Shanthi Colony is no longer an exclusive residential area, cut off from the bustle. With lifestyle brands setting up shop, the once quiet locality has changed its stripes. Sunitha Sekar reports

Shanthi colony was a quiet residential locality, where rows of houses were interspersed with shops. Not anymore. It is now bustling with commerce. With commercial establishments that run the gamut of lifestyle products moving into the neighborhood, the trend of houses being converted into showrooms is on the rise.

And the spurt in commercial activity has led to traffic congestion, noise and air pollution.

Longtime residents are particularly ill-adjusted to these changes. “Lined with four-in-one and then six-in-one houses on either side, Shanthi Colony was an exclusive residential locality free of pollution and noise. There were few shops and no traffic snarls,” said 63-year-old R. Rajalakshmi, who moved into the locality in the mid-1980s.

The steady increase in shops has marred her first impression of the locality. Now, the Metro Rail project and the hustle and bustle it has brought have added considerably to her disenchantment.

“After the Metro Rail work began, there is space only for buses. I can’t relate to the area anymore,” said the 63-year-old.

The surviving houses have also shrunk in size, as if to signify their diminishing importance. Sprawling garden houses are a thing of the past.

Land comes at a premium. Land for residential purposes comes at Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 17,000 per sq.ft., say real estate brokers. Three decades ago, Mrs. Rajalakshmi had to pay only a little more than Rs. 1 lakh for her 1,000 sq.ft house.

“Rental prices are equally high. You may have to pay at least Rs.25,000 a month for a 1000 sq.ft apartment for residential use; and commercial establishments may have to spend Rs.100-120 per sq.ft a month,” said R. Ram Prasad, a real estate broker.

Nuts and Spices entered the colony as early as 2002 in the ground floor of an apartment, said Sunil Sanklecha, founder and managing partner of Nuts and Spices. “The transformation of the area could be attributed to the increasing shopping needs of the dense population in neighbouring areas. Every other day, a new shop comes up in the colony,” he added.

Eighty-year-old G. Mohandoss, a resident of the Colony for the last 18 years now, said there was a time when Shanthi Colony also allowed children to play and adults to take an evening walk. “Now, I take an auto to the Anna Nagar Tower Park for walking. Times have changed; most children have settled abroad and the street is just left with a handful of senior citizens.”

And, one may add, a slew of shops.

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