Real Estate

Rise of the urban square

The Kathipara urban square, Chennai, has bus bays, food stalls, retail outlets and a landscaped space. | Photo Credit: Velankanni Raj B.

Vacant spaces or land parcels within a residential zone in any city that can be converted into productive open spaces and used as a melting pot of culture and activities for the residents are called urban squares/plazas. Here, we have done an impact assessment of creating urban squares/plazas in nearby real estate developments since they provide economic benefits by attracting trade and becoming marketplaces for commercial activities. Times Square, New York, is one of the most prominent examples of urban square development. Times Square also hosts various activities and ceremonies throughout the year.

Price appreciation

In global cities, the average presence of an urban square within walking distance from an apartment increased the price by 5% to 8%. The impact of price appreciation is more for newer apartments. Close vicinity (less than 100 metres distance) to an urban square increased the sales prices of apartments in new residential buildings by 15% to 20%. The commercial retail spaces within these squares command a premium in rentals due to higher footfalls. Looking ahead, there is a huge opportunity for Indian cities to benefit from entwining urban squares in their city planning.

Indian cities have the immense potential of converting pockets of vacant land into an urban square which would be beneficial to citizens and add value to the authorities owning these land parcels. It’s because we don’t have planned large-scale urban squares in our cities other than community parks. They are essential for enhancing the city image and community development and can be created as spots for recreational activities, adding revenue streams for the land owners. Land owners will also get rental income and charge a premium on increased demand for residential units in their complexes. We can build these spaces in small areas too, which are very close to transportation networks as these play an essential role in enhancing the quality of urban life. Squares need to have qualities of permeability, legibility, opportunities and robustness to support different purposes.

Enhanced facilities

As the population of the country grows, so does the need for infrastructure and facilities. Hence, the urban square is one of the most important public spaces in the urban environment. Some of the Indian cities are considering these vacant land parcels to be redeveloped as urban squares with amenities and open spaces.

Meanwhile, in Chennai, Kathipara urban square, T. Nagar pedestrian plaza and central square were developed as exclusive spaces. Kathipara urban square, inaugurated in December 2021, consists of bus bays, food stalls, retail outlets, a play area for children, and a landscaped space.

T. Nagar pedestrian plaza was established in November 2019, with the aim of utilising the additional road space to incorporate all essential pedestrian amenities and to create a traffic-free social space. People have a place to walk, shop and eat freely. The central square, launched in March 2022, is meant to ease congestion along the Poonamallee High Road and integrate several modes of transportation in the city. In addition to underground passages and subways connecting people to the railway station, the intersection also has bus bays, auto stands, and taxi drop-off points to facilitate seamless travel from one mode of transport to another. It also acts as a multi-modal transport hub and a connecting point.

Connectivity is the most essential parameter in the successful development of the square. The surroundings should have more pedestrian areas and a high-quality cycling path.

Another important factor is a dedicated parking space, as well as the availability of electric bicycles and charging stations.

Authorities should consider converting vacant land parcels into urban squares, especially in metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Life in these cities is ever-growing and stressful, which demands places where people can relax and socialise cross-culturally.

The writer is Head — Strategic Consulting and Valuation Advisory, India, JLL.


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Printable version | Apr 29, 2022 6:21:41 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/real-estate/rise-of-the-urban-square/article65337878.ece