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A Vertical Makeover

‘Bhendi Bazaar’ is a 100-year old settlement that was once Bombay’s lively local shopping destination. The area currently suffers from the stresses of a centuries-old infrastructure and equally aging housing stock. The streets are chronically congested and basic utilities such as sewage treatment, open space and parking are virtually non-existent. Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), a public charitable trust has undertaken the redevelopment of Bhendi Bazaar, which will transform it into a sustainable, vibrant and a modern urban area that will attract new business and private investment, increasing employment and contributing to the socio-economic growth of its residents. Abbas Bhai Master, CEO of SBUT speaks to Buildotech about its most ambitious of project, slated to be one of the largest urban renewal projects in the country.

Brief of the Bhendi Bazaar community and need for redevelopment

Bhendi Bazaar was first settled in the 18th century and is one of the most popular Muslim dominated neighborhoods of South Mumbai with majority of them being Dawoodi Bohras. The place is rich in its history and culture. There are two schools of thought behind the name Bhendi Bazaar, one being that the British residing to the south of Crawford Market in Fort, referred to this area to the north of Crawford Market as “Behind the Bazaar”. The natives picked this as Bhendi Bazaar. The second thought is that the locals used to term this area as Bhendi Bazaar because of the nearby irrigation tract of Bhindi vegetable plantation (as per Maharashtra state Gazette). But what endures even today is the vibrancy and richness of the area’s culture, character and a sense of community living.

Over the years, little has been done to bring the community into the fold of city’s modern needs. The standard of living & infrastructure in Bhendi Bazaar has failed to keep pace with the ever increasing population. Majority of the occupants are living as tenants and 80% of the buildings are declared unfit for living, making them vulnerable to collapses during the monsoon. The very structures that people once called home have become a threat to their lives. It is to address these living needs that the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Project was initiated to renew the congested Bhendi Bazaar into a healthy neighborhood

The scope and salient features of the project

The entire project spreads across 16.5 acres of landmass comprising of 3200 homes in 250 existing buildings and 1250 businesses will impact the lives of 20,000 people. One of the remarkable features of the project is that the occupants who were earlier tenants will come back as owners and will be provided with a minimum of 350sqft carpet area home which is well above the mandatory requirement of 300sqft as prescribed under DCR 33(9) norm. Also, this is the only project of this size where 80% of the land will be used to rehabilitate the existing tenants and the remaining 20% will comprise free sale component.

The project has been designed keeping in mind the need for more open areas and green spaces. Wide roads will replace the narrow lanes. All of this has been done with the aim of preserving the character of Bhendi Bazaar. Also during the process of redevelopment the religious structures that fall under the 16.5 acres will remain intact. Above all, the project stands out for its intention that its residents can hope to have a better life; and the businesses that flourish in the area continue to do so with a renewed vigor.

‘Behind the Bazar’ or ‘Bhendi Bazar’… what endures even today is the vibrancy and richness of the area’s culture, character and a sense of community living

Qutub Mandviwala of Mandviwala Qutub & Associates is the master planner for the Bhendi Bazaar Redevelopment Project. The brief to the architects was to focus on the genesis of the project which was – upliftment of the residents.

The redevelopment of the entire 16.5 acres had to be done keeping the cultural fabric of the place intact. We also envisioned the new Bhendi Bazaar to become one of the best planned High Street shopping areas in Mumbai.

For project construction, we have assembled a team of best professional experts and consultants with relevant expertise and experience working at national and international level. Some of the expert consultants include:

• Perkins Eastman International, Architects, New York – Consulting Architect

• AECOM Pvt Ltd MEP and Infrastructure Consultants

• Systra MVA Consulting (India) Pvt. Ltd. – Traffic Consultants

• Halcrow Consulting India Pvt. Ltd. – Structural Consultants

• KPMG, India – Internal Auditors

• Deloitte Haskins and Sells, India – Statutory Auditors

• Mulla & Mulla and Craigie Blunt & Caroe – Solicitors

• Wadia Ghandy & Co – Solicitors

• Knight Frank (India) Pvt. Ltd. – Market Research Consultants

Current project status and the types of built-up areas planned in the new development

About 50 dilapidated buildings have been demolished, 10 buildings are underway and over 1500 families have already been shifted to the residential transits. The project has received environment clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and an in-principle approval on the Master Plan by the high power committee.

