Mahasen Samaravijaya, the Chairman of GVR Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. in an interview with Ceylon Today elaborated on the company’s first Mixed Development Real Estate Project in the ancient city of Kandy, “Dynasty Residence”. Mahasen Samaravijaya is a citizen of United States of America who hails from Kandy.
He has been a recognised entrepreneur, including the White House. His background is Advanced High Tech Manufacturing for 38 years, prior to starting ventures in Sri Lanka. He had been the founder and Chairman of Company named Interface Data Systems from 1992 to 2003 which specialized in design & manufacture of the electronic inter-faced products to original equipment manufacturers. He has also been the Former Chairman of Sri Lanka – America Business Council from 1997 to 2000.
How did you start the project ‘Dynasty’?
My idea was to introduce a high end life style development for vertical living to Kandy. It is the first apartment complex near the majestic Mahaweli River. It was where the famous elephant bath situated near the Katugastota Bridge. My birth place is Kandy. Our prime motive was to give something unique back to uplift Kandy’s economy and to give an environmentally -friendly design to Kandy. Therefore, we started this project for Kandy residents to have a luxurious, convenience and a safer living experience.
Another main target requested from the beginning from the BOI to attract the expatriates to invest in our home town plus they also can get involved help develop overall Kandy to a higher standard. I studied the Colombo market to find out the kind of apartments coming up in Colombo and what kind of issues would they have. We were advised by the Government higher up to make sure while we are developing to preserve it’s environment and not to make Kandy a concrete jungle like Colombo.. This location is very beautiful surrounded by green mountains and majestic Mahaweli River. Keeping all those advices in mind we started the development to bring new and higher standards for vertical living.
What kind of apartments do the complex consist of and what is the architecture behind the project?
In order to develop this we assembled a team of professionals of international and local who understand the modern construction standards including safe and environmentally-friendly design. We engaged a Singapore Architectural firm company named RDC. Closely 40 per cent of the apartments in Singapore are designed by this firm. Their designs included the ‘green technology’. The team decided to build this condominium under US Green Building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment) rating system which is most widely used system in the world. We came up with a great concept.
I was personally involved in designing our rooftop to ensure that when looking from above all what is seen would be a nice beautiful garden with a Kandyan style building hiding elevators & stairways. We have very creative unique design features in this condominium development. The rooftop includes 170-metre jogging track, a meditating garden, gymnasium and a reading garden.
There are also four penthouses on four corners of the building with personal rooftop gardens created on their roof within the rules & regulations which contain the golf putting, entertainment area & BBQ area as well. We pressurize water from the ground floor up to the apartments as well as to the rooftop. It cost us more because we do not want the rooftop containing typical water tanks and other MEP systems.
We also wanted to ensure healthy living in this complex, especially good air quality within apartments as well as in the common areas. In order to accomplish this we have created fresh air ventilating system throughout inside the building which minimize spreading fire from one apartment to another and also no one will have an impact from fumes.
By incorporating various advanced designs & materials we have created an acoustic sound barrier within the apartments for complete privacy. Also there are no columns inside the apartments except one model. The designs consists of European and Sri Lankan styles. Altogether there are 93 apartments of 17 different unit layouts. Our apartments are 40 per cent larger than other apartments.
What kind of a surrounding would the customers get to enjoy?
The breathtaking views of Hanthana, Hunnasgiriya and Knuckles mountain ranges along with Majestic Mahaweli River offers an Oasis of Tranquility. This serene environment takes away any stress or weariness anytime of the day.
Majority of the apartment complexes are in Colombo city. Why did you choose Kandy? What was the special reason?
One of my good friends a well-known businessman asked me, ‘ Mahasen why did you do this in Kandy, looking at your designs and the building, you could have made billions if you had built this in Colombo’. I said, ‘no our interest was in Kandy and it is my home town. We wanted to give something back to Kandy. I went through quite a lot of hardships because it is not easy thing to do business here. Anyway I did not give up. Somehow I finished it. Honestly there is no money for me in this. I think it is mostly my passion that got involved in doing a project of this magnitude in Kandy and supported by my shareholders”.
Do you have any ideas to expand to other cities?
No I do not think so because I need to get back home to USA. I never thought that it would take this long. However, there is another phase to this project; the next door land too belong to GVR Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. We call it the hotel land. It is now considered the most valuable commercial land in Kandy. The two properties were given approval for construction long time ago. Both properties are just 30 mtrs. from the river bed. Now the laws have changed since 2010 and any commercial construction should be 100 mtrs. away from the river bed. From the beginning the idea was to create a mixed development project consisting of High-End Lifestyle vertical living complex and a five star category hotel with some commercial facilities.
