1. Home
  2. >

In The Valley Of New Urbanism

Projects

Phase one of HCC’s ambitious Lavasa Hill Station looks set for its promised 2009-2010 completion. Niranjan Mudholkar travels to the project site to check out the progress. Photos: Sandeep Patil

The drive from Mumbai to Lavasa feels like true escape. It almost touches Pune on the Expressway and then turns right at Chandni Chowk onto the Pirangut road. Another hour through tiny gaothans (hamlets) of the Mulshi taluka, up and down the Mutha ghat, again through a cluster of rural settlements and finally has begun an uphill drive to the gate of Lavasa. The entire road, I am informed, has been built by Hindustan Construction Company (HCC).

Greeted by some exotic examples of the Sahyadri hills’ flora and fauna and sometimes by a passing tribe, the road eventually takes you atop a beautiful hill. This is it. Welcome to Lavasa, the gate seems to announce and you realise that the real journey is just about to begin.

After crossing the gate, serpentine roads continue to transport you through a green haven. The cool and misty monsoon air goes well with the vegetation growing on the rocky sides that have been carved out for building roads.

The vegetation is the result of hydro-seeding, a modern planting process that controls erosion and may help in preventing landslides. As you move on, two helipads perched next to each other and overlooking a valley, give you a feeling that perhaps something big is unfolding just around the corner. A few hundred metres further comes the confirmation. Amidst the vast Mose valley surrounded by 15 hills and the magnificent backwaters of the Warasgaon Dam, the development of Lavasa emerges.

Lavasa will be independent India’s first and largest hill station when it will be ready around 2021. The scale and scope of this project is stupendous; very rarely can a project really boast of a site that’s spread across 12,500 acres in a valley measuring 100 sq km. Envisioned by Ajit Gulabchand, chairman and managing director, HCC, Lavasa has been conceptualised on the principles of New Urbanism as an integrated township that’s in harmony with nature.

“New Urbanism involves a transect model of town planning that has high density of population in the centre of the town. The density reduces as you move away from the centre. This creates a walking community at the centre and creates a safer and more sustainable town that reduces the stress on the environment,” explains Rajgopal Nogja, president, Lavasa Corporation Ltd, a subsidiary of HCC.

Lavasa Corporation holds a 65% stake in Lavasa through its 100% subsidiary, HCC Real Estate. The remaining 35% stake is collectively held by other promoters including Venkateshwara Hatcheries, Avantha Group and Vittal Manniar. The investment so far has hit Rs1,000 crore. “Around Rs40,000 crore is envisaged to be spent in the next 10-12 years,” says Nogja.

The funds are being managed through equity, debt and internal accruals. “We will come out with an IPO at the right time,” Nogja adds.

Bank of India has recently invested Rs150 crore in Lavasa Corporation through convertible debentures. Earlier this year in June, Axis Bank invested Rs250 crore in Lavasa Corporation in the form of convertible preference shares and convertible debentures. Some money is also coming in through pre-sales in Lavasa. More than 60%, it is claimed, has been sold out in the first phase, called Dasve.

Infrastructure development at the Lavasa site began in 2003-04 and Dasve will be the first phase to be completed.

Dasve is seriously abuzz with construction activities at various spots; something you can sense when you look at it even from Ekant located at the top. Ekant, meaning solitude, is a fully operational 20-room retreat with a multi-cuisine restaurant located on a hill. It is very much part of the Lavasa project and is already open to the public. Ekant offers a panoramic view with the backwaters on one side and Dasve development on the other. A road swirls down from Ekant passing over a weir separating the backwaters from the muddy Dasve Lake. The road encircles the entire Dasve site and reaches back to Ekant.

Dasve will have nearly 1,000 villas and about 500 apartments. Its lake is being developed to have recreational facilities including water sports and will also have a beautiful 2.4 km long promenade. When ready, this will be the hub of Dasve with areas earmarked for shopping, entertainment and eating out.

