New Skyline, New Colombo : A Guide to the City’s Fancy New Developments.

There’s a rather large number of major residential and mixed apartment developments that will change the skyline and lifestyle of the city within the next five years. Colombo will go from being a relatively flat and suburban city to sudden high-rise urbanity.

In this piece, we’re generally discussing the ‘regular’ apartment, 1-4 bedrooms, not the penthouses. You can assume that all of these places have a pool/gym, we’re not listing those under amenities. Finally and most importantly, price ranges are general and may change/vary and we urge caution and due diligence in any major investments. You are also getting this information from a third party so check with the sales agent for final details.


OnThree20

 

  • Address: Union Place, Colombo 2
  • Telephone: 772067517 / 772491290
  • Website: www.onthree20.com
  • Completion Year: 2014
  • Price Range: Rs 29 million – Rs. 40 million
  • Amenities: Landscaped garden, clubhouse, BBQ, squash, games room

OnThree20 has already changed the Colombo skyline. This 475 apartment complex comes from reliable John Keells and it’s a multi-tower project full of amenities like a pool, gym and walking areas, plus located in close proximity to the Beira Lake and Kollupitiya. The regular (not-penthouse) apartments range from 907 to 1,317 square feet.

What really sets this apart is the location. This spot on Union Street doesn’t reinvent Colombo, it’s solidly in the middle of what Colombo already is. It’s a quick shot into Fort, but also close to Colombo 7 and Colombo 3.

There’s nothing game-changing here, but it’s a solid housing project, and it’s already occupied and ready for occupation. John Keells has saved all their crazy ambitions for another plan, which we’ll get into later.

Nearby: Dialog Head Office, Hilton Residences, ODEL, Arpico Hyde Park, Clique, Burgers King


110 Parliament Road (ICONIC)

  • Address: No. 110, Parliament Road, Rajagiriya
  • Telephone: 0777708090
  • Website: www.110parliamentroad.com
  • Completion Year: 2014
  • Price Range: Rs. 25 million – Rs. 43 million
  • Amenities: Basketball, tennis, spa, squash, day care, jogging, BBQ, laundry, convenience store

This is another project you can already see. Formerly know as the ICONIC, 110 Parliament Road falls in the mid-range when it comes to price point, especially if you consider that you’re getting 1,210 to 1,580 regular apartments (2-3 bedrooms) with 4 bedrooms and penthouses available.

What you don’t get is real proximity to Colombo, at least until we get a monorail. To make up for it they have more amenities than some (but not all) of the more central complexes. The extras they advertise are a rooftop basketball court and running track, a tennis court, gaming room, spa and daycare (massive bonus).

Nearby Battaramulla is also pretty happening, with the Diyatha Uyana walking and recreational area and its own ecosystem of shops and restaurants and things to do. Besides that it’s near the golf course and this part of town is becoming high density enough (as you’ll see) that it should be a stable investment.

Nearby: Diyatha Uyana, Golf Course, Overseas School, British School, McDonald’s.


7th Sense – Gregory’s Road

  • Address: Gregory's Road, Colombo 07
  • Telephone: 772067517 / 772491290
  • Website: www.7thsense.lk
  • Completion: 2015
  • Price Range: Rs. 60 million upwards
  • Amenities: Rooftop terrace

Large complexes aren't for everyone and that's exactly the market that 7th Sense looks to attract. You will, however, pay a premium. The apartments here start at Rs. 60 million and go up (though not in height). The complex is only five stories high, but we kinda like that. You’re not surrounded by people and it’s down the posh and residential Gregory’s Road.

The regular apartments range from 1,300 to 2,150 square feet, which is pretty generous. Unless you consider how much it costs, in which case we guess it’s fair. We had a look around their model apartment and the fittings and finishes are quite nice, especially the fully modern kitchen.

In terms of amenities they’ve got half an acre of recreational space on the roof and the usual gym/pool, but the main amenity here is peace and quiet. You’re in walking distance to Colombo International School, St. Bridget’s, Bayleaf, Coffee Bean, and all the bars and fun stuff on Maitland Crescent but where you actually live is relatively private. That’s a real luxury.

Nearby: Independence Square, Saskia Fernando Gallery, Vihara Maha Devi Park and the 80 Club.


The Elements

  • Address: No. 110, Buthgamuwa Rd, Rajagiriya
  • Telephone: 117 586 586
  • Website: www.theelements.lk
  • Completion: 2016
  • Price Range: Rs. 33 million – Rs. 48 million
  • Amenities: Banquet hall, sports complex access, meeting room, drivers lounge

Back to Rajagiriya, and the already highly urbanized Buthgamuwa Road. If the architecture of The Elements looks familiar to you that's probably because it's done by the same people that designed Fairmount Residencies down the street. These are not cheap apartments (not that anything in this article is) but they are a good value with 1,680 to 2,122 square feet (3 and 4 bedrooms). Each apartment also comes with two parking spots.

