Instead of executing plans for meeting future needs, the city has been playing catch-up, trying to tackle ongoing scenarios and meet the unforeseen demands
Anyone who has experienced urban life in Dhaka will tell you how everything looks and feels like a big mess. That is because most of it is. There are only a handful of areas today that are either fully “residential” or “commercial” – a number of “hybrid” zones have emerged throughout the capital city. A major reason for that is because very few places have experienced significant planned growth of any type. Most of it has been organic – driven and determined by people and the passage of time.
Instead of executing plans for meeting future needs, the city has been playing catch-up, trying to tackle ongoing scenarios and meet the unforeseen demands. This unexpected and unpredicted demand has led to the creation of the aforementioned “hybrid” areas that were originally destined for something else, but had to adapt to the growing needs of the people – and this has spilled over to even the most planned areas as well.
The rising stars
The Bashundhara Residential Area has, perhaps, experienced the most change among all the other areas in Dhaka. The area was poised to be a fully fledged residential zone with minimal commercial or office spaces. And while Bashundhara R/A still upholds all its promises, there has been a tremendous surge of demand for commercial properties in the area over the last few years. The demand, as well as availability, for residential-commercial flats has skyrocketed throughout the area. Around 4.39% of total commercial space demand that Bproperty received till November 2019 was for Bashundhara R/A.
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In comparison, Motijheel, the administrative and financial hub of Dhaka, received only about 3.42%. This is a sharp contrast to just a decade or so ago, when every organization was vying to have a foothold in Motijheel.
Property owners, having seen the growing demand, have stepped up and are looking to rent or sell to businesses more and more, as evident by the fact that commercial spaces constitute about 7.89% of total available properties in Bashundhara R/A at the moment – as per Bproperty’s database.
Similar to Bashundhara R/A, Mirpur, Uttara, Dhanmondi and Mohammadpur are seeing a lot of demand for commercial real estate as well. Uttara, in particular, has far exceeded its original predictions and estimations in terms of commercial space allocation. The “North Dhaka Satellite Town,” which was subsequently rechristened as “Uttara Residential Town,” was supposed to be just that – a residential zone that ensures comfortable living. But population pressure and proliferation of non-residential usage made authorities modify the original plan over and over again.
According to the master plan of “North Dhaka Satellite Town,” the “Central Commercial” zone was supposed to cover about 42 acres of 1,386 acres, but as it stands today, commercial offices and facilities can be found all over the area and in far greater number than originally anticipated.
This, however, is not a negative aspect. Instead of concentrating on a single zone, the decentralization has helped different sectors within Uttara in terms of real estate value and accessibility. The current average price of commercial properties is about Tk20,963 per sq-ft, and about Tk84 per sq-ft in rent – both of which are significantly less expensive than that of properties available in the powerhouses of Gulshan or Banani. Furthermore, Uttara is one of the fastest rising areas in Dhaka today with a thriving population of a few hundred thousands. So it is no surprise that Uttara also received the most demand for commercial properties in Dhaka this year – about one-fifth of the total demand!
The streets of Uttara are home to many of the biggest and most renowned corporations of today, including BSRM and Nerolac-RAK Paints. As we get closer to the completion of the Metro Rail project, this demand is expected to rise.
The rising demand for commercial spaces in these residential zones can be attributed to three things – decentralization, accessibility and, finally, cost minimization.
Just as putting all your eggs in a single basket can be an unwise move, having all major business centres in a single location is also unsound – something the government and organizations understood a decade or so ago. Since then, there has been a growing trend of moving away from the usual commercial zones and settle on a different place that is less crowded and will ensure efficiency.
Accessibility is another major reason behind these unforeseen rises in demand. Businesses realized that if it takes longer than necessary for employees to travel between their office and home, their motivation and efficiency is reduced. That is why many companies today are moving to a place where their people are – major residential areas, where the workplace is in close proximity and easy to reach.
For many organizations – chiefly start-ups – cost is a big priority. Minimizing the amount spent on office space allows them to utilize their funds for something more pressing. That is why areas such as Mirpur, where the average rent of commercial properties is about only Tk51 per sq-ft, are getting lots of commercial space requests nowadays. Around 7% of total commercial property demands are in Mirpur this year. It is staggering when you consider that this number is quite close to those of Gulshan and Banan,i which get about 9.5% and 10.4%, respectively.
All of these places – Mirpur, Bashundhara R/A, Uttara and Dhanmondi – are going through an unprecedented boom. Each of these areas has deviated from their original plans and have evolved into hybrid zones that are elevating the commercial capabilities of the megacity we live in. And as we can learn from history, if people demand it, they can usher in unparalleled progress.