02 Apr Walkonomics of Delhi markets: Untapped Potential
Most urban markets thrive on footfalls and are more of social centres than being just pure shopping centres. Research has proven social and environmental benefits of having walkable streets and quality public spaces. They enhance social capabilities, encourage physical activities while improving the air quality by reducing the traffic. Also, public realms can be incredibly profitable, however, this aspect is not fully understood and often overlooked.
Research by Living Streets clearly indicated the impact of spaces leading to boost of food fall and therefore trading by unto 40%. The passive impacts are seen in raise in retail rentals and estate by upto 20%. Some of the large CBDs like London west end, Hong-kong central, Tokyo, New York, Manhattan are the most walk friendly market spaces and are also more the most highly ranked Retail Real estates.
Connaught place in Delhi is one such example. A high CBD that was built during colonial period was once a jewel of Delhi started showing its age in 1990’s. Having natively being designed for generous public space, the market was refurbished in 2000’s for facade, signage, enhancement of public space etc. The investment paid off. There was a steep rise in foot falls on pavements of connaught place, and the economy rose pulling this market to 4th most expensive commercial real estate in the world by CBRE survey.
Delhi has a wealth of such markets struggling in the changed environments of economy, real estate, people’s preference of malls over bazaars, and uncontrolled development with in the market itself. A greater potential of Delhi’s markets lies in the neighbourhood centres and sub CBDs like Khan Market, GK market, NFC market, Green park market, Vasant Vihar market, Rajendra place etc. Culturally diverse in nature, each market has evolved as a separate development and are now struggling for their identity. Mixed usage have compromised the walk quality of these spaces. Pressures of changing urban scape have forced most the open spaces to convert in parking lots, hawker spaces and garbage dumps.
In-house research on GK market on depreciation value of retail causing closure of business indicates traffic, lack of pedestrianisation and unorganised development as key causes. Markets of New friends colony and khan market face similar issues. Re-strategification of these spaces is a must and can reverse the depreciation cycle. New strategies must respond towards the native culture of each market, its key issues, and must address to empower their key strength. As an urban island, schema’s response must extend beyond physical market boundary to a larger circle of neighbourhood, thus improving the connections of walking population as well as plan the traffic.
Investing in such walkable public spaces should be no brainier; they can the catalyst for regenerative and cultural hubs, make cities attractive for private investments and provide economic benefits to communities. Walk friendly and barrier free environments are strategical investment to bring back uniqueness of bazaar.
Investing in walkable public spaces should be a no-brainer; they can be a catalyst for regeneration, make cities attractive to private investments and provide economic benefits to communities.