For Shyama P. Chakroborty, the sky is indeed the limit. He has flown the MiG 25 at Mach 3.5, successfully swum the English Channel from Dover to Calais, trekked to the Everest base camp and even made it all the way to the North Pole. He is a professor of astronautical and aerospace engineering at UCLA and heads an aerospace company involved in making rockets, missiles and satellites. He also owns a penthouse in South City on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
Air-conditioned lobby, high-speed automatic lifts, full power back-up, well-appointed public areas, superior cladding on walls, close-circuit video surveillance, latest fire-combat contraptions… Shower cubicle or vertical jacuzzi in the master bathroom, vitrified or granite on floors and stairways, imported aluminium windows, luxurious semi-furnished interiors… The works.
Add to this the swimming pool, the synthetic tennis court, a well-equipped gymnasium, ultra-violet/reverse osmosis water purifier in the kitchen, children’s playground, and it becomes almost picture-perfect. But for a price – anything between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 2.5 crore.
Yes, you read it right. Crorepati condominium living is in and it’s not just high-fliers like Chakroborty who are moving into luxury apartments in Calcutta. With the evolution of every trade, the consumer shifts from commodity to brand. That has started happening in Calcutta now, feels Pradip Chopra, honorary secretary, Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India, Bengal.
“People are not looking just for an apartment anymore, they are seeking status and lifestyle in their address too and are keenly engaged in the connotations the brand name of a property evokes,” says Chopra. Recognising the fancy for the exclusive, developers are falling over one another to offer that something extra which would swing the buyer deal.
“Today, families are becoming nuclear and there’s little time left for entertainment, recreation or sporting activities, with 10 to 12-hour workdays eating into your leisure. So, a basket of amenities linked to one’s address makes life that much more comfortable, allowing you more time to relax and de-stress,” observes Harsh Neotia, managing director, Bengal Ambuja Housing Development Ltd.
Although there were the Babylons and Niladris in Alipore before, it was Neotia’s EM Bypass initiative Udita, the high-end towers inside Udayan, The Condoville, conceptualised by visionary architect Balkrishna Doshi, that really set the lifestyle trend in town.
The high-end apartments in Udita with their “home-plus” add-ons are now fetching a premium of around Rs 1,000 per sq ft on resale. “It’s like a complete community, with practically the world at your doorstep,” says cardiac surgeon Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, a Udita resident.
Retire or revel
Today, anyone seeking a lifestyle address in the city is virtually spoilt for choice. Just next to Udita stands Hiland Park, a towering statement in contemporary living. The duplexes are spread over three levels and 3,000 sq ft with an additional 609 sq ft of open terrace gardens, while the penthouses are on two levels, taking up 3,300 sq ft each with a roof garden of 1,750 sq ft.
The high-profile Tower Four of South City on Prince Anwar Shah Road with semi-fitted apartments featuring wooden/vitrified floors, split air-conditioning in living and dining areas, shower cubicles in all the bathrooms and much more was “extremely well received” at the four-stop UK roadshow, claim the developers.
If the South City roadshow trundled through the UK and West Asia, the “relationship marketing” machinery focussed on the US, from where 50 per cent of international bookings come. And the findings were consistent – Calcutta remains a good city to retire in for most, a suitable address for a summer or winter home for some, and a favourite family house gift option for a few.
“Our objective is to raise the benchmark and aspiration levels with innovative products and credible developments. The buyer today is extremely conscious and values well-conceived properties, lush landscaping, efficient services and maintenance… In other words, zero-stress living,” observes Anil Khetawat of South City.
Piyush Bhagat, developer of the “five-star outside, five-star inside” Silver Spring complex on the Bypass next to ITC Sonar Bangla Sheraton & Towers, agrees: “Today’s aware apartment buyer wants a comprehensive community infrastructure, complete with shopping, leisure, sports and fine-dining options delivered at the doorstep, with an affordable price tag too.” Bhagat was also involved in the development of Space Town, another early-bird landmark lifestyle complex near the airport linked to the swank “21st-century club” Space Circle.