Will you be putting your efforts to build the hotel next door anytime soon?
I have not decided because the Dynasty project took a long time to be built. I cannot give you an answer right now. I do not know whether I would start it or not. Last three years took hard turns from terrorist attacks, pandemics and political turmoil. Some of these problems are not solved even yet. However, I am confident as I have seen in the past generally Sri Lankans are resilient and they will find ways to solve all these problems and move forward. In that notion I may take the time to develop the second phase.
How is the business with the current crisis? As a business person how it has affected you and the business?
Surprisingly we have been really busy since the month of July. No matter what there are investors with money looking to invest in the right place to get a better return within a shorter period of time. Dynasty Residence – Kandy is such a place and have a very strong attraction now. The rupee is depreciating and this property is appreciating.
Since Mirigama to Kurunegala expressway got completed our property values have gone up and travel time from Colombo to Kandy now will take 2½ hours to max 3 hours. Although Kadawatha to Mirigama express way was supposed to be finished by 2020 due to all these crisis it will be delayed and might be finished by the end of next year. Kurunegala to Kandy expressway was also supposed to start this year.
I think there is a good chance that these plans might happen down the line. What I see is there is a definite change of interest of the public from Colombo to Kandy. A lot of people are looking at Kandy as a second home because of what happened in Colombo, the Covid-19 situation and the Aragalaya, political crisis and all these recent problems crippling Colombo.
No matter what, Kandy is known as a sacred city. If I look back from the events during the height of Covid, I see Kandy is holding up good compared to Colombo. Kandy is the second largest city and it has room to grow. The Former Ambassador of South Africa, Geoff Doidge made a comment five years ago when he was here visiting my site. He said, ‘Kandy is a hidden jewel to be discovered’.
I believe in that. I always give the credit to Thusitha Wijesena the Chairman of the Kandy City Center. To me that is the best shopping complex in Sri Lanka. He is also outside of Kandy but he came to the city and contributed to it. We are the second to create a massive project in the Kandy.
How are the customers? What is their response when it comes to the experience they have?
We are very proud of our customers who are professionals and they really appreciate that we have thought about every little detail need to incorporate into a development of this nature. They enjoy the 42% common area we have allocated from the total construction along with common facilities and also their spacious apartments where the average apartment size is over 1600 sq.ft. Further, the high quality finishes and also the uninterrupted utility facilities.
In the current situation we provide LPG Gas and the 640 KVA Generator with 7500 litre capacity diesel tank provide gas & electricity facilities without interruption. Even one of our competitors said that he has never seen an apartment complex like this here in Sri Lanka. There are good comments. People who bought our apartments are happy.
Have there been any famous individuals who have bought an apartment from the Dynasty Residence?
Yes there are many known people who have bought but we have a habit of not mentioning their names for the sake of their privacy. All I can tell is that I have very good professional customers. I’m the only expatriate who has come and done a big development to their home town, no one else done this so far.
What are the achievements the complex has received so far?
We won the LEED Gold certificate under the US Green Building rating system and Dynasty Residence is an internationally recognized building. There are happy customers and new customers who would praise the complex. They would say that they had never seen a place like the Dynasty Complex. I can proudly say that the building is safely built and it is safe for children as well as for elderly people.
What are the benefits of purchasing Dynasty Residence apartments at present time?
Looking at the current situation where Lanka rupee is depreciating, we have decided to help the customers looking to invest their hard-earned money. 18 apartments have been selected at an average 40% discount from the selling price. This is valid till 30 September 2022. Now that the government has introduced 15% value added tax to apartment sales from 1 October 2022, if anyone purchased one of our apartments gets an average 55% discount. Thereby the profit to the customer is already built into the purchase price. This is an exceptional benefit to the purchaser.
Any environmental issues in Kandy that you would like to talk about?
Yes, I am glad you asked this question. There is a long standing issue with the Gohagoda Garbage Site. However, last two years they have covered many areas with soil and grass. Two mountains have been created and one has been turned into a playground. The other mountain is also in the process of developing and covering up. We recently came to know that Governor of Central Province has conducted a meeting with all government authorities and have issued instructions on 23 of August 2022 to move to a new site at Digana, a property belonging to Mahaweli Authority within 2 months.
I am planning to work with the US Ambassador to get some funding from the US Aid to convert the existing garbage site into a bio-gas/fertilizer project. We are also glad to hear that His Excellency the President Ranil Wickremasinghe also have addressed these type of environmental issues in Parliament.
BY Aloka Kasturiarachchi