In fact, it is very much an active hub at present as well but of a different kind. Various structures being built and heaps of building material reverberate with sounds and noises that define a construction site. Construction workers, electricians, plumbers, surveyors, engineers and architects are all busy with their chores moving at a pace to meet a deadline. All people engaged in work are wearing safety helmets.

“The project is running on schedule and will be completed in four phases,” says Nogja. “Dasve (Phase 1) will be ready for occupancy in 2009-10. Phase two of Lavasa is slated to commence in 2009 and will be completed by 2014. Phase three & four are planned between 2013-2017.”

The entire Lavasa project is, of course, scheduled to be ready by 2021.

One of Lavasa’s USPs will be its location right in the lap of nature. HCC is making efforts to preserve and increase Lavasa’s environmental exuberance. Hydro-seeding, mentioned earlier, is just one of them. “We are using the latest technology to make Lavasa completely environment friendly and climate specific. There’s an Environment Management Plan (EMP) in place that addresses several initiatives to protect and enhance the green cover,” says Nogja.

The various initiatives under this EMP include ecological mapping done during the master planning stage.

“Ecofriendly methods are being applied to build homes and community infrastructure with the help of locally available materials like basalt, fly ash bricks and double walling technology. We are also taking utmost care to ensure adherence to stringent soil, water and waste management standards,” informs Nogja.

The Dasve landscape is covered by a natural drainage network. Culverts have been provided at every crossing of road and stream so that the natural drainage is not affected.

A well-developed storm water system enhances the natural runoff from the hills. Another ecofriendly initiative that a visitor can experience is the use of biodegradable coir mats sprayed with plant seeds to check the denudation problem. This can be seen along the 8km long nature trail that starts right at the entrance of Ekant.

“Around half a million indigenous shrubs and plants have been planted to preserve the green cover and enhance the biodiversity of the hilly terrain,” says Nogja. The EMP also includes constructing various check dams and weirs across the water bodies to increase water retention. Some of these check dams can be seen facing the Dasve promenade as you move along the Mediterranean style Lakeside apartments.

A huge building that beckons the onlooker even from the weir adjacent to the backwaters comes alive as you look at it from the promenade. It is ITC’s upcoming Fortune Hotel property. Lavasa will be an ideal location for the hospitality sector. Not surprisingly, apart from ITC Fortune Hotels, Lavasa has already collaborated with leading hospitality brands such as Novotel and Grand Mercure, a part of the Accor Group. “Discussions are on to collaborate with other leaders in the field of tourism and hospitality,” adds Nogja.

Not very far from the Fortune Hotel is the Town Hall Building that will serve as an administrative centre for Lavasa. In fact, Lavasa will have its own fire station as well as police station. But that’s not all. Given its tranquil surroundings, Lavasa is also attracting a number of reputed educational institutions.

These include names like Girls’ Day School Trust (UK), Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (Switzerland), Symbiosis (Pune), Christ University (Bangalore), NSHM, Institute of International Business Relations (a part of the University of Berlin) and the University of Oxford.

Besides the centres of learning, Lavasa will have an integrated healthcare and wellness destination spread over 200 acres to be set up by Apollo Hospitals Group. The collaboration between Apollo Hospitals and Lavasa was facilitated by the consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt Ltd.

Being an integrated township, Lavasa encompasses not just residential, retail, hospitality, educational, healthcare and administrative buildings but also recreational and sports venues. It will have an 18-hole golf course, a full size cricket ground, a country club and a convention centre.

Lavasa will also have ample office and commercial spaces but these will be only for non-polluting sectors like architecture and design, film and fashion, software and research etc. It is only apt that life in Lavasa will be described as ‘Life in full’, a brand vision conceptualised by San Francisco-based brand and creative design consultancy Landor Associates.

The ‘full’ life will be ably sustained by essential infrastructure and utilities. For example, the township will have uninterrupted electricity supply. Lavasa already has an international standard water treatment plant built in Dasve to provide sufficient potable water and has a European health standards compliant water supply system. Lavasa also has advanced systems in place for efficient and environment friendly waste water treatment and solid waste management. The recycled water is used for gardening and landscaping. A good telecommunication infrastructure exits in Lavasa to provide excellent bandwidth across voice, data and video requirements. Coupled with a GIS system, it makes Lavasa a truly high-tech township.

