Mumbai – a land of many charms and inept – holds a disparate socio-cultural dialect of growing luxury hotspots and deteriorating habitats, interweaved as a labyrinth in the urban ecosystem. There have been several irresolvable issues pertaining to the lifestyle or the living conditions of the people in the unhealthy neighbourhood. But lack of initiatives and smart development programs have further deteriorated the rich community fabric.
One such example is the community dwelling of Bhendi Bazaar. Well-known for its historic boom in the commercial sector, today, it’s a menace! The dramatic growth of the commercial segments, the uncontrollable influx of people, limited spatial expansion (or say, no scope for expansion); the disregarded or ignored dilapidated conditions of the buildings by the owners, unhealthy living conditions of its inhabitants and inefficient development policies have turned this to a lousy urban chunk.
Looking at the distress of the area, the late His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin envisioned uplifting the living conditions of this neighbourhood for a healthy environment to work, live and play, and further, to empower the inhabitants. “Through this project, we are trying to socially, culturally and religiously uplift the lifestyle of the people,” says Abbas Master, CEO, Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust.
Thanks to the Government of India for its forward thinking attitude towards Cluster Development Program. With this program set in place, the late His holiness vision of redeveloping Bhendi Bazaar to a self-sustainable community is now in its construction phase.
With the inception of Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) to roll out the redevelopment program, they appointed Mandviwala Qutub & Associates as a Master Planner for the urban rejuvenation of Bhendi Bazaar through Cluster Development Module.
The scope of the project is to redevelop 16.5 acres of Bhendi Bazaar urban fabric through efficient infrastructure that, besides rejuvenating the acquired chunk of urban space, the program should also blend with its existing neighbourhood in harmony.
Today, Bhendi Bazaar is a home to more than 20,000 people who are habited in crapped up chawls which are marked unfit to living by MHADA. The growing commercial and residential occupancy has only increased the population density with lack of efficient infrastructure causing congestion in vehicular and non vehicular traffic, improper/inadequate sanitation facilities, inadequate fire & safety measures, lack of open spaces for community dwelling/children play area, lack of commercial identity, etc. – ineffective governance has only aggravated to the diluting urban fabric of Bhendi Bazaar.
The area under redevelopment, abutting the J J Flyover to the East, consists of a mosque and mausoleum to the South; 250 dilapidated buildings; narrow arterial roads running through West to East and North to South; and an age-old tree on the periphery of the project site to the East, beyond which is a run-down neighbourhood with handful of soaring towers marking the urban skyline.
The redevelopment and rejuvenation lies at retaining and maintaining the cultural hubs; accommodating the existing 3200 families and 1250 shops in residential and commercial transits, respectively; ripping off the dilapidated buildings to construct 17 state of the art towers; widening the existing arterial roads for easy flow of traffic along with dedicated pedestrian pathway; and plantation of more than 700 trees and shrubs in the vicinity. Working closely on the project, Qutub Mandviwala, Principal Architect, Mandviwala Qutub & Associates, says, “This project aims at uplifting the community centre – the lifestyle and housing of the people, infrastructure of the community – and create a module which will become a pilot project for such projects in the future.”
The planning process underwent a vigorous study on its infrastructure right from soil testing, sewage system, building survey to the living conditions of the residents, social and commercial aspects of the shop tenants. The planning is worked out into 9 sub clusters; close to 80% of land given back to its people through housing them in 13 towers and the rest 4 towers in the North allowed for sales.
“The master plan is envisioned to create a green environment. All the buildings are oriented to North-South, leaving East and West opened – increases natural light and reduces heat transmitted indoor. Further, wind tunnels connecting every apartment reduce on the electric consumption significantly,” elaborates Mandviwala on the design idea.
Each sub cluster is designed to sustain independently. A sub cluster consists of G+2 floors for commercial spaces, few floors of parking facilities topped by a podium with several amenities for the inhabitants housed on the top. Master explains, “Each sub cluster is designed to function independently. It has its own STP, RWH plant, solar panels and sub stations for efficient energy supply. Besides, the amenities like multi-functional hall, prayer halls, gymnasium and a large terrace garden on the podium provide congregational spaces at multilevel and also safety and security for children.”
