Why south Mumbai will be a tourist and retirement destination

South Mumbai will not be the 'city' anymore; that appellation will belong to areas much further north. Like it or not, south Mumbai will become a suburb.

Anant Rangaswami December 20, 2014 07:00:50 IST
Why south Mumbai will be a tourist and retirement destination

The definition of 'suburb', according to Merriam-Webster:

a) an outlying part of a city or town.

b) a smaller community adjacent to or within commuting distance of a city.

And one wonders, if these are the definitions, where is the city of Mumbai, and where are the suburbs today?

"Anais Rieu, attache de presse from the Consulate General of France, told the Times of India that their decision to move base to BKC in December 2010 was taken since they noticed the centre of gravity of Mumbai moving towards the area."

Rieu was speaking to the paper in the context of the US consulate's move from Breach Candy to the Bandra Kurla Complex. The British High Commission has already moved to BKC, as will the Australian Consul-General's expanded offices in the near future.

The consular services are not alone in moving from tony south Mumbai to what were once the suburbs, east, west or central. Corporates have been moving out of the 'island' city over the past decade, with the impetus increasing over the past five years. Hindustan Unilever has moved lock, stock and barrel; Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, BMW and Fiat, to name but a few, are in what were once the 'boondocks'; most major advertising agencies and media agencies have made the city-suburb move in the past few years; major broadcasters such as Zee and Colors have camped there as well. The list could go on and on.

Why south Mumbai will be a tourist and retirement destination

You can transplant the offices, and the workforce might shift out, but you cant transplant the Queen's Necklace, Chowpatty, the art deco architecture. In the pic: Marine Drive.AFP Photo

There are some immediate and thought-provoking implications to the trend. Considering the importance of commuting in the life of a citizen of the city, the most important change is in the demand-supply equation in - and consequently prices of - real estate, and rentals. The professional workforce, obviously, wants to live as close to their place of work as possible and the 'suburbs' are the first choice. With the change in where they live, the demand for quality schooling and college education rises in suburban institutes as well. Who wants their children to go on a one-hour commute to office?

It's no surprise, as commerce moves to what were once the suburbs, that hospitality and entertainment options in these areas see a huge explosion. There are more luxury hotel rooms in the suburbs than in 'town'. If visitors to the city find that the offices they need to visit are in the suburbs, they choose to stay there, eat there and get entertained there. It's just a bonus that both the international and national offices are in the 'burbs' as well.

Things can only get worse for the island city. There is virtually no land available for development once all the mill land is exhausted. The real estate that is available, because the supply side is finite, defies gravity and heads northward, making investments (and rentals) significantly cheaper in the suburbs.

If companies and those who work there are choosing to leave for greener pastures, who will continue to live in the 'city'? Those who have no need for the commute will be the main constituency.

South Mumbai will still have a lot going for it, though. You can transplant the offices, and the workforce might shift out, but you cant transplant the Queen's Necklace, Chowpatty, the art deco architecture, the Prince of Wales Museum, the Jehangir Art Gallery, the Gateway of India.

It's the centuries of culture and the heritage that one cannot move. They'll stay in south Mumbai forever, so the tourists will visit forever.

But south Mumbai will not be the 'city' anymore; that appellation will belong to areas much further north. Like it or not, south Mumbai will become a suburb. It's sad, but that's the simple truth.

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