The master plan of the Lavasa Township that includes diverse elements making it ‘full’ has been developed by world-renowned planners Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK). HOK has also been responsible for the landscape architecture of Lavasa. Some of the other well known names from the world of architecture associated with Lavasa include Hafeez Contractor, Nitin Parulekar, PK Das and Somaya & Kalappa.

Lavasa has already won two of the most prestigious international planning awards; one from The Congress of New Urbanism (USA) and the other from The American Society of Landscape Architects. As of now, Lavasa is the only development in India to win such awards. Framed copies of the Awards adorn a wall near the reception at the Town Hall building where a kiosk provides quick and enough information to any layman visitor. Outside the Town Hall building, the road starts a climb back to Ekant.

While I am admiring the well built road network, some labourers pass by. Quite a few of them look like locals and probably lived on land now acquired for the Lavasa project. “At Lavasa we have been sensitive to the erstwhile population and we have resettled the villagers as part of our corporate social responsibility. We have helped them get both water and electricity. We want them as our partners in the development process,” claims Nogja.

Locals have been rehabilitated in the form of two gaothans at Dasve. It is not difficult to spot these gaothans made conspicuous by the presence of what looks like hutment dwellings and a temple on a hillside. “The approach to rehabilitate the locals has been multi-pronged. The focus is to look after the concerns of the farmers as well as the workers who are working at the construction sites,” says Nogja.

A labour camp and a health camp equipped with basic facilities have been established at site. A crèche for small kids is also operational. “With all such arrangements, we are helping them lead a better and safe life,” adds Nogja.

A group of labourers sitting at the corner moves on after taking a break. Further down the road, a Tata-Hitachi excavator is busy digging out soil. Some workers are still resting at the Urban Park, a landscaped garden. A cool breeze spins up with the way to Ekant. It is early in its life, but Lavasa already feels…like home. 

The drive from Mumbai to Lavasa feels like true escape. It almost touches Pune on the Expressway and then turns right at Chandni Chowk onto the Pirangut road. Another hour through tiny gaothans (hamlets) of the Mulshi taluka, up and down the Mutha ghat, again through a cluster of rural settlements and finally has begun an uphill drive to the gate of Lavasa.

The entire road, I am informed, has been built by Hindustan Construction Company (HCC). Greeted by some exotic examples of the Sahyadri hills’ flora and fauna and sometimes by a passing tribe, the road eventually takes you atop a beautiful hill. This is it. Welcome to Lavasa, the gate seems to announce and you realise that the real journey is just about to begin.

After crossing the gate, serpentine roads continue to transport you through a green haven. The cool and misty monsoon air goes well with the vegetation growing on the rocky sides that have been carved out for building roads.

The vegetation is the result of hydro-seeding, a modern planting process that controls erosion and may help in preventing landslides. As you move on, two helipads perched next to each other and overlooking a valley, give you a feeling that perhaps something big is unfolding just around the corner. A few hundred metres further comes the confirmation. Amidst the vast Mose valley surrounded by 15 hills and the magnificent backwaters of the Warasgaon Dam, the development of Lavasa emerges.

Lavasa will be independent India’s first and largest hill station when it will be ready around 2021. The scale and scope of this project is stupendous; very rarely can a project really boast of a site that’s spread across 12,500 acres in a valley measuring 100 sq km. Envisioned by Ajit Gulabchand, chairman and managing director, HCC, Lavasa has been conceptualised on the principles of New Urbanism as an integrated township that’s in harmony with nature.

“New Urbanism involves a transect model of town planning that has high density of population in the centre of the town. The density reduces as you move away from the centre. This creates a walking community at the centre and creates a safer and more sustainable town that reduces the stress on the environment,” explains Rajgopal Nogja, president, Lavasa Corporation Ltd, a subsidiary of HCC.

