Realty boom sweeps China

During their stay in the city for over a century, the Chinese community settled in Tangra has seen, and suffered, it all – the Second World War, the Sino-Indian War, the apathy of the local administration… This time around, however, the ghetto off the Park Circus connector is set to experience a change that may transform the lives of these natives forever. Call it a metamorphosis or giving way to the burgeoning pressure from realty bigwigs, dingy huts and broken roads in Chinatown will soon be replaced with swanky highrises and broad pathways.

Realty firms are purchasing large tracts of land in Chinatown, which were locked in abandoned tanneries, to build luxury apartments. Strategically located between Salt Lake and rest of Kolkata, Tangra has emerged as a goldmine for developers. At least eight projects – seven residential and one commercial – are in different stages of development. A slew of other deals are in the pipeline. Altogether, more than 1 million sq ft is under construction at present. Apartments are being booked for Rs 10,000-plus per sq ft.

Robert Lee, a local who has entered into a joint venture with the Space Group to develop the 1.8 acre plot that once housed Hupson Tannery, believes the time for change has come. “For close to a century, Tangra has been saddled with poor infrastructure: dark alleys, overflowing drains, waterlogged streets, garbage heaps, filthy water and foul smell. To sell the projects, developers have to improve infrastructure. I am looking forward to a cleaner Chinatown with better infrastructure,” he said.

Once the 14-storied twin tower apartment comes up, Lee plans to develop two other plots that he owns in the neighbourhood. “It does not make sense to hold on to the unutilized plots when land price has skyrocketed and opportunity knocking on the door,” he reasoned.

Like Lee, there over 160 Chinese families that have vacant tannery plots, some owned but mostly on lease. A few have already transferred the lease rights to developers against fat payments. Others are waiting to see how the deals go before they follow suit.

Beijing restaurant owner Monica Lieu believes the benefits will rub off on everyone. With people moving into Tangra, she reasons restaurants will get a captive client base and launch home delivery, a new line of business.

Chen Khoi Kui, secretary of South Tangra Chinese Youth Club, hopes the transformation will encourage some of his friends who had immigrated to Australia, the US, Canada and elsewhere in search of a better life to return. Tangra’s population has shrunk by 60% in the past couple of decades.

It was the crackdown on civil liberties of Chinese during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 that instilled fear and mistrust in the community. But after half a century of cloistered existence, there are renewed possibilities on the horizon. “When other communities move into Chinatown to live amongst us, the barrier will break. We will get to integrate with the rest. Though I am a third generation Indian, the whole-hearted acceptance is missing. That, I am confident, will change,” said Lee.

source: TOI