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Under the microscope: Eye on Chittagong

  • Published at 04:05 pm December 31st, 2019
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The Chandgaon Residential Area is quite similar to Bashundhara R/A of Dhaka, while Khulshi is more akin to Banani

From Samatata, Harikela, Chandra, Verman, Afghan, Portuguese, Arakanese, Mughal, British, Pakistan to Bangladesh – the city that has been known throughout history as “Porto Grande,” “Islamabad” and Chittagong has been one of the most important cities in the South Asian region. The port city has been a vital part of the Maritime Silk Road and served as a gateway to the Bengal and Indian subcontinent. Even the great Roman geographer, Ptolemy, noted Chittagong as being one of the largest Eastern ports all the way back in the first century.

The city has been a major hub all throughout its history, as well as being the wealthiest city in all of Bengal during the 16th century. In modern times, as part of an independent Bangladesh, Chittagong continues to function as a financial centre and lifeblood to the country’s economy. So, when it comes to real estate, Chittagong is bar-none to most of the places in the country – and not only in regards to commercial real estate.

Room to breathe

In the eyes of city dwellers and urbanization experts, the best thing about the port city is not its economy, rather, it is the proper development and growth of the city’s structure. Unlike capital Dhaka, Chittagong is not “messy.” Every city in the world is subject to “organic growth,” but Chittagong excels at it. The city has adapted to the natural flow of urbanization and introduced planned development to maximize civic expansion. As a result, most of the buildings and structures in the city – even in commercial areas –are not adjoined to each other. All of them have designated space for themselves and proper room to breathe.

This makes the city feel more relaxed in comparison to Dhaka – a reason many residents of Chittagong prefer life in the port city over the capital.

The city is especially benefitted by the natural landscape of the land, which is elevated and hilly. Much of the north and northeast portion of the city was developed in hilly areas – chiefly Bayazid Bostami, Khulshi and Kotwali. Some of the homes in these areas have something that no other place in Dhaka can claim to match – a view from atop a hill.

The residential landscape

Chittagong has been a home to people from different nations and ethnicities. Portuguese, Persians, British, Venetians and Arakanese – all have made homes for themselves from some time or another in the port city. The land here has a long and storied history. The current residents of the city include Shias, Sunnis, Chakmas, Rakhines and many more ethnic populations. As a result, the city and its neighbouring areas have developed in the purview of several cultural ambiances.

In terms of residential purposes, several areas including Chandgaon Residential Area, Halishahar, Bakalia, Khulshi and Bayazid Bostami are considered prominent. Each of these areas has a different air to themselves as well as personality.

The Chandgaon Residential Area is quite similar to Bashundhara R/A of Dhaka, while Khulshi is more akin to Banani. Both of these areas are placed on the upper echelon of residence in Chittagong. However, the cost of real estate varies quite a bit between them – just like Banani and Bashundhara R/A.

As per the Bproperty database, the average square feet price of flats in Chandgaon R/A at the end of October stood at around Tk4,708 in contrast to Tk6,205 of Khulshi. Similarly, the average rent at the end of October for Chandgaon R/A was only Tk11 per square feet. In comparison, the average rent was Tk18 per square feet in Khulshi.

Even though both of these areas are considered “upscale” within Chittagong’s urban landscape, Chandgaon is home to more middle-class people. Although, it should be mentioned that people consider the Chandgaon R/A to be one of the safest zones in the entire city, and the area also has the magnificent Chandgaon Mosque nearby, adding further to the area’s appeal.

Another area that offers similar facilities and features as Chandgon is the Bayazid Bostami area to the west – famed for the shrine of Bayazid Bostami or the Turtle Shrine. The area sits on an advantageous location, between Chittagong Cantonment and Sholoshohor. The residents of Bayazid can enjoy both the reprieve of nature and the benefits of city life simultaneously. The best part is that it is one of the most affordable zones to live in Chittagong. While the average square feet rent of Bayazid is the same as its eastern neighbour, the average price is much less –only about Tk4,096 per square feet. This allows people to find more affordable accommodation without having to compromise a lot.

Commercial juggernauts

The Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard is the largest of its kind in the world with hundreds of thousands of people working there every day. However, that is located in Sitakunda upazilla, outside the city bounds of Chittagong City Corporation. Within the metropolitan itself, no other area matches the commercial capabilities of Agrabad Commercial Area. The area falls under the jurisdiction of Double Mooring police station, but its importance and prowess have helped to create a separate identity.

Being directly adjacent to the port area has made the land here some of the most valuable in the entire country – leading the area to transform from an unremarkable village into a financial and commercial hub. Major local and international banks, financial institutions, corporate offices as well as the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chittagong Stock Exchange are all located in the Agrabad Commercial Area.

The prominence of Agrabad Commercial Area has paved the way for the commercial development of other nearby areas, especially, Double Mooring. The number of commercial properties available throughout Double Mooring area has been increasing over the years with hundreds of properties available for both rent and purchase. As far as cost goes, the average rent of commercial spaces in the greater Double Mooring area is much less than Agrabad Commercial Area with Tk46 being the average rent for every square feet.

Woes and developments

Even with all the progress and potential of Chittagong’s real estate sector, the one major thing that is buckling the rise to the apex is poor infrastructure. Traffic jams and terrible road conditions are demoralizing real estate enthusiasts. Waterlogging is also a common phenomenon in the city. Sometimes the slightest of rain submerges some of the areas in the city centre. Although, many actions and initiatives have been undertaken in recent times to solve the persisting issues, and in fairness, the results are starting to show – there is still much to be done and to be desired.

The roadways of the city are undergoing renovation while new ones are being created. This is crucial as the revamped streets would allow greater accessibility from the deeper residential zones of Chittagong city. For now, though, there is hope even amidst the woes and problems. The port city has held onto its glory for hundreds of years and the future does indeed look bright – as far as the real estate sector is concerned.