Lavasa Corporation holds a 65% stake in Lavasa through its 100% subsidiary, HCC Real Estate. The remaining 35% stake is collectively held by other promoters including Venkateshwara Hatcheries, Avantha Group and Vittal Manniar. The investment so far has hit Rs1,000 crore. “Around Rs40,000 crore is envisaged to be spent in the next 10-12 years,” says Nogja.

The funds are being managed through equity, debt and internal accruals. “We will come out with an IPO at the right time,” Nogja adds.

Bank of India has recently invested Rs150 crore in Lavasa Corporation through convertible debentures. Earlier this year in June, Axis Bank invested Rs250 crore in Lavasa Corporation in the form of convertible preference shares and convertible debentures. Some money is also coming in through pre-sales in Lavasa. More than 60%, it is claimed, has been sold out in the first phase, called Dasve.

Infrastructure development at the Lavasa site began in 2003-04 and Dasve will be the first phase to be completed.

Dasve is seriously abuzz with construction activities at various spots; something you can sense when you look at it even from Ekant located at the top. Ekant, meaning solitude, is a fully operational 20-room retreat with a multi-cuisine restaurant located on a hill. It is very much part of the Lavasa project and is already open to the public. Ekant offers a panoramic view with the backwaters on one side and Dasve development on the other. A road swirls down from Ekant passing over a weir separating the backwaters from the muddy Dasve Lake. The road encircles the entire Dasve site and reaches back to Ekant.

Dasve will have nearly 1,000 villas and about 500 apartments. Its lake is being developed to have recreational facilities including water sports and will also have a beautiful 2.4 km long promenade. When ready, this will be the hub of Dasve with areas earmarked for shopping, entertainment and eating out. In fact, it is very much an active hub at present as well but of a different kind.

Various structures being built and heaps of building material reverberate with sounds and noises that define a construction site. Construction workers, electricians, plumbers, surveyors, engineers and architects are all busy with their chores moving at a pace to meet a deadline. All people engaged in work are wearing safety helmets. “The project is running on schedule and will be completed in four phases,” says Nogja. “Dasve (Phase 1) will be ready for occupancy in 2009-10. Phase two of Lavasa is slated to commence in 2009 and will be completed by 2014. Phase three & four are planned between 2013-2017.”

The entire Lavasa project is, of course, scheduled to be ready by 2021.

One of Lavasa’s USPs will be its location right in the lap of nature. HCC is making efforts to preserve and increase Lavasa’s environmental exuberance. Hydro-seeding, mentioned earlier, is just one of them. “We are using the latest technology to make Lavasa completely environment friendly and climate specific. There’s an Environment Management Plan (EMP) in place that addresses several initiatives to protect and enhance the green cover,” says Nogja.

The various initiatives under this EMP include ecological mapping done during the master planning stage.

“Ecofriendly methods are being applied to build homes and community infrastructure with the help of locally available materials like basalt, fly ash bricks and double walling technology. We are also taking utmost care to ensure adherence to stringent soil, water and waste management standards,” informs Nogja.

The Dasve landscape is covered by a natural drainage network. Culverts have been provided at every crossing of road and stream so that the natural drainage is not affected. A well-developed storm water system enhances the natural runoff from the hills. Another ecofriendly initiative that a visitor can experience is the use of biodegradable coir mats sprayed with plant seeds to check the denudation problem. This can be seen along the 8km long nature trail that starts right at the entrance of Ekant.

“Around half a million indigenous shrubs and plants have been planted to preserve the green cover and enhance the biodiversity of the hilly terrain,” says Nogja. The EMP also includes constructing various check dams and weirs across the water bodies to increase water retention. Some of these check dams can be seen facing the Dasve promenade as you move along the Mediterranean style Lakeside apartments.

A huge building that beckons the onlooker even from the weir adjacent to the backwaters comes alive as you look at it from the promenade. It is ITC’s upcoming Fortune Hotel property. Lavasa will be an ideal location for the hospitality sector. Not surprisingly, apart from ITC Fortune Hotels, Lavasa has already collaborated with leading hospitality brands such as Novotel and Grand Mercure, a part of the Accor Group. “Discussions are on to collaborate with other leaders in the field of tourism and hospitality,” adds Nogja.

