It is shedding its crime-prone-area image and attracting more commercial and residential developers

Somewhere amid those narrow roads, congestion and pollution, north Chennai's profile seems to be gradually changing. Right from shedding its image of being a crime-prone area to attracting more developers to build commercial and residential projects, things are looking up.

However, the growth rate is much slower, compared to the southern and central parts of the localities.

Apartment complexes, existing and upcoming, in areas such as Tondiarpet, Kondithope, Sevenwells, Muthialpet, Old Washermenpet, Perambur, Mint and Otteri are wiping out some of the misconceptions about the area.

Samuel David, a resident of Tiruvottiyur, has been on the lookout for a flat for the last two years. A house at Corporation Colony, Tondiarpet, was one of his choices but he did not pursue the option as it was beyond his budget.

Mr. David recently booked a 790-sq. ft. flat costing Rs.22 lakh in Tondiarpet. “Accessibility was one of my criteria as my wife works in an Anglo-Indian school in Broadway. We are close to railway station and travelling would not be a hassle,” he says.

Infrastructure projects

Driving the growth in the last few years are the infrastructure projects that were implemented. The Perambur flyover and the Perambur Locoworks road overbridge brought some relief to the traffic congestion.

Many more projects such as the ambitious Rs.600-crore Chennai-Ennore Port road connectivity project, flyovers in Mint and Moolakadai junctions and a vehicular subway near Government Stanley Hospital are underway.

The proposal on extension of Metro Rail project up to Tiruvottiyur has been sent to the Central Government for approval. According to data from the office of the Inspector General of Registrations, 67,066 documents were registered from April to December in the financial year 2010 in north Chennai, compared to 92,975 documents registered in south Chennai. Officials say that the documents registered include change of will, re-sale and mortgage.

After six projects in north Chennai, Harish Marlecha, one of the directors of Arihant Foundations, says the company is looking at potential areas such as Mint, Sowcarpet and Walltax Road that are dominated by the business community.

Owners of old houses are either selling to developers or going for a joint venture.

The rising property prices are another indication of development. Eight months ago when IVR Prime launched individual villas in Minjur it was selling at Rs. 300 per sq. ft. Now, it is priced at Rs. 450.

In February 2010, when Prince Foundations launched the first phase of its project in a 15-acre area in Tondiarpet, it was priced at Rs. 2,300 per sq ft. Today, it is sold at Rs. 3,000. “When we launch the second phase, the price is more likely to go up,” says Ashwin K. Kamdar, its Chairman and Managing Director.

Healthcare, a challenge

Pollution caused various factories nearby is one of the major disadvantages in these areas. While some are moving out to other localities, many have remained rooted to the place.

Availability of healthcare is another issue. The Government Stanley Hospital needs more facilities. Retired government paediatricians say the Institute of Social Paediatrics in the hospital should be upgraded on a par with the Institute of Child Health so that parents do not have to rush to the ICH.

The government has introduced a fleet of ambulances that can be reached on 108, but it is inadequate to cater to the residents of north Chennai. With a population of 2.5 lakh, Tiruvottiyur has access to only one ambulance and depends on Stanley Hospital and a private multispecialty hospital for treatment. The government is building a new facility but it will take at least a year to become completely functional, says municipal chairman A. Jayaraman.

Crime-prone?

North Chennai also battles the image of being crime-prone. But Joint Commissioner of Police (North) S.N. Seshasai says better policing in the last decade had considerably reduced the crime rate.

Another reason for the drop in crime rate is the influx of migrant labourers, who are more focussed on their jobs, he says.

Old world charm

Ancestral houses are slowly replaced with new complexes, but the old world charm is here to stay, say historians. “The charm of north Madras still continues with the St. George Fort as the main piece of architecture, as it still holds the mirror to the past,” says historian K.R.A. Narasiah.

Indo Saracenic buildings remind of the past. The Madras High Court is a testimony to the history of the past centuries. So are the old buildings and the harbour, he adds.

(With inputs from Liffy Thomas, K. Lakshmi and R. Sujatha)

What they say

Ashwin K. Kamdar, Chairman and Managing Director, Prince Foundations Limited: Ten years ago there were no buyers for lands in north Chennai. Its crime prone image hardly attracted investors and people had little trust in builders. The scenario has now changed a lot. A reasonably priced residential project with a choice of apartments in various sizes sell very well among the middle income group.

Ninety per cent of the flats at our upcoming projects in Tondiarpet has sold out, of this 80 per cent are going to be users.

Juzer Akbar, businessman, Parry’s Corner: I have been residing in Parry’s Corner since my birth.

The congestion has become very much a part of north Chennai, but it is well connected and suits best for anyone doing a business. That’s also why we have decided to invest in a flat in Tondiarpet.

Construction of more shopping malls and steps to reduce pollution should be given focus.

K.R.A.Narasiah, Historian: North Chennai earlier meant the villages of Tiruvottiyur, Ponneri and Elumur. It was the centre of trade and wealth. After Independence, the changing pattern of society with its culture and learning drew more importance to the South especially Mylapore. With the advent of Rukmini Devi Arundale's Kalakshetra and Muthulakshmi Reddy's Avvai Illam, the south started having more influence on people’s life style. In the last two decades, the information technology explosion contributed to the paradigm shift in the progress of south Chennai than the north. Yet business houses continue to thrive in north Chennai.

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