Often, in Mumbai, it is one pioneering commercial or residential building that spurs the transformation of a locality. In Ghodbunder, however, the credit goes to a man and the road he transformed.
That man was then Thane Municipal Corporation Commissioner T Chandrasekhar and the road he changed beyond recognition is Ghodbunder Road.
It was the bulldozers commandeered by the Demolition Master (as Chandrasekhar was nicknamed then) that cleared the way for what was once a congested traffic nightmare called Ghodbunder Road to be transformed into a four-lane thoroughfare. After that demolition drive in 1998, the concretisation of the road, four years ago, has been the icing on the cake.
And Ghodbunder, which gets its name from a once-famous port for horses (ghod = horse and bunder = port), now houses glitzy malls and massive housing complexes and sees thousands of cars whiz past every day.
Standing at the Wonder Mall, Jayant Chheda (45) points at the thoroughfare. “This road was once a mere 40 feet wide. Chandrasekhar made it into the 160 foot-wide, well-laid out road you see today,” says Chheda, a businessman. One of the reasons the transformation of the road led to large-scale development is that it links Thane to National Highway No: 8, that runs from Mumbai to Ahmedabad.
Chandrasekhar, who later quit the IAS to join politics, is still remembered in Ghodbunder. Anybody you ask will tell you that it is all thanks to him that Thane and Ghodbunder have changed for the better.
Even those who were dislodged by him have something good to say about the ex-Commissioner. Like Rajendra Prasad Gaur (40), who worked at one of the unauthorised garages along Ghodbunder Road that were razed by the former Thane civic chief. “No autorickshaw driver would venture into Ghodbunder after sunset. This place was a jungle,” he says of Ghordbunder barely 10 years ago. Gaur now runs a small stall selling cigarettes and mints outside the Hiranandani Estate, one of the many well laid-out townships that are fast rising against the Ghodbunder skyline.
Inside the Hiranandani Estate you’ll find yourself in a township with wide roads, manicured lawns, clean pavements and a serenity that is difficult to imagine in the metropolis. The complex is self-sufficient, with residential and office complexes, schools, hospitals, a clubhouse, playgrounds and shopping complexes.
It is with the promise of a clean, well-planned township that the big builders —Lodha, Rustomjee and Hiranandani — are luring buyers here. And many Mumbaikars are dropping by to check out the place, says Rajkumar Tiwari (23), an autorickshaw driver who often ferries visitors to these places. Tiwari has the route down pat: He takes you to Hiranandani Estate, the Vijaynagari and Brahmaand residential complexes and then to the Lodha and Rustomjee properties.
But the downside of this excellent road is that vehicles, heavy ones in particular, coming from the port, slow down traffic during peak hours. “It sometimes takes 45 minutes to get to the station,” says Ramesh Mahadeo, 38, who lives in Brahmaand housing colony.
With development, the property rates have soared. At the top end, residential property in Hiranandani Estate that fetched Rs. 1,200 per sq ft in 2001 is now going for Rs. 6,500. But on an average the going rate is Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5,000 per sq feet. Commercial property comes with a price tag of Rs. 15,000 t0 20,000 per sq ft.
With three new malls and residential towers under way those rates look set to go up some more.
A weekly column that looks at how a pioneering or iconic structure has changed the face of a locality.