Not very far from the Fortune Hotel is the Town Hall Building that will serve as an administrative centre for Lavasa. In fact, Lavasa will have its own fire station as well as police station. But that’s not all. Given its tranquil surroundings, Lavasa is also attracting a number of reputed educational institutions.

These include names like Girls’ Day School Trust (UK), Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (Switzerland), Symbiosis (Pune), Christ University (Bangalore), NSHM, Institute of International Business Relations (a part of the University of Berlin) and the University of Oxford. Besides the centres of learning, Lavasa will have an integrated healthcare and wellness destination spread over 200 acres to be set up by Apollo Hospitals Group. The collaboration between Apollo Hospitals and Lavasa was facilitated by the consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt Ltd.

Being an integrated township, Lavasa encompasses not just residential, retail, hospitality, educational, healthcare and administrative buildings but also recreational and sports venues. It will have an 18-hole golf course, a full size cricket ground, a country club and a convention centre. Lavasa will also have ample office and commercial spaces but these will be only for non-polluting sectors like architecture and design, film and fashion, software and research etc. It is only apt that life in Lavasa will be described as ‘Life in full’, a brand vision conceptualised by San Francisco-based brand and creative design consultancy Landor Associates.

The ‘full’ life will be ably sustained by essential infrastructure and utilities. For example, the township will have uninterrupted electricity supply. Lavasa already has an international standard water treatment plant built in Dasve to provide sufficient potable water and has a European health standards compliant water supply system.

Lavasa also has advanced systems in place for efficient and environment friendly waste water treatment and solid waste management.

The recycled water is used for gardening and landscaping. A good telecommunication infrastructure exits in Lavasa to provide excellent bandwidth across voice, data and video requirements. Coupled with a GIS system, it makes Lavasa a truly high-tech township.

The master plan of the Lavasa Township that includes diverse elements making it ‘full’ has been developed by world-renowned planners Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK). HOK has also been responsible for the landscape architecture of Lavasa.

Some of the other well known names from the world of architecture associated with Lavasa include Hafeez Contractor, Nitin Parulekar, PK Das and Somaya & Kalappa.

Lavasa has already won two of the most prestigious international planning awards; one from The Congress of New Urbanism (USA) and the other from The American Society of Landscape Architects.

As of now, Lavasa is the only development in India to win such awards. Framed copies of the Awards adorn a wall near the reception at the Town Hall building where a kiosk provides quick and enough information to any layman visitor. Outside the Town Hall building, the road starts a climb back to Ekant.

While I am admiring the well built road network, some labourers pass by. Quite a few of them look like locals and probably lived on land now acquired for the Lavasa project.

“At Lavasa we have been sensitive to the erstwhile population and we have resettled the villagers as part of our corporate social responsibility. We have helped them get both water and electricity. We want them as our partners in the development process,” claims Nogja.

Locals have been rehabilitated in the form of two gaothans at Dasve. It is not difficult to spot these gaothans made conspicuous by the presence of what looks like hutment dwellings and a temple on a hillside.

“The approach to rehabilitate the locals has been multi-pronged. The focus is to look after the concerns of the farmers as well as the workers who are working at the construction sites,” says Nogja.

A labour camp and a health camp equipped with basic facilities have been established at site. A crèche for small kids is also operational. “With all such arrangements, we are helping them lead a better and safe life,” adds Nogja.

A group of labourers sitting at the corner moves on after taking a break. Further down the road, a Tata-Hitachi excavator is busy digging out soil.

Some workers are still resting at the Urban Park, a landscaped garden. A cool breeze spins up with the way to Ekant. It is early in its life, but Lavasa already feels…like home. 

Most Popular

Awards

Olympia Group announces to build up 1.1mn sq-ft greenfield it park in Guindy
The project will have a total investment of about Rs 750 crore

Conferences

Vital pre-monsoon building works resume in Maharashtra
The state government has permitted pre-monsoon work by BMC and other agencies

Latest Issue

Sept 2020
01 Sep 2020