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Queen of hearts

“Breach Candy is boring,” drawls Emma de Decker, programming executive at Blue Frog, the Lower Parel nightclub. “Bandra is the party place.”

mumbai Updated: Apr 04, 2010 01:24 IST
Tasneem Nashrulla
Tasneem Nashrulla
Hindustan Times

“Breach Candy is boring,” drawls Emma de Decker, programming executive at Blue Frog, the Lower Parel nightclub. “Bandra is the party place.”

Which is why the 31-year-old French expatriate moved, a year ago, from a studio apartment in the tony South Mumbai quarter to a one-bedroom flat on Hill Road in Bandra. Also headed to Bandra is the French Consulate, which is moving from Nariman Point to the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC).

Once seen only as an affordable alternative to staying in ‘town’, Bandra has emerged as the city’s most aspirational address — its new ‘town’.

Over the last decade, BKC — a modern, well laid out business district at Bandra (E) — has been the catalyst for a small-scale exodus from south Mumbai to Bandra. Both the British Deputy High Commission and the American Consulate have moved from Nariman Point and Breach Candy respectively to BKC. Most recently, the French Consulate closed a deal for its new office space in BKC’s Wockhardt Towers.

“BKC is becoming the new city centre,” says Abhishek Lodha, director of Lodha Group. And it’s setting off a piggybacking effect. “With BKC evolving into the new financial hub, the corporates are also headed to Bandra,” says Neeraj Gorwani, director, Gorwani Builders.

While south Mumbai is still home to old-money industrialists such as the Tatas, Ambanis and Birlas, Bandra is attracting what Gorwani calls the “new corporate cult”. He says: “They represent the new generation of young entrepreneurs and well-paid executives looking to buy property in Bandra.”

Bandra, home to some of the city’s oldest gaothans (traditional villages) and cottages, is also home to some of the city’s best new buildings, which offer spectacular sea views and playthings including car decks, sun decks and swimming pools on every floor.

And with those new buildings packed into a much tighter space than the wider expanse of south Mumbai, demand, and therefore, prices are rising.

While swank flats on south Mumbai’s Altamount Road — named the 10th most expensive street in the world in a 2008 survey by Wealth-Bulletin, a UK-based news agency — cost Rs 40,000-50,000 per sq ft, luxury apartments on Bandra’s Carter Road and Pali Hill are a close Rs 30,000-40,000 per sq ft.

And where purchase prices go, rentals follow. Fuelled by a continuous ebb and flow of new restaurants, and creative and commercial spaces, rentals of plush properties here are astronomical. Some, such as Narain Terraces and Kubelisque — both at Union Park — command Rs 12-15 lakh as monthly rent. Most are occupied all year round, fed by the surge of expats into Bandra.

“The Bandra-Worli sea link has significantly improved connectivity between the north and south of the city, making Bandra a key node,” says Boman K Irani, MD of Keystone Realtors (Rustomjee). “With corporate houses moving here and the opening of high-end schools and hospitals in BKC, combined with its proximity to both the airports, rising property prices and its upmarket population have made Bandra aspirational.”

If BKC is the city’s new commercial centre, Bandra West is its new lifestyle destination. “Bandra has created a clear identity for itself — a buzzing cultural centre that attracts the lifestyle seeker,” says Lodha.

Furrokh Regina, a business development manager with Culture and Relocation, an agency that helps expats find flats and familiarises them with Mumbai’s culture, says: “Earlier, most expats were located in Nariman Point and Ballard Pier. Now, the majority of them live in Bandra. One of the main reasons is the opening of the American School and the Dhirubhai Ambani School at BKC.”

“Apart from its new skyline, Bandra also has gourmet stores selling imported meats and cheeses that expats tend to prefer. With the Celebrate Bandra festival, and a whole range of nightclubs, restaurants and retail spaces, they have a lot more to do here than they do in town,” Regina adds.

De Decker says: “The expats in Breach Candy are mostly businessmen with families. Bandra has a different kind of expat — younger and outgoing. Most of my Indian and French friends live here.”

And even hardcore townies are shifting base to the queen of the suburbs. College student, Bela M (who didn’t want her last name used) and her family, who own a chain of city hotels, recently moved to Linking Road after living in Colaba for more than 20 years.

Even though she calls Colaba home, Bela says South Mumbai is “uptight” while Bandra is “chilled out”. She says: ““In Bandra, people are more eager to socialise and plans always seem to materialise, which doesn’t happen that often in town. And everything is so convenient here. There are so many more places to shop and hang out at than in town.”

The Trident, which opened in December last year, is the first five-star hotel at BKC. Visheshwarraj Singh, general manger, Trident BKC, says: “We find it more challenging to cater to this crowd than our Nariman Point clientele. These are young, well-travelled entrepreneurs with discerning taste, and spoilt for choice, given the multitude of new restaurants in Bandra. We have to take our game to the next level here.”

Within the first few days of its launch, the hotel saw 80 per cent occupancy, explained by BKC’s affluent corporates and expats, and Bollywood’s swish set from the Bandra-Juhu stretch.

The party continues.