PROPERTY PLUS

The changing face of Panampilly Nagar

SHEDDING ITS RESIDENTIAL IMAGE: Panampilly Nagar is turning into a commercial hub. - Photo: H. VIBHU

SHEDDING ITS RESIDENTIAL IMAGE: Panampilly Nagar is turning into a commercial hub. - Photo: H. VIBHU  

Panampilly Nagar, in Kochi, is fast changing. It is no longer exclusively a residential locality. And land prices have hit the ceiling.

AS CITIES expand, every bit of land is put to the best use, and over time, certain areas and localities undergo a sea change. Panampilly Nagar in Kochi, a prestigious residential location, is gradually turning to be a favoured spot for offices and business houses.

The now-crowded area of Panampilly Nagar was once barren and muddy land. Only a part of the locality was used for cultivation. Perhaps, no one in those days ever thought that this place would turn into a prime residential area and a key part of Kochi.

The story of residential houses and the LIG colony of Panampilly Nagar started in 1978.

In the mid-1970s, there were only few houses in and around Panampilly Nagar. Building a house after filling up the barren land with sand and stones up to 4 feet high was a tough task for the early residents. "We spent Rs.17,000 in late 1970s for making the ground firm before starting the construction of our house," says P.K. Raghavan, one of the earliest residents of the area.

The first colony in Kochi was in Giri Nagar and the next one was in Panampilly Nagar. Those were the days when people looked down upon even the term `colony.' Says K.P Divakaran, secretary of Panampilly Nagar LIG House Owner's Association and a resident of the LIG colony for the last 10 years: "Colony, according to people, including me, meant a place for poor people to reside in. It had very little space and only a room. It was built on 1.5 cents of land and it took many years for this attitude of people to change. Today, the colony houses 348 families and is the largest one of its kind in Kochi."

The LIG colony holds the credit of being the first colony in Kochi to have had night patrolling. Contrary to the tag it carries, the LIG colony, meant to house members of the lower-income group, is now mostly filled with higher-income group people.

This colony has an efficient waste management system. "We have appointed two persons to collect waste from all houses in the colony. Food waste and other waste, including plastic are separated. Food waste is then taken to Grihamalinya Samskarana Shaala," adds Mr. Divakaran.

The number of first-hand house owners in the LIG colony is now very small. Most have moved out of the colony. They find it too small once their children grow up. Some others move out once the education of their children is over. The MIG houses, meant for middle-income group, are the abode of professionals such as doctors and advocates, apart from businessmen.

S.S. Kurup, Principal of Vidhya Vihar, South Janata Road, Palarivattom, is the secretary of the MIG House owner's Association. HIG houses, for the higher-income group, largely accommodate businessmen.

These associations are part of the Panampilly Nagar Welfare Association. Panampilly Nagar Welfare Association (PNWA) is involved in beautifying the roadsides, developing parks and keeping the area clean.

Sherly Chacko, president of Panampilly Nagar Welfare Association says: "We organise a family get-together every year. What makes it unique is that all sections of society come under one roof. Even the high-income group does not stay away from these celebrations and activities."

The Greater Cochin Development Authority had allocated locales for 18 parks in Panampilly Nagar. When there was a delay in developing these spots, they were taken over by each unit under the PNWA. Ten parks have already been opened to the residents.

Panampilly Nagar is already home to many apartment complexes and more of these are being constructed by companies such as Skyline, Mather, RDS, Nagpal Builders and BCG Builders.

A number of private companies have offices in Panampilly Nagar, which also has the Regional Passport Office, BSNL office, Panampilly Nagar Shopping Complex. It also offers the services of banks, doctors, advocates, consultants, beauty saloons and so on.

Why are people moving to what was once known only as residential location? Ravi John, director of Digital Mesh Softech India (P) Limited, says that he used to live there earlier. He decided to convert his home into an office due to the copious parking space and the locale being away from the crowded parts of the city."

As areas such as Broadway, M.G. Road, Chitoor Road are bursting at their seams, people have started moving to the less crowded spots within the city.

The residents of Panampilly Nagar are not keen on the locality taking on a `corporate' sheen. Sherly Chacko says: "With more offices and business houses moving in, the tranquillity of the place has been lost."

Thoudayil Road, which once had only houses, now has only two residences. This has also resulted in prices of real estate skyrocketing, adds Mr. Raghavan.

The offices and shops are mostly located in the Main Avenue and close to the South Overbridge, though they are now slowly expanding to the interior parts as well.

Land value is in the range of Rs.6 lakhs to Rs.7 lakhs per cent in the Main Avenue area and from Rs.3 lakhs to Rs. 5 lakhs in the other parts, depending on the location. Since vacant plots are no longer available in these areas, people buy houses mainly in the LIG colony, which comes at a price tag of Rs.5 lakhs to Rs.6 lakhs for a one bedroom house with a kitchen.

Modified houses in the LIG colony cost higher, around Rs.7 lakhs to Rs.8 lakhs. "Modified MIG houses are priced at around Rs.30 lakhs. Independent houses of 1,500 sq. ft cost approximately Rs.25 lakhs and Rs.45 lakhs to Rs.50 lakhs for a 3,000 sq.ft. house," says Dixon, proprietor of The Deal, real estate consultants.

With the arrival of people from Lakshwadeep, rent too has increased in the LIG colony. Houses which used fetch Rs.2,000 a month now taken by people from Lakshwadeep at Rs.3,000 to Rs.3,500.

Three-bedroom independent houses fetch a rent at Rs.15,000 to Rs.20,000. "Real estate dealers encourage business people to take houses on rent for setting up offices with an eye on the commission," adds Sherly Chacko.

RESMI JAIMON

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