City outskirts are sprouting malls. Will they help decongest Bangalore? Mall culture is here to stay and new malls coming up on the city outskirts seem to be offering a ray of hope to the jam-packed city centre. Hopefully, these will cater to the lifestyle needs of people living beyond the Outer Ring Road. But will it be a boon? Expert opinion has it that if planned and executed properly, malls can keep people from travelling into the city for their leisure. This will reduce traffic within the city, many feel.According to town planner Swati Ramanathan, "It is a fact that we do need more malls. The purchasing power of people has increased and malls do provide people with several options. But they have to be strategically positioned and they can't afford to have poor facilities just because they are on the outskirts." Says traffic expert MN Sreehari, "Malls in the outskirts will definitely give relief to clogged streets in the city."
He believes that Bangalore as a city needs and can house around 70 malls. "The correct ratio is one mall for one lakh people. This is how it has been done in the west," he says. But architect Kevin Ross says, "When people put up structures like malls, theatres and restaurants in the outskirts, they normally cut corners. They wouldn't try it within the city because market needs demand the next structure is better than existing one. If the malls coming up in the outskirts are not upto the mark, they will fall flat and fail to attract crowds.
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You will still have people coming all the way from Yelahanka and Hebbal and going to Koramangala for a mall experience." There's the case of a city multiplex that opened with a lot of promise in the outskirts, but once other multiplexes opened up in the city centre, people didn't mind travelling the distance for a more swanky experience.
Swati cautions, "We can't have the market dictate where and how the malls should be. Government agencies need to be activated to look into permits for these malls. Otherwise we'll be Gurgaoned.
Every third building is a mall in Gurgaon. This will result in ghost malls. One mall will attract everybody and We'll have the same problems of congestion and road blocks all over again."
She feels that it is the government agencies which need to look into the density of population in various areas and allow for malls to come up in the right zones. ...
Says Ramesh Reddy, who's invested in a mall, "Colleges, IT companies and even hospitals have gone to the outskirts. I feel if malls are put up just outside residential areas, they will have takers."
Leena M, a young professional, says, "We need to follow the Mumbai model. The city is spread out and each suburb has it's own mall nucleus." But for this to happen in Bangalore, it will take some time, she says.
Swathi adds that town planners need to have the foresight to plan for this sort of growth. It needs detailed planning. "In our governance, forget about detailed planning, there's no planning at all," she says.
Sreehari believes that malls need to operate for at least 20 hours a day. He adds that in cities like Singapore, malls are open 24 hours. This has to happen eventually for malls to be really successful.
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