Is A Shift To The Hinterland On The Cards? Here Is How Pujit Aggarwal Views The Future Of Realty In Mumbai

“Sometimes the best solutions come in simplifying complexities.” - Anonymous

This quote very succinctly sums up why we need to recalibrate our current perspective and approach towards real estate in Mumbai. The tendency to exaggerate and complexify the current conversations within the limits of extremely convoluted political semantics may sound rhetorically appealing, but it is not leading us anywhere. All we need to do is dumb down a bit and just admit and agree that things need to move beyond Mumbai.

And I am not referring here to expansion; I am talking about a deconstruction, transforming Mumbai into a beehive of connected communities, all self-sufficient, autonomous, and independent, yet organically interacting with one another, to articulate an ecosystem where pressure on land would be nothing more than a distant memory of the past.

And it is not really a new approach. The entire history of this city is a saga of expansion, reclamation, and acquisition. But what is new here is a shift in interpretation. For a very long time, suburbia in Mumbai meant catchment zones to house the rather melliferous flood of migrants, powering the city’s docks, factories, and offices. But within a few decades, after independence, policymakers and stakeholders started realizing that the old colonialist methodology wasn’t going to bring about a sea change with regard to improving the overall standard of living in the city. The need was to change the entire language of commuting to work by decongesting and decentralizing the focal nerve centers of urban life. Thus, Navi Mumbai, or New Mumbai, was born, the brainchild of famous architect and urban planner, Charles Correa, who envisaged it as an example of truly transformative urban design, with it being slated to become one of the finest examples of both architectural finesse and state-of-the-art urban planning. For Charles Correa, it was the offspring meant to completely decongest Mumbai, and had all his recommendations been truly followed, Navi Mumbai, would have probably become the antidote for Mumbai’s problems, as it was originally envisaged by him. While that may not have truly happened, an edifice was realized whose fruits are being realized now, with the tremendous growth in infrastructure.

What is critical to note, when one looks at the overall genesis of Navi Mumbai, is a dramatic break from the insular ‘island’ mindset that had gripped the city planners till then. From going out into the sea, the focus completely shifted towards expanding northwards into and beyond the Ghats. Instead of urban sprawl, one saw the rise of self-sufficient communities, ecologically sensitive to the surrounding environment yet dynamic and self-sufficient enough to encompass within themselves all the modalities needed to function and thrive as cities. Names and places like Kharghar, Umroli, Ghansoli, etc. started emerging on the world map.

The city's infrastructure has also improved with time, with newer trains, metros, and stunning bridges spanning the city's many creeks and bays that give Mumbai its distinct vibe. The end effect is the birth of an urban ecoregion, whose possibilities are not confined to the "town" proper. Now, instead of millions of people converging on the central business district in search of work, you can have a more dispersed narrative in which the opportunity cost of a commute is much lower. Moreover, if you're willing to look past the elitist notion of places like Alibaug as alternate homes to escape the urban grime, you'll see that such spots are now emerging as investment magnets attracting people from far and wide, thanks to their cheaper land prices, better natural environment, and improved connectivity.

Alibaug has emerged as a magnet for new and exciting prospects, especially considering how the operationalization of Navi Mumbai International Airport in the next year is expected to completely augment the potential of the region by a notch. Also, critical here is the growth in key connectivity infrastructure like the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, The Revas-Karanja Connector and the Worli Sewri Elevated Road, which will not only drastically reduce commute time from the current 3-5 hours to less than 45 mins, but will also turn the entire eastern hinterland into an extended subregion of South Mumbai, with the recent plans to develop the eastern sea-front, further accelerating this integration. Thus, Property and land prices have grown by over 150% over the past few years, an unprecedented trajectory that everyone wants to cash into. The tapestry of such growth is also changing, from stand-alone villas to planned residential communities, offering the unbeatable proposition of salubrious living with walking access to both the mountains and the beach. In this context, it is also crucial to note that momentum in such markets is seamlessly embracing such transformative ideas as co-living, hostels for digital nomads, sustainable living, and residential and urban farming, amongst others.

In the future, once the planned 126 km Virar Alibaug Multimodal Corridor finally becomes a reality, one can expect a ring of sustainable yet unprecedented urbanisation, completely surrounding Mumbai, from the east to the west.

The evolution of planned developments towards communities that combine residential, official, educational, health, and entertainment functionalities within one area, like Palava, for example, is also one noticeable future of Bombay’s ongoing expansion across all directions, except the west. The emergence of such projects clearly highlights how all the key players are focusing on maintaining the agenda of significant de-clutter from the mother region to weave in a tapestry of independent yet integrated cities radiating away from the main city. The result is not really a sprawl but an empowered connection between people, formed by choice rather than compulsion. It is now being replicated across areas like New Panvel, Karjat, Lonavala, etc.

Everyone should definitely promote this positive expansionism since Mumbai is an idea and a promise that the vast hinterland can readily embrace to become an urban mega-region with many growth dynamos working together in balance and harmony. Everyone would cherish that future.

Author bio: Pujit Aggarwal is a seasoned real estate entrepreneur with over three decades of experience in disrupting and positively transforming the domain, through matchless excellence in strategy, design and execution. He is the mind behind some truly amazing projects, that have truly set the bar.