A taste of success

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Cost of commercial spaces in Dhanmondi average around Tk118 per square feet for rent and Tk9,702 for purchase

From the place known for growing vast amounts of paddy to hosting a kingdom of food, Dhanmondi has evolved a number of times throughout its history. The area was properly established during the Mughal era and has since then played an important role in Dhaka’s growth. During its last iteration, sometime around the 1950s, Dhanmondi was developed with the intention of housing the middle-class citizens – creating public facilities, infrastructure and a breathtaking lake that was once a part of the now lost “Carevan River.”

But as we know today, the social character of the area had to change to accommodate the increasing demand. Eventually, though, the place that was never meant to have any commercial property within its bounds now has hundreds of properties that serve commercial purposes, and a lion’s share of those properties host restaurants and eateries that serve some of the finest food in the city.

A legacy of food

Dhanmondi has been more or less regarded as a “food hub” for quite a while now. It constantly sees a steady stream of food enthusiasts, as well as visitors to the area, who hope to sate their appetites. But it was not until 2014 or 2015 that Dhanmondi started to look more like the area we know today – a culinary heaven. A sort of “frenzy” took place in Dhanmondi back then as new restaurants started popping up every few weeks. And that pace never really slowed down as more and more eateries, offering varied cuisines, continue to open today.

Even without a proper count, there are undoubtedly over a hundred restaurants in the 4.34-square kilometre patch of land in Dhaka South that is Dhanmondi – making it the area with the highest ratio of restaurant-to-real estate in the country.

Interestingly, it seems that instead of slowing down, the pace with which new restaurants are opening might even increase in the coming days. A curious scenario indeed, but not illogical or even unexpected seeing that the growth of the restaurant scene in Dhaka is still in its booming period, even though it is often joked that some areas already have more restaurants than houses.

The driving force

If someone were to interview the patrons of any restaurant, asking them why they decided to come to the establishment in question, they would probably get one of the following answers – “Came here to hang out with friends,” “Needed a place to sit down and spend some time together,” “Heard they offer great deals” and finally, “They serve tasty food here.” While these aren’t the ONLY motives behind visiting a restaurant, they are definitely the major ones of the target demographic – the youth, an aspect for which Dhanmondi is well known.

Along with being a massive repository of dining establishments, the area has an unimaginable number of schools, colleges, universities and offices with thousands of people working or studying in them – all of whom frequent restaurants in the area.

As a result, there are no restaurants in the area that are without customers. It is just that some get more than others. That is why entrepreneurs view Dhanmondi as a highly profitable area where, by distinguishing itself from others, any restaurant can climb the ladder of success.

Many businesses also view Dhanmondi not just as a conduit for advancement, but as a benchmark for success. To them, opening a branch of their establishment in Dhanmondi is a sign of them “making it big” – and for a lot, this takes precedence over others.

Overcoming hurdles

In the wake of the unfortunate Holey Artisan terror attack in 2016, the security of upscale neighborhoods such as Gulshan, Banani and Dhanmondi were heightened, which saw a restriction being imposed on renting properties for commercial purposes in residential areas.

During this period, many restaurants and offices located on the inner roads of Dhanmondi had to suddenly halt operations, resulting in a decrease in commercial property demand. However, the commercial real estate scene of Dhanmondi has since bounced back. 

Just in the first three-quarters of 2019, Bproperty received around 400 commercial property requests for Dhanmondi alone. In regards to commercial real estate demand, that is quite a high number for any particular area – especially when the cost of commercial spaces in Dhanmondi is concerned, which currently average around Tk118 per square feet for rent and Tk9,702 for purchase. Both of these numbers land on the higher echelon of commercial property costs in Dhaka with only a handful of places like Banani and Gulshan surpassing Dhanmondi.

But even then, Dhanmondi has seen a surge of commercial property demand unlike ever before. This is a testament to the perception the area holds in terms of prosperity and success. Even with the tighter restrictions on commercial property allocation, the area has seen a resurgence in demand and supply – all without compromising the security aspect. And as the decades roll on, Dhanmondi will continue to be on the forefront of the restaurant and commercial real estate scenes of Bangladesh.