author is an alumnus of the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram, and the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata. He works with a leading property developer and has a keen interest in urban development and planning.)

AJAY PRASAD

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