East Coast Road is the new address of the upwardly mobile, what with a number of villa projects coming up

Far from the madding crowd, East Coast Road has been the most sought-after option for a short break from the routine. But with development extending right up to Mamallapuram, thanks to easy connectivity provided by it, people are not only investing in high-end villas coming up along the road but also willing to relocate for a good share of tranquillity.

This is evident when you take a drive on the stretch blooming with red bougainvillea and yellow flowers, protruding from compound walls. Young men at the toll plaza handing out brochures of upcoming villas houses on Poonthadalam village; trucks unloading construction material at Kunal Garden in Akkarai; the tall banners showing lavish villas — ECR is clearly the new address for the upwardly mobile.

For the last 10 years, the Rengarajans always found solace driving to their two-ground property on Kovalam Main Road as a weekend getaway or to celebrate. “We knew that as an investment, ECR will always be a good bet. Of late we have also been thinking of letting it out on a corporate lease, so that the property is well maintained,” says Srikala Rengarajan, a resident of Thiruvanmiyur. But that may be difficult with the high rentals in the area and many families opting to purchase property.

“Earlier, people chose ECR to build weekend homes or for long-term investment appreciation. Of late, there has been a steady influx of people settling down in localities such as Neelangarai, Injambakkam, Sholinganallur and Akkarai,” says Sanjay Chugh, founder, Skylines Property Consultant. A few years ago the settlements were restricted to Thiruvanmiyur, Kottivakkam and Palavakkam.

“The eastern side of the ECR still attracts a premium over the western side. Prices for residential land range between Rs.50 lakh to Rs.1.50 crore per ground,” he says. According to him, plots that have been approved by the DTCP (Department of Town and Country Planning) are attracting ready buyers.

Besides individuals investing in plots, many developers have also launched high-end projects. Landmark Construction, for instance, will be starting work on a project in Palavakkam and Neelangarai and two in Uthandi. “Villas draw a lot of expats, fetch a good rental and are a good investment option too. I have entrepreneurs and NRIs who are ready to invest in these properties that start from Rs. 5.8 crore to Rs. 7 crore,” says T. Udaya Kumar, managing director of the company.

Besides, 13 other villa projects in all are coming up between Muthukad and Thiruvanmiyur.

Low density

While construction of houses on the ECR has had its set of hurdles like Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and aquifer zone clearances, developers say the potential is getting explored now. But it is the regulations that had preserved this stretch until now: permission for construction in the aquifer recharge area came only in 2008 and it specifies that minimum plot size should be 440 sq.m. and floor space index (FSI) 0.8. The low FSI and plot coverage was mandatory to keep the ground open for recharge. The height of buildings is restricted to 8.5 m with maximum plot coverage of 40 percent. The CRZ protects the aquifer recharge area as well as unauthorised construction from coming up close to the beach front (500 m from the high tide line).

With Kottivakkam, Palavakkam and Neelangarai reclassified from CRZ III to CRZ II, there are other concerns that are being raised. Officials from the CMDA say if construction regulations are strictly adhered to, there will not be any impact on the density of an area or the number of people accommodated. “We have delegated powers to the local bodies to check if regulations are being adhered to,” says an official. Many residents still have doubts pertaining to high tide and black-topped road.

While either side of the East Coast Road continues to witness development, residents such as Sanjay Sridhar, who moved out of busy of T. Nagar for a peaceful life in Neelangarai, want garbage cleared regularly and the beaches maintained. “It used to take 10 minutes to reach Adyar from my home when I moved in eight years back, now it is 30 minutes,” he adds.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012

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