Price is no bar for NRIs as well as a burgeoning breed of super-premium home-seekers in the city, feels Nandu Belani of the Belani Group, developers of Belmont Apartments, a lavish 24-unit property in Alipore with its own tennis court, swimming pool and ultra-modern gymnasium. Belani, almost ploughing a lone furrow in the high-end luxury segment, has left no polished stone unturned to pamper the buyer, with prices ranging between Rs 90 lakh and Rs 1.2 crore.
There’s a lot of snob value attached to such premium apartments, with NRIs accounting for a substantial share of the pie. Buoyed by the response to Belmont, Belani is developing another “super-exclusive” property – Greenwoods – on DL Khan Road. Comprising only five units – four duplexes and one single-level apartment, the project, with customised interiors, will have three servants’ quarters each and cost between Rs 1.5 and Rs 2.5 crore.
Buildings as a brand
Proof of the growing demand for super-luxury apartments is evident in the number of plum projects in the pipeline. While La Palmerie on Ballygunge Circular Road, also by the Belani Group, is ready to take off, it has lined up two more projects on Queens Park and Ballygunge Park Road. Ballygunge will also be home to Rajasthali by the Emjay Group, a 16-bungalow complex in Rajput splendour, each with a built-up area of around 4,500 sq ft.
Chopra of the PS Group, however, feels comfort and style shouldn’t cost the earth. So, “luxury and peace of mind” for the middle-income group is what Sherwood Estate in Narendrapur promises. “Our apartments won’t cost more than Rs 13.5 lakh and the bouquet of facilities in terms of both hardware and software would match any other development of that size,” he declares.
Rukmani Parasmani of the Mani Group, another serious aspirant in the lifestyle residential segment, was launched internationally at the North American Bengali Conference in Baltimore and thereafter softly peddled here, pending official launch.
“A slice of lifestyle is craved for by all and it’s our endeavour to cater to the needs of as large a customer base as possible,” says Mani Group CEO Sanjay Jhunjhunwala.
Notwithstanding the general ebullience about the purple end of the spectrum, a tempering note rings from a tall-tower titan himself. “Calcutta must do something dramatically different to really address the lifestyle segment. Up until now, we have been mostly tinkering on the sidelines. To arrive in the lifestyle arena, we need more brands,” warns Sumit Dabriwal, managing director, Calcutta Metropolitan Group, developers of Hiland Park.
That’s where the likes of DLF come in. The makers of the DLF City in Gurgaon have already kicked off their IT-retail construction combo at Rajarhat and thrown their hat into the expression-of-interest ring for a 100-acre township in New Town.
Also queuing up for a big bite into the real-estate boom are names like Unitech, Shapoorji Pallonji, the Hiranandanis and the Rahejas.
(EM Bypass, opposite SRFTI)
• Duplexes spread over three levels and 3,000 sq ft
• Penthouses on two levels, over 3,300 sq ft
• Roof garden of 1,750 sq ft
• County, the sports and recreation facility
RATE ROOF: Rs 50-65 lakh
(EM Bypass, beside Sonar Bangla)
• AC lobby on ground floor
• Master bathroom fitted with jacuzzi in premium units
• New-age family club
• Integrated shopping arcade
RATE ROOF: Rs 30-50 lakh
(Prince Anwar Shah Road)
• Stretcher-cum-service lift
• In-house gas bank
• Garbage chutes
• Broadband connectivity
• Modern school with all facilities
• 750,000-sq ft shopping mall
• Resort-type club
RATE ROOF: Rs 35 lakh onwards
• AC lobby, with marble and granite floors
• Swimming, tennis, gym
• Children’s playground
• AC community hall
RATE ROOF: Rs 90 lakh-1.2 crore
(Bypass, opposite Salt Lake stadium)
• Club, community hall
• Atrium-like lobby
• Children’s play area
• Convenience shops, ATMs
• Imported marble in living-dining area; shower cubicle in master bathrooms
• UV water purifiers in every kitchen
RATE ROOF: Rs 50 lakh-1.25 crore