The sub clusters are designed in a way to enrich socio-cultural status of the people, increase economic growth and enhance the overall human experience with its neighbourhood. Each cluster has a dedicated access point to both commercial and residential units to avoid crossover of the vehicular and pedestrian movements, further respecting privacy and security of the residents and shop tenants.
Upon building residential transits, at Anjeerwadi in Mazgaon, accommodating 750 units and 250 in process, and further acquiring an additional 1500 housing units from MHADA in Sewri and Sion, SBUT has shifted, so far, 1700 families from Bhendi Bazaar.
Being a philanthropic project, the residents are provided with basic facilities of living to all age group. Every individual is housed in a 250 sq. ft (min) of carpet area with attached bathroom, kitchenette, wardrobe and a washing machine; as against less than 200 sq. ft area in the past. They are also facilitated with community hub for socio-cultural interactions among the residents where one can find mostly old age people in prayers; as against a closed claustrophobic space in the past which confined them for lack of provision of elevators in the buildings. An ample amount of open space for vehicular parking and for kids to play around is provided in the vicinity, thus catering to the safety and security of the inhabitants.
Currently, commercial units are fallen prey to unhygienic ecosystem and lack of scope for extension has restricted the expansion of their businesses. Further, this malice has reflected in the consumer sector who restrains to purchase the goods.
The proposed commercial outlets are envisioned to provide organised high street shopping experience. Keeping in mind the feasibility of businesses, the project is planned to house commercial spaces in G+2 structures. This increases the customer engagement and in turn increases the economic stature of the shopkeepers. Talks are in process to extend the idea of increasing the footfall in the 2nd floor plate of the commercial spaces via connecting skywalks between the clusters. Nevertheless, the placement of the outlets fosters consumer interaction with the shopkeepers.
Aspirations and Anticipations
The redevelopment program is set to provide a minimum of 350 sq. ft carpet area to the residents, systematic parking facilities, round the clock security, and overall development of the human growth.
“Our lives have changed after shifting to the transit apartments. We have got bigger space to live in. There is ample natural light and ventilation. The place has been maintained very well. We have electricity and water round the clock. We used to have trouble doing our prayers during monsoon. Now that we have got our prayer room on the ground floor, we seemed blessed as we can do our prayers without a hitch,” expresses Khatija Kalimuddin, a resident of Bhendi Bazaar who currently resides in Anjeerwadi transit.
It is quite challenging to change one’s lifestyle that’s been adapted for generations. “The residential and commercial transit units are like training camps. We aim to uplift not only the lifestyle of the people but also their mindset. For instance, in the residential transits, people have already got used to living in a 15 storey building. They are adapted to systematic parking facilities, elevators, segregation of garbage, and majorly to live in self-contained apartments,” says Mandviwala.
The relocation of the existing commercial tenants, spread across 16.5 acres of land, is designed in a high street shopping format. This strategic planning of their positioning has certainly given them new hopes to expand their business. Hatim Mithaiwala, a businessmen & owner of Farsan shop recalls his childhood days when his father used to run the place. He says, “There were many visitors to our shop. They used to park their vehicles right in front of our shop and enjoy the delicacies we prepared. In the evening one could notice a large number of visitors, travelling from far away, flocking in to enjoy an evening walk eating sweets and savories. But now it’s disappointing to see only vehicles passing by. And a constant honking has left us nearly deaf.” With the on-going project of rejuvenating the entire Bhendi Bazaar, he anticipates to witness the past reflecting back in current time. He hopes to further increase his business and serve customer with many more sweets and savories.
The redevelopment project certainly has a lot to give it back to its people. The vision to uplift the status of its people may seem an additional baggage. But to SBUT, it’s a strength that drives them to do much better and excel.
May this ray of hope be a beacon to the future projects and programs.