New Delhi: In giving its station a makeover, the Indian Railways can learn a lot from projects in developed countries that make optimal utilisation of real estate. This realisation was put to practice at the day-long workshop on Monday organised by the Indian Railway Station Redevelopment Corporation (IRSDC) and World Resource Institute (WRI)-India, where the Hudson Yards redevelopment project in New York was discussed.
The Hudson Yards project involves five 50-90 storeyed commercial-cum-residential towers, malls and large public squares on a 28-acre expanse. The entire complex is being constructed over an operational rail yard. Urban development experts cite this as an example that can be emulated by Indian railway networks.
One of the most important aspects of the New York project is its integration with the rest of the city. “The rail yard was considered a big hole in the city. It was dead area. But this project will bring vibrancy to the area, as we will have commercial and residential spaces here,” said Charlotte Matthews, vice-president, Related Companies.
The integration with public spaces is an interesting angle of the redevelopment. “The iconic structures, which will be used for commercial and residential purpose, will become the nerve centre of the city,” said SK Lohia, CEO, IRSDC.
This American project can be the inspiration for the Indian Railways, which too is planning to redevelop the stations and the areas around them. Experts say it is possible to plan real estate development above the tracks. IRSDC, which is in the advance stages of planning its first few redevelopment projects in Bhopal and Delhi, can implement a lot of the things being done at the Hudson Yard. “For instance, the extensive use of green technology,” pointed out Lohia. “All the structures have LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ratings.”
While housing is a crucial component in the Hudson project, IRSDC is not focusing on it in any of its project. As most the projects will be rented on lease for 45 years, ownership issues will prevent housing from being considered. However, urban planners pointed out that Transit Oriented Development (TOD) without housing is a futile exercise. “The redeveloped space will be dead after 8 pm,” said Amit Bhatt, director Transport, EMBARQ India. “Housing will not only provide dedicated clientele to the commercial complexes in the project, but also add vibrancy to them.”
Urban development experts said they would be happy with as limited a provision for car parking as possible as in the Hudson Yard project. “The whole purpose of TOD is defeated if we provide parking,” said Matthews. “The project area in New York is well-connected with the rest of the city. There are excellent public transport facilities 5-10 minutes’ walk away.” It is for this that experts in India say there is a need to amend TOD policies, which force developers to construct adequate parking facilities.
Another change that planners want is about open spaces. In India, they said, there is no clarity on the concept of public spaces. The TOD policy stresses on 20% of the total area being developed as open spaces. But urban planners say this percentage needs to be increased. “Look at the Hudson project, they have redeveloped 50% of the area into public space. We too have to provide people with active open spaces,” said Bhatt.