Maharashtra’s luxury housing project slips into disrepair
The days of zero crime are over. Garbage collection is sporadic, so litter soils the man-made lake. Storefronts are vacant. Signs of neglect are everywhere: maintenance is late or nonexistent. And that’s for the construction already done. For the unfinished building works—i.e. most of it—there is little happening.
Two decades ago, then-billionaire Ajit Gulabchand envisioned something very different: a city called Lavasa, modeled on the cotton-candy harbor of Italy’s Portofino, a four-hour drive from the slums and pollution that pervade so much of India’s financial capital of Mumbai. To deliver that dream, he hired the architects at HOK, creators of LaGuardia’s Airport Central Terminal B in New York and the Barclays world headquarters in London. Design awards and global news coverage followed.
Today Lavasa is an incomplete shell housing some 10,000 people, a symbol of the excesses gripping the world’s second most-populous nation. Lavasa Corporation Ltd. faces what may be its final reckoning, as India’s central bank forces lenders to restructure debts quickly or take defaulters to bankruptcy court. Arguably even worse off than current residents are the thousands of people who have put down their life savings or borrowed money to buy property here, only to fear it may never get built.
For a glimpse of where Lavasa may be heading, look to Aamby Valley, another affluent township outside Mumbai turned ghost town built by a separate developer. That $5.5 billion township is facing liquidation after its backer defaulted. After repeated failed attempts to auction Aamby Valley, the court ordered piecemeal sale of the project’s land. But a slump in India’s property market is making matters worse.