Sri Lanka and Colombo are changing every day. Here are some big developments I think/hear will take place in the next five years.
1. Casino Strip
I recently attended a lovely wedding at Cinnamon Lakeside. They have a new boat restaurant (called 8 degrees I think) and we were able to take it and do donuts around the Beira Lake. As you spin, you notice the hotel on one side, the WTC in a corner, and a bunch of warehouses on the other. That road, McCallum Street to me (D.R. Wijewardena if you want to be post-colonial about it) is, I hear, being moved. The Convention Center there has already been nationalized, and there’s already a bunch of not much there besides. What will go up along that part of the Beira seem to be casinos, foreign investors with local partners. This is what I hear, so not especially sourced.
2. Liberty Plaza
Liberty Plaza is known as being a mediocre mall. It should soon be completely redeveloped with a walkway to the Liberty Cinema on the other side and, I hear, that empty tomb of a casino finally opening nearby. The main dev seems to be a 20,000 square foot food court, replacing the current, like, 1000 square foot one.
There’s talk that the mall will be expanded to bring major brands into the space next to that huge, hitherto empty casino edifice, but I’m not sure if that building will become a mall or remain, as intended, a casino. I’m also not sure what happens to the Colpetty Market across the street.
3. City Of Lanka
The Outer Circular Highway will create highway entries near Ragama, Kadawatha, and Kaduwela. These are still remote and slow areas to get to from Colombo itself, but now these areas can develop and a lot of provincial traffic can pass through there rather than clogging up Colombo.
The Colombo-Kandy Highway is set to connect at Kadawatha (partially by 2016, probably by 2020), and the airport road near Ragama (they say 2012). Then there is an Airport to Anuradhapura road, eventually linking to a Northern Expressway to Jaffna (The Next Expressways).
This will basically bring a lot of Sri Lanka within 3 hours of itself, comparable to many megacities. to central Colombo than you do travelling from the edges of Sri Lanka.
The Dutch Hospital complex and Colombo Night Races were just the start of the redevelopment of Colombo central. The fish market has already been moved and I think, also, Pettah will be redeveloped. I like Pettah, but it is still moving ridiculously low value goods on high value real estate. On my last trip there I bought a Rs. 100 head massager (amazing), a Rs. 600 watch and a roll of rubber yoga mat material (Rs. 1000). Pettah remains the one shopping district you can walk around, but the stuff they sell there is random at best.
As Sri Lanka develops, those guys can and probably will be bought out to make way for more branded stores, modernizing and filling out the logical shopping center of the city. In the worst case the government will take and re-privatize the land, but I think these aren’t illegal settlements and the people there would I think sell. Recently, about 2 perches on Front Street was going for around $120,000 USD. Note that I think Pettah will change more than I hear anything.
5. Colombo Racecourse
The Colombo Racecourse (near the Sports Ministry, and Royal College) has essentially been a haunted house as long as I remember, but they look set to redevelop it as a Dutch Hospital style historical shopping center. While the center of gravity is moving towards central Colombo, the current center is currently out here, in the suburbs, so this will be good to serve the populations of Havelock and Bamba, etc.
Note that this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are hotels coming up across from Galle Face Green and land being reclaimed from the sea there. The Marine Drive road should be extended to Mount Lavinia and perhaps beyond. Majestic City mall is expanding, and I’m sure someone will move into Colombo central with a mall and/or a city hotel.
Meanwhile Unawatuna is booming, and LOLC just spent a billion rupees on a resort in Dikwella. Arpico, Cargills, Keells and Softlogic have considerable cash reserves and they’re all moving (more) into finance and investment, and this is not to mention foreign investment. Now foreigners can buy land without a 100% tax and Sri Lanka is obviously happening.
Honestly, things are changing everyday as Sri Lanka enters something of a post-war development singularity. There’s about 30 years of pent-up work to do, so I think we’ll see a lot in the next five years.
UPDATE: just heard that they’re building a giant lotus TV tower on the Beira. Who knew.