A 100-acre garden, a long promenade with sea-side jogging and cycling tracks, a London-eye like giant wheel as the ‘Mumbai eye’, bus rapid transit systems, light-rail transportation systems, and service utility tunnels — are some of the ideas that the six shortlisted consultants presented to the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) to make a master plan for development at the 500 hectare land along the eastern waterfront, until now locked from the public.
However, to finance the grand plans, the consultants have also proposed substantial residential and commercial development such as hotels, high-end residences, sky villas, service apartments, and office spaces.
The last time that space-starved Mumbai was tantalized with the promise of opening up large tracts of land was when mill lands were sold and two-thirds of the total 600 acres were released for social housing and open spaces. The mills, however, metamorphosed into luxury malls, high-end residential apartments and premium office spaces.
Sanjay Bhatia, MbPT chairman, said, “The focus is not so much on estate development, as it is on creating public spaces such as gardens and marinas. There will be some small amount of residential and commercial development though. We are planning to monetise part of the land to finance the development of the entire 500 hectares.”
One consultants’ proposal projects a residential population of 4.5 lakh in the freshly-unlocked area with 90,000 homes and proposes to rehabilitate the existing 15,000-odd slum-dwelling families while creating social amenities by monetising land parcels on the lines of the Bandra-Kurla Complex. The concept design also proposes to create an office space of 4.44 crore square feet with an estimated work population of 2.5 lakh.
The plan, however, leaves out 76% of the total area to be unbuilt, accommodating gardens, marinas, cycling and jogging tracks, landscaping, recreational plazas, roads and public transport infrastructure.
Another consultant’s proposal sets aside 13% area for residential development, 10% for business, 15% for mixed use development, 18% for roads and public transportation and 20% for recreational infrastructure. The plan has marked high-end residential areas closest to the sea-front, along with open spaces, and commercial areas farthest from it, closer to public transport feeders.
Yet another design gives more prominence to commercial development in the plan, marking 33% for commercial use, 5% for residential, 7% for mixed use and 20% for open spaces.
However, authorities as well as the design consultants say that the mill land travesty, when Mumbai lost the rare opportunity of converting large chunks of land in prime areas into affordable housing plots and open spaces, will not repeat itself in the port-land transformation.
Apurva Parikh, associate architect with architecture firm Hafeez Contractor, said, “The mill lands were opened up in a scattered manner. There was no master plan and there wasn’t a scope for one as the land was sold in pieces. Secondly, there wasn’t a single land owner so it was difficult to plan. Here, we will have a master plan for the entire 500 hectares, and there is a single owner, MbPT, which makes things much simpler.”