Once completed, this project will transform the area into a state-of-the-art residential & commercial locality with modern buildings, wide roads and better infrastructure. All the residents and businesses will be accommodated in buildings of varying heights ranging from eleven stories to over sixty stories. For the commercial tenants, we will retain the high street shopping experience which defines the lively Bhendi Bazaar currently. All the shops will be facing the 50 feet wide main road with modern and safe business environment. Keeping recreational activities in mind, we have a dedicated area in each building with the provision of services & community activities

What are the sustainable design parameters followed?

The entire layout of the project is designed in such a way that each Sub Cluster is self-contained and equipped with modern technology that is sustainable in every aspect. We have designed the buildings to face North-South instead of East-West. This helps in less heat absorption as the buildings do not face direct sunlight. Because of this orientation of the buildings and the way the project is designed, we believe that most of the people may not need air-conditioners. We plan to plant 700 plus trees of native species on the ground in the area which currently has just one tree.

As water is a very critical resource, we plan to utilize the resource very prudently. In order to achieve this, we have a sewage treatment plant to recycle water which will reduce the water consumption considerably. We estimate that once everything is developed, we are going to be utilizing the same or less amount of water as before with zero discharge into city sewers. We are also going to have a rain-water harvesting system in place that will account for 5% of the annual water consumption. In our effort to minimize the use of energy, we are going to be using recycled construction material.

Also included in planning is the installation of solar panels on roof tops that will generate energy accounting for 5 % of the total consumption. Solar-powered lights will be used on the streets and in public areas like staircases, reducing electricity consumption by a further 10%. We are currently devising mechanisms that will control internal ambient temperature by using an air-water heater system which converts heat from the air into hot water that will help reduce the usage of geysers. This mechanism will take away the environmental heat and the rooms will cool by 2 to 3oC leading to major energy savings. The project has been pre-certified for green rating by Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)

Transit rehabilitation initiatives for the residents

The trust is doing everything possible to ensure that existing tenants are not inconvenienced at any stage while their new homes/shops get ready. To this end we have built one of the finest transit-homes for residents to move in. These are well furnished homes that include a kitchen, attached toilet, carpet, cupboard, curtains, hot water geysers and a washing machine. So far, we have moved over 1500 families already to these transit homes. In addition to this, we have also built a transit for our commercial tenants within less than a kilometer from our project site. This is India’s first transit shopping complex and gives a preview of what Bhendi Bazaar will become once the project is complete.

The impact of what’s considered the biggest redevelopment project in Mumbai on the city infrastructure

This redevelopment project will provide an example and impetus for other urban renewal projects in Mumbai, in India, and throughout the world. At a time where Mumbai has seen an unprecedented number of buildings crumble in the last year, the government with the right cluster development policy can lead by example & Mumbai can be a pioneer again.

The benefits to Mumbai are immense. Not only would it reduce urban sprawl by ensuring much-needed open spaces, residents’ quality of life would undergo a sea change as their tiny, rented tenements would be replaced by modern apartments that they own. There would be an economic transformation too. Better commercial spaces would be created for shopkeepers and customers even as the flavour of the locality is preserved and more jobs would be created. This is the suitable and most cost-effective way – a win-win for every stakeholder – of transforming Mumbai into a world-class city.

There is a lot at stake in the Bhendi Bazaar redevelopment project– not just for the people and the locality; but also for the urban India at large. It will serve as a model for urban renewal in the metros and other inner-city areas, where space is getting scarcer, lives are in danger, and housing prices skyrocketing. The success of this ambitious project is sure to set the tone for other cluster development projects across the country.

 

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