Küçükçekmece has been one of Istanbul’s most attractive areas for investors in recent years. This interest derives from the investment opportunities the city promises due to its proximity to Istanbul’s new airport and the new controversial Istanbul Canal project.
For foreign investors, this may be the time to cash in and generate a new source of income, but before we discuss whether or not this may be the golden opportunity, let us get a general overview of the area, what it offers, and let us understand what the new Istanbul Canal project is, and if this is the beginning of an urban renaissance era for the dream city.
Küçükçekmece is located on the European side of Istanbul; it is bordered by Bahçelievler and Bağcilar from the east, Başakşehir from the north, Bakirköy on the south, and the beautiful Küçükçekmece lake on the west side. It is strategically located because it crosses over with the TEM and E-5 highway, the two main arteries of Istanbul, making it accessible in and out. Moreover, it is the second most populous district in Istanbul, home to almost 810.000 residents.
Therefore, it has been gaining the private and public sectors’ attention, leading to new mega-project investments. Now the area is hosting a variety of commercial and industrial centers in Istanbul. The rise of new and luxurious residential developments came along with the opening of new shopping centers such as Arena Park mall and Armoni Park, schools, and universities, including Aydin University and Istanbul Kultur University, as well as the launching of new municipality projects like the construction of the metro line that will connect Bağcilar, Kirazlı to the new Halkalı metro.
This urban regeneration area is now seeing the fruits of this transformation; home sales are on the rise in Küçükçekmece and it is average around 4% increase per month and approximately 350% increase in the last 3 years, so previous investors are reaping the benefits of their ventures. For real estate investors, the most preferred estates are two bedrooms and three bedrooms apartments, but along these types, you can find all kinds of estates, from villas, penthouses, lofts, home offices, etc. This has been only the beginning for the Küçükçekmece district to shine; with the new Istanbul Canal project, the government estimates a higher revenue increase. But what is the purpose of this project exactly, and is Istanbul heading into an urban renaissance era?
The Istanbul Canal was announced in 2011 by the former prime minister and current Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; it is essentially an artificial sea-level waterway parallel to the Bosphorus strait that will connect the Black sea to the Marmara Sea. It will bisect the European side of Istanbul and form a new land that will sit between the European side and the Asian side, thus making Istanbul the three lands city. Also, it will pass by the Küçükçekmece lake, and this is why the area is gaining more investment momentum.
According to the project’s official website Kanal Istanbul, this will be an alternative passage that decreases and ensures maritime traffic and safety and will preserve the historical texture of the Bosphorus. The natural Bosphorus waterway is currently used by 43.000 vessels annually on average, is used as a trading route, and is a source of living income for many people. Due to its 698 meters narrow point, sea traffic in the Bosphorus is a hassle for many passengers; the average waiting time for ships is 14.5 hours and could reach 3 to 4 days in unusual circumstances.
Besides, it will establish a modern earthquake-resistant residential area with horizontal architecture. The canal is part of Turkey’s vision for 2023-2053 and will run 45km in length, between 400 and 1000 meters in width, and 25 meters in depth. As a result, it is expected to increase international ship movement across the black sea and relieve some of the pressure off the Bosphorus. Estimations suggest that the project costs may reach 25 Billion USD and generate around 8 Billion USD annually, on-site construction has begun since June 2021, and the completion date is set for 2027.
If this project is completed, it will start an investment revolution for Istanbul and Turkey as the Ankara cabinet presents it as a strategic base and geo-political leverage for Turkey in terms of international trade. Besides, it will trigger the reviving of all areas that will border the canal from Küçükçekmece, Arnavutköy, Avcilar, and Esenyurt. The question remains whether this maritime route will be subject to the Montreux Convention just like its counterpart, the Bosphorus?
The Bosphorus strait is subject to the Montreux Convention, signed in 1936 at the Montreux Palace, Switzerland, under which maritime traffic through the channels of Turkey is regulated; it guarantees complete freedom of movement to civilian vessels, whereas it limits the number of military ships and weapon vessels during peacetime. Opposite parties of the government have raised the convention card to highlight its importance to Turkey’s international relations with the United States and Russia.
The artificial waterway controversy continues; from the opposition’s perspective, the canal will burden the Turkish economy, claiming that the government’s estimations are merely optimistic. Even more so, Environmentalists and the Chamber of Environmental Engineers warn that the Canal will jeopardize Istanbul’s precarious water supply and ruin the surrounding ecosystem, especially the natural balance between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
The project has been heavily criticized by local and international entities; it has been classified as a political project from one side and an investment opportunity from another. For now, nothing remains certain that this canal will be completed, but suppose the Turkish government follows through with its plans for the new Istanbul Canal, ensuring it will take care of all the primary concerns. In that case, it is guaranteed that this will transition Istanbul into a new era. Until the answer is clear, it is vital to understand the magnitude of such new developments from different perspectives.