Chennai’s pedestrian plaza blueprint: on the two projects coming up at MC Road and Khader Nawaz Khan Road

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Last month, the Greater Chennai Corporation announced two new pedestrian plaza projects, at North Chennai’s M.C. Road and Nungambakkam’s Khader Nawaz Khan (KNK) Road. Part of the Chennai City Partnership, the new plazas — being built at a cost of approximately ₹40 crore — will be created on the lines of the pedestrian plaza at T. Nagar’s bustling Pondy Bazaar launched in late 2019.

A collaborative effort between Greater Chennai Corporation, Chennai Smart City Limited, Oasis Designs Inc, Jana Urban Space Foundation and the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), the projects aim to transform the selected streets in these neighbourhoods along three guiding principles: seamless mobility for all, whether pedestrians, cyclists, women, children, elderly, or differently-abled; enhancing liveability with measures such as outdoor seating and play areas; and long-lasting urban infrastructure.

(left) MC Road at present; (right) the proposed design

(left) MC Road at present; (right) the proposed design   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Originally, six locations, viz. Tondiarpet, Velachery, Mylapore, Nungambakkam, Adyar, and Anna Nagar, were studied for the plaza project, says a GCC official. “We picked MC Road as we wanted to focus on North Chennai’s potential, and KNK Road, which is a popular area, but has poor facilities,” he says, adding that the designs are more comprehensive this time around, given their prior experience planning for the Pondy Bazaar plaza. “Now that the T. Nagar plaza has taken off, people [shopkeepers, vendors, etc] are more open to the idea and want one in their locality.”

Both projects will be tendered for implementation by end-October and are slated to be completed between 9 and 12 months.

We spoke to Aswathy Dilip, Senior Programme Manager, ITDP; and to Shashank Achanthodi and Gayathri Muthuramakrishnan, Senior Associates, Jana Urban Space Foundation, Project Consultant, to get more details about the two projects, respectively.

MC Road, Washermenpet, North Chennai

Why MC Road? It is a 1.9 km street comprising 800 m of a market street; footfalls cross 40,000 during festivals and on weekends. The street is currently characterised with no footpaths, chaotic motorised traffic, unorganised parking and vendors, with heavy pedestrian traffic.

With the aim to provide seamless movement for pedestrians as well as organised spaces for vendors, the design integrates all major public transport routes, with multi-modal integration provided at entry points and near the Metro station.

(left) MC Road at present; (right) the proposed design

(left) MC Road at present; (right) the proposed design   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It will include five major nodes — an entry plaza at the Cemetery Road junction; a pedestrian promenade near Robinson Ground; a temple park near Thulukanathamman temple; a ‘traffic calmed’ junction at JP Koil Kamaraj Monument Park; and one at BSNL junction.

There will also be upgraded utilities such as storm water drains, new sewer drains with riders, water supply pipes and electrical ducts, telecom ducts, and a proposed gas connection. For the elderly and the differently-abled, shuttle services are also being planned.

Pondy Bazaar in 2021
  • While the pedestrian plaza has been a boon for pedestrians and has given the shopping hub a much-needed overhaul, implementation of parking management continues to be a sore point. A recent visit proved this — vehicles were parked in no-parking zones and on footpaths and several motorists were flouting rules. “We have come a long way in Pondy Bazaar. From serious pushback to the project, the shopkeepers are now proud of it, and their firm request was to allow traffic to ply. As part of this dialogue, the design was changed to allow vehicles to ply while more than 50% of the street space is dedicated to public spaces. As for on-street parking, strict enforcement is the need of the hour,” says Dilip of ITDP.
  • We need better campaigning for people to use the Multi-level Car Parking (MLCP) in the area, says the GCC official. “When you start charging people for parking, the demand comes down but we are working on enforcement by introducing new parking formats such as valet parking, etc.”

Street vendors are today housed off-street near the Robinson Ground with a thatched roof, and this space will be redesigned and integrated with the new design.

With parking a major headache, parking space for two wheelers and cycles will be provided near Anna Park.

These ambitious designs are undergoing final reviews. Citizen feedback sessions were conducted that saw the participation of residents, shop keepers, street vendors, shoppers, local non-profit organisations, women, persons with disabilities, staff from local schools, local religious trusts, traffic police, among other officials.

The design of the street will be tested at the end of September for traffic re-routing. Temporary public spaces will be created at the Cemetery Road junction, BSNL junction, and around the Thulukanathamman temple, where various events will be planned.

(above) KNK Road at present; (below) the proposed design

(above) KNK Road at present; (below) the proposed design   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Nungambakkam, Central Chennai

Why KNK Road? This bustling road has been a primary commercial destination for many in the city but remains congested with poor pedestrian and parking facilities. The new plaza aims to change this, making the streetscape more accessible to all users.

The idea is to increase the width of pedestrian-only zones, while providing traffic calming measures, dedicated parking bays and improving overall safety by reducing user conflicts.

The redesign will include a complete overhaul of the ageing utility networks beneath the roads along with the at-grade and above-grade improvements. This will ensure that there is no repeated digging up of the road in the near future. The road has enclosed islands with multiple trees located within them, and the proposal will integrate these spaces into the design to create a well-shaded, walkable and active public plaza. Additional landscaping along the roads is also proposed.

(above) KNK Road at present; (below) the proposed design

(above) KNK Road at present; (below) the proposed design   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The proposal promises to allocate designated vending spaces for hawkers.

Dedicated parking bays proposed along the stretch will be integrated into the city’s smart parking management system. Apart from this, any underutilised parking potential in the area will be tapped into. Seamless integration with existing and proposed public transit is on the cards.

A detailed project report and tender drawings with estimates is being prepared.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 2:14:53 AM |

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