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Cobbled space with tree-lined avenues (Photo: Mallika Abbas/White Star)

Just this once, ‘grand’ doesn’t seem like overkill. As in most sprawling cities, every square foot of Karachi’s real estate has been the site of fierce contestation. The first casualty of these daily battles was aesthetic sensibility; the second, consumer convenience. The city reconciled itself to having bazaars look and feel like Bohri Bazaar, Paposh Nagar and Gulf Market. And along came Port Grand.

The big surprise is the scale of the project, which extends from behind the Beach Luxury Hotel to Napier Bridge, with plans to utilise the space under the KPT flyover. But most Karachiites will be left gobsmacked by how this space has been used. The gates open to a huge expanse of cobbled space with tree-lined avenues and green belts – which appear even larger since it’s a strictly pedestrian area (cars are whisked away by valets at the entrance). And, given the number of benches and cosy nooks in and around the gorgeous gazebo supported by sculpted figures, loitering is encouraged here.

Up ahead is a huge mall – mostly empty until now – and an equally large area for ‘events’. During Ramazan, for example, this space sported a bouncing castle, mehndi and face-painting stalls and even a palmist. But veer off to the left and you will come upon the area that is actually doing business – the much-touted ‘Food Street of Karachi’.

Fine dining and gustatory exotica (Photo: Mallika Abbas/White Star)

Under the Bunyan tree (Photo: Mallika Abbas/White Star)

Built upon the promenade, the area boasts Karachi’s usual culinary suspects as well as several surprise entries. The result is a mix of Pakistani staples, Karachi specialties, fine dining and gustatory ‘exotica’ – by Pakistani standards at least. There’s Ghaffar Kabab House, with an abbreviated version of the Ferozabad thaana outlet menu – serving up the gola kababs, reshmi kababs and hara masala tikkas that made them so popular to begin with.

Meanwhile, biryani, gola ganda and Karachi’s much-loved Mr Burger have found stalls. The tiny sushi bar is garnering positive reviews but the seafood restaurant is perhaps the most eagerly awaited in a port city which doesn’t have much of a local, seafood eating culture.

At the head of the Food Street, marked by a venerable banyan tree, is a space available for private parties. With its panoramic view of the creek, wooden floorboards and the magnificent bar, the place is begging for a live jazz band but will probably end up being the setting for ‘alternative’ valimas with sit-down dinner for just 50 guests instead of 500.

But what truly sets apart Port Grand is that it’s among the few public places in Karachi one can walk in fresh air among other people, and not feel soiled by the encounter.

RENTALS

SALE

SHOPS (food street)

300 sq ft

90,000-150,000

500 sq ft

150,000-250,000

1,500 sq ft

450,000-750,000

SHOPS (mall area)

 200 sq ft

60,000-100,000

500 sq ft

150,000-250,000

1,000 sq ft

300,000-500,000

2,000 sq ft

600,000-1 million
 
SURROUNDING OFFICES

1,000 sq ft

40,000-75,000

1,500 sq ft

60,000-112,500

+3000 sq ft

240,000+
SURROUNDING HOUSES (in Lalazar)

600 sq yds

36-45 million

1,000 sq yds

60-75 million

2,000 sq yds

120-150 million

— Soha Ahmed

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