Life’s evening sun is sinking low
A few more days and I must go
To meet the deeds that I have done
Where there will be no setting sun.
Chef Mehernosh Khajotia recites this old hymn as he looks out of the window of his Kemps Corner apartment at the gigantic edifice that will soon block his sunset view forever.
“My last sunset view,” Khajotia posted on his Facebook page recently . “There was a time when my family could stand and enjoy an uninterrupted view of the city .Thanks to the building that has come up in front of me I can still see my sun set through its skeleton, but there will be a time soon when it will only be a memory ,” he adds ruefully .
Developers of luxury skyscrapers are enticing clients by promising them unobstructed, panoramic views–for which they charge a hefty premium. But in the midst of a construction frenzy with humungous towers springing up on narrow plots, people who pay big bucks for “sky villas” and penthouses are beginning to realize that there’s nothing like an unhindered view.
Ask residents of Lodha Bellissimo, an ultra-luxury tower at Mahalaxmi, who paid a few crores each for the clear view the apartments offered of the 227-acre race course and the sea beyond. Soon after they moved in, a builder on the adjoining plot started construction on an 82-storey skyscraper. The new tower, Lokhandwala Minerva, is barely 30m away and has completely blocked not only Bellisimo’s racecourse view but also its ventilation.
One Bellissimo resident said his family is now forced to switch on the lights even during the day . Another resident said prices in this luxury tower no longer fetch the premium prices they once did. “The prices are half of that of similar towers in the area,” he claimed.
Said Gautam Saraf, MD (Mumbai) of global property consultant, Cushman & Wakefield India, “Many projects, especially in south Mumbai, command a premium on account of scenic views of the sea, race course, clubs, etc. Home buyers of premium and luxury projects also pay floor rise charges to avail such views. It is true that given the scarcity of land in the city , constructions is bound to grow vertically and hence, there is no guarantee of unobstructed view. This would definitely impact the price of the project in the first level sale, and the valuation of the property too during resale.”
In Bandra’s Pali village, Neil Pereira, who lives in a 150-year-old cottage, has been waging a lone battle against high-rise towers that have been allowed to come a few feet away from his property. “One of the two buildings have eaten up 15 feet of a public passage. Another one has two illegal floors,” he alleged. Pereira points out at several other ancient cottages, which have been overshadowed by towers just metres away . “Our view and ventilation have been obstructed,” he said. “But no one cares.”
Veteran architect Kamu Iyer said the promises of panoramic views go back to the 1970s, when skyscrapers first started proliferating in Mumbai. “The panoramic view is that of the next building. Since long, builders have been selling a dream when the reality is so different,” he said.
Iyer blamed the wrong policies of the government, which allow excessive heights of buildings without any relation to the street capacity and overcrowding on the roads.
New York-based architect Arzan Sam Wadia said buildings in the heart of downtown New York once had views of the sea and the Jersey shoreline in the distance.”However, in the early 1980s, land was reclaimed and Battery Park City was formed, and all of a sudden residents of Battery Park City had the view,” he said. The promise of spectacular view is is a “marketing gimmick”, Wadia added. “From my experience it originates from the demands of the developer or real-estate sales agents. It is what is referred to by architects as the `money shot’. Whether one actually gets that view is left to conjecture.”
“In an urban context, it would be unwise to think that views will be forever,” he added.
Urban critic and New York resident Roberta Brandes Gratz said any new apartment tower has to “offer more appeal than a good view, which, of course, could be blocked by the next tower”.
“New residences need street-level appeal even more: interesting stores, street life and public amenities. But these are the kinds of things being demolished to make way for new towers,” she said.
The same phenomenon is happening in New York, too, Brandes Gratz added. “Real neighbourhoods, rich street life, local businesses and public amenities are being replaced by repetitive, boring towers.”
Credits ET Realty