Free Press Journal

As Mumbai’s realty moves northwards, what will happen to SoBo’s realty scenario?


With construction hubs, both residential and commercial, moving down North, will the glory of South Bombay fade? Or, will it evolve with lesser number of high-end home residents? Kamlesh Pandya has the answers.

Mumbai is a real estate market like no other in India, be it the price-points or the exclusive nature of property. Or, the trends: Mumbai has witnessed the emergence of a new real estate market, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), which essentially defines the growing size of Mumbai’s realty scene, beyond just the limits of the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation.

From a time when the expectation was that it would soar through the clouds to become a vertical city, SoBo’s high-rise dreams have been kept ‘on-hold’ by a maze of bureaucratic rules and regulations. So, the expansion in recent years has been northwards. So, from a time when the commercial hub was in SoBo (South Mumbai), the new commercial hubs are in the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), Malad West, the Andheri-Kurla Road and Powai.

“SoBo of the future will be defined by infrastructure projects which enhance its hinterland – like the Sewree-Nhava trans-harbour bridge as also the ferry services  with Ro-Ro facility linking SoBo with New Mumbai and Alibaug”. — Pankaj Kapoor

The Information Technology (IT) work spaces, especially the back office set-ups, are in locations that are even further north, with micro-markets in Thane (Ghodbunder Road) and Navi Mumbai (Vashi, Mahape) leading the list. “Thane’s Ghodbunder Road is fast emerging as the location for corporate entities having offices spread over different locations in Mumbai city and suburbs to consolidate and relocate to, given good linkage and connectivity to the western and central railway lines,” explains Founder-Member of the Thane Estate Agents Association, Bharat Malik.

The migration of job centers also triggers a change in the ‘hot and happening’ residential hubs. If one looks at the new project launches in Mumbai and the MMR across the past year, two trends come across. First, the high-end luxury residential locations are not confined just to SoBo; suburban areas are equally – if not more – attractive for home seekers in this segment. Secondly, growth in the affordable housing segment is being driven primarily by connectivity to work-places, so a second home destination like Karjat or a weekend home location like Neral, both witness good demand for affordable first homes. The CREDAI-MCHI Raigad Unit had organized a property expo in Neral earlier this year. “Property exhibitions are usually in Mumbai-centric locations, like BKC. The first such event in Neral, and the number of walk-ins as also bookings that followed over the next few weeks are testimony to this new trend,” says Gautam Thacker, who was co-convener of the event.

As the trend of residential and work spaces moving north continues, commercial real estate has also started making in-roads away from SoBo. Retail spaces in Powai’s Hiranandani Gardens are as global as one would expect in an up-market location – and it has competition from Navi Mumbai’s Vashi as also Thane when it comes to the malls. The high-street retail segment which was either Breach Candy / Fort in SoBo is now visible more in the northwards direction, with suburban locations like Bandra and Borivali offering high and mid-range shopping options. “In Thane, the European concept of a shopping area where no cars are allowed is being created in Thane’s Hiranandani Estate, where ‘The Walk’ will offer a global shopping experience, distinct from the one that Powai offers – this will offer the discerning shopper an experience which recreates a truly European retail experience in Thane,” says Niranjan Hiranandani, CMD, Hiranandani Group. “Mumbai has witnessed a total change in the location of ‘happening’ real estate destinations, it has been moving in the northern direction since long,” he adds.

“With South Mumbai being surrounded by water on three sides, plus the restrictions on how high one can build vertically, it means that homes of choice are limited; and this is where a location like Thane’s G B Road, which offers verdant green Yeoor Hills on one side and the Ulhas river on the other, with excellent infrastructure and connectivity, attracts home seekers from high-end as also mid-range”, says Chaitanya Parekh, past-president, CREDAI-MCHI Thane.

How has this impacted SoBo’s real estate scenario? There is a change in the dynamics of South Mumbai’s real estate; which is defined by the change in demographics. As defunct Mills in Central Mumbai morph into high-end residential projects, high maintenance costs are forcing the middle and lower middle segment to shift northwards. Effectively, in terms of numbers, the population in South Mumbai has reduced, as lower and middle income residents shift northwards.

Those who are buying homes in the ultra-luxe projects in SoBo comprise businessmen and top executives, explains Pankaj Kapoor, CMD of real estate research and ratings agency LiasesForas. Those who do not get luxe-homes of their choice in SoBo opt for locations in the north, like Powai, where Hiranandani Gardens offers a global lifestyle. Or one of the high- end projects in Thane, he adds.

“Jobs are shifting northwards, commercial realty is also mirroring the same. Obviously, the residential segment is also following suit,” says Pankaj Kapoor. The numbers game is shifting to the north, and Mumbai’s real estate is mirroring this. SoBo will evolve, with lesser number of residents, a larger chunk of who comprise high-end home residents. SoBo of the future will be defined by infrastructure projects which enhance its hinterland – like the Sewree-Nhava trans-harbour bridge as also the ferry services with Ro-Ro facility linking SoBo with New
Mumbai and Alibaug. These will create a new paradigm for SoBo’s real estate, he says.

“It will largely be about duplexes, penthouses and four bedroom apartments, ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet. The only difference from present-day SoBo that we may see is, most probably, its evolution into a very ‘tony’ type of establishment”, concludes Pankaj Kapoor.