Like other Rajagiriya constructions, they have a lot of amenities, some of them shared with nearby Fairway (sports complex). The place also has beautiful views over Battaramulla lakes and greenery and into the rising city.

We would not, however, call this location central. It’s urban living but in a somewhat natural setting, and since a lot of the land and water is protected, it’s probably going to stay that way. There are, however, sea planes that land nearby, the Expressway connects via Malabe and we have been promised monorail.

Nearby: Water’s Edge, Machang Diyawanna.


The Destiny

  • Address: No. 20, Justice Akbar Mw, Colombo 2
  • Telephone: 0112331010 -12, 773300088
  • Website: www.thedestiny.lk
  • Completion Year: 2017
  • Price Range: Rs. 24 million – Rs. 260 million
  • Amenities: Infinity pool, business centre, banquet hall, cinema, bowling alley

The Destiny is an intelligent use of land in Slave Island, coming up right near the monolithic Keells City. These twin towers are wedged between Nawam Mawatha, Slave Island and the back entrance to the Cinnamon Grand and still manage to fit in 160 retail spaces, cinemas, a bowling alley and more on a 2 acre sized property more famously known as the former Elephant House car park. The design of the 258 apartments results in some unusual triangular floor plans, especially on the upper floors, but overall it’s an interesting use of space.

The Destiny is the only place we’ve seen that offers one bedrooms (starting at around Rs. 25 million for around 800 square feet, they’re in limited supply) but it’s mainly 2-4 bedrooms, plus sky villas starting at approximately US$220 per sqft.

We think it’s a creative use of land and a great location (the Beira Lake is cool now, especially at Vesak, and it’s only getting better). Destiny is one of the new breed of mega-complexes, with its own entertainment built-in, but it will also be near Keells City, Shangri-La, TATA, etc. It’ll be like a galaxy of megaplexes and your children will never want for shopping or cinemas.

Nearby: Cinnamon Grand, Gangaramaya Temple, the Beira Lake, Galle Face Green, Nawam Mawatha business district and White Horse.


Clearpoint Residencies

  • Address: No. 1, Perera Mw, Kotuwegoda, Rajagiriya
  • Telephone: 0772770788
  • Website: www.clearpointresidencies.com
  • Completion Year: 2017
  • Price Range: Rs. 25 million – Rs. 45 million
  • Amenities: Tennis, badminton, squash, pool table, table tennis, banquet hall, drivers quarters

Rajagiriya once again. Clearpoint Residencies (by Milroy Perera Associates and MÄGA) has already gotten international architectural attention for what we’ll call its hanging gardens. Sri Lankans do love a garden and that’s something you miss living in an apartment. It’s also smart, eco-friendly and cost-effective design. More than anything though, it looks awesome.

But having big, verdant terraces outside the apartments, Clearpoint not only makes it nice for tenants, it also reduces heat gain inside the apartment (from direct sunlight) and produces cross-ventilation, all reducing the cost and size of your air conditioning. The design introduces further efficiencies through water recycling, solar power, etc and, overall, is the most forward-thinking we’ve seen.

The apartments range from 1,668 (2 bedrooms) to 2,820 (4 bedrooms) with bigger combined apartments available. What we really love is the terraces – ranging from 450 to 680 square feet. How awesome. You can live in an apartment without sacrificing the private outdoor space we all love.

Location wise, this is right next to the aforementioned Elements tower, so you get there through Rajagiriya. That means a bit of traffic for now, but who cares once you’re ensconced in your sky garden. Clearpoint offers the usual pool/gym plus every racquet sport imaginable (tennis, badminton, squash and ping-pong).

Nearby: The Elements, Diyatha Uyana, birds.


The Altair

  • Address: 127, Sir James Pieries Mw, Colombo 2
  • Telephone: 011 7 466550
  • Website: www.altair.lk
  • Completion Year: 2017
  • Price Range: Rs. 52 million – Rs. 260 million
  • Amenities: Infinity pool, sky garden, jogging area, shops, food court

This is another design stand-out. The Altair is a sort of leaning-tower by Moshe Safdie, the designer behind the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The design concept has a 68 level vertical tower with another 63 level tower sloping into it.

This design, like the Clearpoint, is more than just appearances. The lean and the diagrid exterior (triangles everywhere) helps distribute weight, keeping the interiors column free. This means that the 400 apartments have high ceilings, great views, and large open spaces. This is one apartment where we haven’t separated out the regular and penthouse style apartments because, honestly, we don’t know where to draw the line. The square footage ranges from 1,468 for two bedrooms to 5,273 for the duplex penthouses.

Amenity-wise they’ve got gardens on two floors (the fifth and the 63rd), a rooftop pool and entertaining area, the usual gym/sauna, plus 40,000 square feet of retail space on the lower floors.

These are beautiful, open apartments in a great location right on the Beira Lake. They basically have everything, but at a premium price. The developer is Indocean, the local incarnation of South City, an Indian company with a lot of development experience there.


