Welcome to Chennai’s most happening locality, with swanky new malls and skyrocketing real estate value

The transformation of Velachery as a prestigious address and a happening place came home to me in a striking fashion.

In mid-2009, Chennai was gripped by the fear of swine influenza, probably for the first time. In the early days of this ‘panicidemic’, when the best of minds were flummoxed, a colleague, whose identity I’ll diligently guard, banished me from the lunch table on learning that I had returned from a reporting assignment in Velachery.

In her mind, this locality was teeming with pigs and she had learnt that coming in contact with infected swine raised the possibility of contracting the infection.

Considering she sincerely believed civilisation was centred around Nungambakkam (where she lives) and ended at Egmore, more precisely off Ethiraj Salai (where her best buddy lives), she may be forgiven for having entertained a low view of Velachery, where land prices had already shot up considerably.

A year or two later, I remember watching a video-interview of Biju Ashokan, CEO and founder of Metroplots.com, an enterprise providing inputs to builders and buyers to help them make investment choices, in which he spoke in glowing terms about Velachery and Medavakkam.

He expressed surprise that a good number of builders, busy wooing people to OMR, seemed unaware of the potential for growth contained in these two areas.

And now, five years on, I often catch my colleague taking the road to Velachery because she believes the locality offers an abundance of stories. Fashion-conscious to the point of appearing snobbish, she writes exclusively about the good life, devouring every available scrap of information on fashion, food, entertainment and travel destinations from around the world.

At almost all times, a launch of a facility, a product or a new menu at a restaurant takes place at Phoenix Market City now for her to keep visiting Velachery. To further illustrate the point, the launch of Starbucks Coffee at this mall is round the corner.

In the United States, the entry of Starbucks into a neighbourhood is seen by many urban planners as one of the indicators of gentrification.

With hotel The Westin Chennai, an impressive count of branded food outlets, including KFC and McDonald’s, two malls, The Grand Mall being the newest addition, and a raft of shopping options provided by lifestyle showrooms, many of them lining the two-km-long 100-Feet Velachery Bye-Pass Road, Velachery is unquestionably upmarket now.

On the current situation in Velachery, Biju says, “In the central part of Velachery, constituted by areas around Phoenix Market City, there is little space available for fresh development.

Therefore, anyone drawn to Velachery has to settle down a few kilometres away from the central section.”

However, while taking Velachery as a whole, Biju points to an oversupply of apartments, the result of builders moving in in droves to take advantage of the locality’s growing profile.

“We’ve been noticing a lull in construction activity for a year. The main reason for the slow-down is the prices of apartments, which have shot up in the last four years.

Buyers are waiting for price corrections. Once this is sorted out, Velachery and its periphery will go back to being one of the favoured investment destinations in Chennai,” explains Biju.

Among strong reasons to believe Velachery will stay in the spotlight are the developments taking place all around this strategically-located area. The Velachery-Tambaram Main Road which provides key connectivity to the locality is being widened with work almost complete on certain sections of it. Developments on GST Road and OMR also fuel an interest in Velachery.

The Five Furlong Road, branching off this Velachery-Tambaram Main Road provides quick access from Velachery to GST Road via Guindy. This arterial road also connects to Sardar Patel Road, thereby providing another link to GST Road. Then, the Taramani Link Road connects OMR to Velachery. The Thoraiakkam-Pallavaram Radial Road, cutting across the Velachery-Tambaram Main Road, also makes it possible to reach OMR from Velachery. A section of the Inner Ring Road, over which runs the newly-built MRTS, enables transport from the section of GST Road, near the Airport, to Velachery.

With an array of options to reach busy corridors from Velachery and connectivity provided by the Beach-Velachery MRTS line, the locality has become a desired destination for diverse professionals. “Software professionals and students look for accommodation in Velachery because a great number of IT parks and colleges are located within a radius of 10 to 15 km and also becausedue to the fact that Velachery has malls and many retail establishments,” says Biju.

The bees will fly in where the flowers are and the growing population will be the reason for retail businesses to continue to be draw toward the locality.

From a purely shopper’s point of view, Velachery seems to be ahead of any other locality found on the Velachery-Tambaram Main Road (which is witnessing the launch of a lifestyle establishment every day). Unlike residents in any of the other areas, Selaiyur and Pallikaranai being two examples right off the top of my head, some of them having who have to travel considerable potion of this arterial road, residents of Velachery find most shopping facilities concentrated is one small section of the locality.

For almost all shopping needs, a Velachery residents may just have to drive down the length of the 100-Feet Bye-Pass Road. And after he they are is done with shopping, having travelled from one end of this two-km long road to the other, he they will be greeted with the sight of either the Phoenix Market City or The Grand Mall (which is surrounded by a rash of food outlets).

Lest the Velachery situation be seen as a perfect model, let me emphasise that the locality is getting crowded, leading to civic distress. “Most of the streets in Velachery have piped water, sewage facility and 90 per cent of storm water drain work is complete, yet the growing populationof Velachery, which is estimated to be around 3.5 lakh, makes these civic amenities, far superior to what is available in most other areas in that region, insufficient,” says S. Kumararaja, general secretary of the Federation of Velachery Residents Welfare Associations, which has around 20 groups under its influence.

The journey is far from complete. Yet, Velachery has come a long way from the days of Agassi-type mullet hairdos—the 1980s and the early 1990s, if you have not figured it out—when the locality stood as an example for unmanageable water logging issues and little else.