Mumbai’s sustained evolution and significant growth continue to amaze one and all. The original 16 odd km length (Colaba to Mahim, Colaba to Maheshwari Udyan) increased by about two-and-a-half times to a 40 km length (Colaba to Dahisar, Colaba to Mulund) to incorporate the suburbs. Now, as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), it would have a typical length of 120 km, a three-fold increase from the suburbs stage size (Colaba to Palghar, Colaba to Raigad) to incorporate the extended suburbs or exurbs as well.
While there has been substantial residential and commercial development in the city itself due to its economic opportunities, several suburbs and exurbs within the MMR have also witnessed rapid urbanisation and real estate development. The interesting trend has been the opportunity to further transform the existing, already established suburbs through new development, redevelopment, and mixed-use development.
Chandresh Mehta with his wife Dipti, son Kavin and daughter Shreyasi |
A case in point is Vile Parle, which throws up interesting information when you search for its history online. Famous for soft drinks and chocolates and biscuits, the east and west sides separated by the railway line, witnessed a contrast in terms of development. Vile Parle west was known more for the palatial bungalows and considered the abode of the rich, while the east side was synonymous with wadis and chawls, where the middle class resided.
Most of the other suburbs are quite large, but Vile Parle presents a unique challenge with restrictions on expansion beyond a kilometre’s radius on either side of the railway station. The east side has the airport and the west side has the beach, limiting the scope for development.
While earlier, the airport runway funnel zone had affected development patterns in Kurla, Santacruz, Ghatkopar and Vile Parle impacting the height of the buildings, there has been a gradual shift in the development in real estate and infrastructure over the decades.
Vile Parle has seen redevelopment projects with older buildings getting replaced with modern, more space-efficient structures. This has led to an improvement in the overall housing quantum and quality in the area.
Several slum redevelopment projects have also been a factor in the changing topography of the area with the development of various residential projects, including apartments, condominiums, and independent houses, attracting a diverse range of homebuyers, from young professionals to families. Vile Parle also offers a wide variety of commercial properties. Further, the infrastructure development in terms of roads and utilities is improving to meet the growing demands of the population.
With the upgradation in housing options, existing residents are reluctant to move away and with good reason, preferring instead to elevate their standard of living by moving into a bigger, better and newer project.
For instance, Chandresh Mehta a resident of Vile Parle since childhood, used to earlier live in a rented apartment under a variant of the ‘paghdi’ system where no rent agreement was required between a landlord and a tenant. Recently he moved into a larger apartment, becoming an owner of that flat in the process. Commenting on the upward transition, he says, “While I may have shifted about half a kilometre away from my earlier house, the feeling of moving into a home that you can truly say you own is so different.”
Talk to some of the other earlier residents and they would take pride in telling you how they learnt to swim in a ‘baudi’ or well near their wadi, or how they went to a ‘vyayam shala’ the original predecessor of today’s gymnasiums and used to go for walks in the park, and garden or playground. Now, post the transformation with new projects providing lifestyle amenities such as swimming pools, fitness centres, landscaped gardens, and parking facilities, the new residents would not know that those terms once existed in the vocabulary of the original Parle inhabitants.
(The writer is a Trend Science, Communication & Marketing Consultant)