Pune - like all Indian cities - is grappling with runaway growth. The result seems to be a tangled patchwork of unplanned streets, building developments and landscaping that make it hard for a person (namely, me) to find areas that have a real sense of PLACE. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the crowded city streets that are so typical here, but I've been longing for an area that had a vibrant community, good shopping, restaurants, central access to the rest of the city and most of all, natural beauty.
So when talking with our team at Cspace about where to locate our new corporate offices, we all got excited about Jungli Maharaj Road that runs right through downtown Pune, is surrounded by universities, has parks, restaurants, shopping, a "cool" residential community along it and LOVELY big Banyan Trees running it's length (see photos). I immediately wanted to find office space there because I KNOW this could be THE DESTINATION for Punekars and visitors in no time at all. It has extra width for sidewalks (a rare thing here) that could be PERFECT for outdoor cafes up and down the corridor. I can see major brands already locating here but in time this could become home to the most prestigious high-end stores in Pune. As we walked along past the park there were a bunch of college students sitting, talking and studying. It felt a little like Central Park.
In my opinion, Jungli Maharaj will be the most desirable location to work and live in Pune for this upcoming generation of professionals who will get tired of the shiny new "glass towers" that are big and clean but have little "character". This is what's happened in the Europe and America which is why urban centers are experiencing great renewal by attracting professionals who want a better quality of life. As people earn more money, after that initial stage of "conspicuous consumption", they start to long for smaller, simpler things that older communities like Jungli Maharaj can provide. It's what I want and know that locating my company there now, with such terrific access to college talent and all the other amenities described, would be a great move!
So, when my associate, Shyamala Desai, told me of the plans to run a Metro rail line right down the middle of the road, I was horrified! Please, Pune leaders, don't destroy this jewel which running a line through it will certainly do! You have such a wonderful opportunity to create a world-class boulevard that would have businesses and people running to move to or visit and SPEND MONEY for the local economy. Don't ruin it!
In fact, I'd consider making it a two-way again to make it more accessible, I'd invest in nice wide sidewalks (I see some work already happening), trash cans at every corner and put together a fund for facade improvements. Oh, the huge signs are kind of an eyesore, too, (but some kind of traffic signs are welcome for us visitors).
After only 3 months in Pune, I know I have much to learn. But one thing I know for sure after travelling around Europe and the U.S. my whole life: Jungli Maharaj Road has all the characteristics people and companies of the 21st Century crave and can very quickly be a tremendous economic anchor for Pune. Don't destroy it with 20th Century industrial thinking that devastated so many of the inner cities of America. No need to repeat our mistakes!
PS - I was glad to see that Janawani, a city NGO that is helping with much of the planning here feels similarly. See the link below for an article on the issue.