Cinnamon Life – An Integrated Resort by John Keells Holdings PLC

  • Address: Justice Akbar Mawatha/ Glennie Street
  • Sales Gallery – 186 Vauxhall Street, Colombo 02
  • Telephone: +94 (0) 112 152 152
  • Website: www.cinnamonlife.com
  • Completion Year: 2020
  • Amenities: Pretty much anything you can think of

There’s very little public information about this project, but it’s still selling well. Such is the reliable reputation of John Keells and the creative reputation of architect Cecil Balmond.

The project will consist of an 800 room luxury hotel under the brand “Cinnamon”, apartments, retail and entertainment mall, office spaces, and many other attractions.

There will be two apartment towers in the complex. The first tower ‘The Residence at Cinnamon Life’ will be 45 stories high with square footage ranging from 1,130 square feet to 4,722 square feet.. They have just released the second residential tower ‘The Suites at Cinnamon Life’ to the market, which is a 39 storey tower with mainly 2 bedroomed apartments and four penthouse units. There will also be a 30 story office tower with 10 floors for sale, and the biggest entertainment space Colombo has ever seen. This place looks kinda weird in drawings but we think it’ll be cool once built.


 

AVIC Astoria

  • Address: Duplication Road, Colombo 3
  • Telephone: 112372757
  • Website: www.avic-astoria.com
  • Completion Year: 2018
  • Price Range: Rs. 33 million – Rs. 110 million
  • Amenities: Walking areas, yoga room, clubhouse, squash, sauna, shops, etc.

AVIC – a huge Chinese aviation and construction company – is building 592 apartments in four towers of 39 floors. You’re probably familiar with the location, the big vacant plot of land on Duplication Road after Deal Place and across from Mahanama College. They’ve recently begun pre-sales.

This location is interesting as it’s in the actual (Colombo 3) rather than planned center of Colombo life (Colombo 1 and 2). From its perch the apartments will have sea views on one side and city views from the rest. They’re offering 2-4 bedroom flats costing from Rs. 33 to 110 million. The square footage ranges from 1,119 to 2,334 square feet.

Beyond that they claim the same attention to details, fitting, etc that all of these apartments require, and an attached shopping area. What really sets this apart, however, is the location. It’s on Duplication Road and is near the current social and dining/shopping center of the city. Whether this center will shift by 2018, however, remains to be seen.

Nearby: Mahanama College, Liberty Plaza, Manhattan Fish Market, Subway


Discussion

Now, those are the places. Note that we didn’t cover everything, not by a long shot. There’s a recently advertised complex in Kotehena, a big TATA complex in Slave Island, Shangri-La residences and more. We also haven’t covered everything about these places, if you’re interested in buying, as mentioned, please contact these people directly and do due diligence. We do hope we’ve given you some sense of the broad residential changes coming to Sri Lanka. Now, what does it all mean?

 

Who Can Afford These?

 

These developments are for the top 5-10% of Sri Lankans, non-resident Sri Lankans, and foreigners. Under Sri Lankan law foreigners can own property only above the 4th floor so these sorts of flats are viable investments for them. However, Sri Lankan immigration policies are currently not very welcoming in terms of work visas for foreigners (even foreign spouses) and the diaspora is also not necessarily being welcomed back, since dual citizenship is indefinitely on hold.

That said, since 2005, around 1,450 luxury and upper-mid apartments were completed and 98% of them were sold (according to a report by JLL), so there does seem to be demand. Indeed, many of the properties we’ve mentioned are already sold out.

In terms of the city as a whole – A) the lowest income people are being moved out of neglected central land to nearby government apartment complexes B) middle income people will move out to the suburbs around the upcoming Colombo Outer Circular Road (the three Ks, Kottawa, Kadawatha and Kaduwela) and C) higher income and international people will live in high density housing in Colombo 2 and, somewhat randomly, Rajagiriya.

What will also happen is that Colombo 3 and 7 – right now the effective social center of the city – will sort of return to their pre-war suburban state, at least in relation to the rising skyline.

 

How Will This Change Our Culture?

This is an expansive question, but apartment living is new for Sri Lankans. People traditionally have some land, they live in large families – dividing and adding property as numbers increase. Many people also live with servants. That sort of lifestyle changes with apartments. You can’t really divide an apartment among your children, so it becomes necessary to have good education and high paying jobs for children to move out on their own. Many of these two bedroom apartments don’t have servants quarters, plus the prices for maids and domestics is already rising, so that part of our culture may be changing as well.

All of these shopping and entertainment complexes will create a lot of jobs, but the country also has to produce enough wealth in general to drive demand. It’s actually unclear how that happens, because we aren’t seeing corresponding investments in education and human capital yet. These are all interesting questions that these apartments bring up, beyond which one you’d like to live in.

As for us, well, at YAMU we’re just happy to see the city grow. Colombo is going through a rapid metamorphosis and it’s really just in pupa stage right now. In a few years we’ll really see what sort of butterfly our city becomes.

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