Lucknow. The name in itself evokes a charming picture of an architecture seeped in the grandeur of Nawabi ada and tehzeeb; impressive,spacious buildings,leisurely edifices and Nawabi opulence. For decades,that has been the image of the city that its people carried with them. But while the imambaras,the baghs and the mahals of the 18th and 19th centuries remain intact,they no longer dominate the consciousness of the people anymore. With the rush of development,Lucknow too is witness to a changing lifestyle along with a fast changing skyline. So instead of sprawling kothis with a garden in the forefront and an aangan at the back,an increasing number of Lucknowites are now shifting into vertical spaces,where they no longer yearn for that own piece of land below their feet and a terrace of their own above their heads,in contrast to the earlier generation.
As a result,the new Lucknow is replete with sprouting residential towers,swanky malls and huge commercial enclaves all over the city and also on its outskirts. The spurt in growth and the craving for ones own space actually matches up with,and at times races past the frenetic pace of development visible in the National Capital Region.
The fast and furious pace of construction activities to build modern,vertical spaces,heralds Lucknow as the new real estate capital of Uttar Pradesh,pushing Noida and Greater Noida behind,especially with price of land in the heart of the city ruling from Rs 5,500-7500 per sq ft,and Rs 3,000-4,000 per sq ft on the outskirts.
Sanjay Seth,managing director of SAS Hotels and Properties,who has changed the skyline of the citys main market area,Hazratganj and Mahanagar,feels that the huge demand for flats in Lucknow stems from the fact that a huge number of people from districts adjoining the state capital are wanting to set up base in the city.
While earlier,people living in the interiors of the city wanted to come to the main area,now,people who stay in nearby districts,say about 200-300 kms away,want to have a base in the city as it offers better living conditions,including better infrastructure,better educational facilities etc. And the governments move,inviting the private sector to set up integrated and hi-tech townships,has certainly helped. With the bigger private builders emphasising on providing good infrastructure,the flat or apartment culture has finally arrived in Lucknow for good, says Seth.
SK Garg,CMD of realty firm Eldeco endorses Seths view that migration from the far east and central parts of the state has changed the rules of the game. Lucknow,with its good infrastructure,a robust culture and better civic amenities,has attracted both builders and buyers. So we now have not only reputed local players but also the big players who were hitherto active in Delhi and the NCR,such as API Sushant,DLF,Omaxe,Parsvanath,Rohtas,etc. More and more people are liking the concept of flats for their accompanying benefits such as good security,common amenities and less maintenance, says Garg.
Another reason why apartments in Lucknow are getting a ready market,feels Seth,is the fact that people have got a taste of the world outside are demanding the same here.
The premium housing segment is very well appreciated in Lucknow,with people demanding a good lifestyle. As a consequence,we have started designing and constructing premium flats and high-end villas,which have large open spaces,swimming pools,gymnasiums,etc. And they are willing to pay for the luxuries, says Seth,whose company is building high-end villas priced at Rs 2 crore upwards. The real estate scene in Lucknow is at par,if not better than Noida.
But then who has the money to buy such properties? Seth says that almost 55-60 per cent of the buyers live outside the city,out of which 10 per cent are NRIs. Within UP and infact,within the whole of northern India,NRIs are preferring to have a base in Lucknow as it has all the pre-requisites of a good life. With the real estate market in the city looking up,at least for the next few years,they feel it is a safe investment, says Seth.
However,Garg sounds a note of caution. Land in Lucknow is fast becoming precious,especially so as a substantial amount of the land bank is being swallowed by builders who are constructing unauthorised colonies. The mushrooming of these colonies all over,without any regulatory control is also adding to civic problems such as inadequate sewage and bad roads,making things worse.
BUCKING THE TREND
A question that remains unanswered is how did Lucknow buck the recessionary trend in realty? Garg says the only reason is that demand is far ahead of supply. There was a steady demand for the upper middle class and premium segment,which kept the market going. But in about a couple of years,demand from this segment this will even out and then there will be a problem. What the construction industry now needs to focus on is building affordable housing,which still has a huge demand supply gap. At present,there is a need for 1.5 lakh affordable housing in the bracket of Rs 10-20 lakh in Lucknow,which is not being addressed by either the private or the public sector.
An official of the finance department of the state government says that the City of Nawabs is fast evolving as a significant realty destination,with the entry of top national players such as Parsvnath,Eldeco,Ansals,Omaxe,Sahara,Unitech.
The current boom can be seen in the developments spreading out of traditional areas like Hazratganj to newer emerging growth centers like that of Mahanagar,Gomti Nagar,Janakipuram and other suburbs, the official said,declining to be named.
It has assumed significant proportions along various highways connecting the city with other important places like Kanpur,Raebareli,Faizabad and Sitapur. With almost 100 local and national developers active with about 10,000 residential units,half a dozen shopping malls and a dozen hotels in the pipeline,the Lucknow urbanscape would no longer be the same again.