Review and Updates on Lower Parel

Lower Parel: From Cotton Mill Town To Commercial and Social Hub

September 28, 2017

Modern cities are storybooks of transformation – from marshland and sea to reclaimed land housing towers, from fishing villages to cultural hubs, from old commercial centres to buzzing new ones – and tell the tale of a city’s rise and growth. Mumbai is home to many such transformations which have taken place over the years. …

Lower Parel: From Cotton Mill Town To Commercial and Social Hub

Modern cities are storybooks of transformation – from marshland and sea to reclaimed land housing towers, from fishing villages to cultural hubs, from old commercial centres to buzzing new ones – and tell the tale of a city’s rise and growth. Mumbai is home to many such transformations which have taken place over the years. Each decade brings new transformations as a new town emerges and becomes the cynosure of developers and the nerve center of construction activity. Lower Parel is one such town in western Mumbai which has seen remarkable change from an erstwhile cotton mill town.

Lower Parel gets its name from the Portuguese ‘Parella’ or Parel. In fact Parel and Lower Parel are in close proximity to each other with the former being on the central railway and the latter on the western railway lines. The cotton mills of Bombay, which were one of the highest employers till the 1980s, were concentrated in Parel and Lower Parel. Parel was one of the original seven islands that comprised the province of Bombay. A considerable part of it is reclaimed land and in the 13th century it belonged to the kingdom of Raja Bhimdev. In the 1770s it was the home of William Hornby, the Governor of Bombay and was known as the poshest part of Bombay. After the plague epidemics of the 1890s, cotton mills proliferated and the bridge connecting central and western Parel was built in 1915. This bridge still exists today as much as Lower Parel’s claim to being a posh and bustling area with its skyscrapers, malls, pubs and hotels replacing most of the mill chimneys.

Transformation of Lower Parel

As the cotton industry declined and the vast mill lands were abandoned, a plan to rehabilitate these huge premium tracts of land was conceived. The National Textile Corporation started selling mill land in the early part of the 2000s. At the time, city planners were looking to relocate offices away from the crowded, expensive and saturated Nariman Point which was the commercial nerve center of the city. Sensing an opportunity, leading developers started snapping up parcels of mill land that were coming up for sale and thus began the rebirth of Lower Parel and a new commercial hub in Mumbai. Indiabulls, Marathon Group and Peninsula Land are some of the leading developers who have stamped their mark on Lower Parel’s skyline.

One Indiabulls Centre
One Indiabulls Centre

Lower Parel today is home to the offices of major banks such as Axis, HDFC, DCB, Kotak Mahindra, Dena and State Bank of India among others. Office towers such Peninsula Business Park, Peninsula Tower, One Indiabulls Centre house the offices of domestic as well as international companies. Most of these commercial spaces are also known by their erstwhile mill names such as Empire Mills, Sun Mill Compound, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound and Kamala Mills Compound among others. Some of these mill structures have been refurbished so that the outer structure retains the historic charm while the inside is completely modernised. 

Residential Lower Parel

During the days when the cotton mills were churning out bales of cotton to be shipped to all parts of the globe, Lower Parel was home to most if not all of its employees, as well as the supporting economy that came up – little shops, food stalls and stores. All these people were housed in chawl-like tenements where families were close knit despite religion, caste and creed. All festivals were celebrated with gusto and the cultural roots still remain deep and strong. Many of these tenements still exist and can be seen around the railway stations of Lower Parel, Elphinstone, Parel and Curry Road which are in close proximity to each other.

However, alongside these are multi-storey towers and premium residences such as Ashok Towers, Dosti Flamingos, Ashok Gardens, Kingston Towers, Crystal Towers, Kalpataru Habitat and Marathon Icon. With the growth of Lower Parel as a commercial district and the influx of more educated and well paid working class executives, the demand for gated communities and high class residential options has resulted in developments such as Lodha The Park, Lodha World One tower which is a combination of residential and commercial space, Indiabulls Sky, and Raheja Universal among others.

Culture and Entertainment

As mentioned earlier, Lower Parel has deep and rich cultural roots gained from its cotton mill community. During the festive season, starting with Ganesh, Navratri, Durga celebrations, Diwali and even Christmas, one can see a heightened level of activity in the market areas as well as local communities. Pandals to bring people together and celebrate are set up, streets are lit and shops buzz with shoppers.

Todi Mill Social
Todi Mill Social

Besides the seasonal festivities, Lower Parel has gained a reputation for being a party town catering to the young, hip crowd that works in the various offices located here. Establishments such as Le Pain Quotidien, Blue Frog, Social, Cafe Zoe, Barking Deer, Hard Rock Cafe, Tonic are well known party dives, serving up great food and music. The well known, sprawling Phoenix Mall hosts high street fashion brands at Palladium as well as eateries, cafes and the popular Canvas Laugh Factory where one can enjoy stand up comedy. High end hotels such as Four Seasons, St. Regis and ITC Grand Central are in the vicinity.

Lower Parel is also close to the Nehru Planetarium and Science Center, Mahalaxmi race course and the NCPA which hosts music concerts as well as sports events like Pro Kabaddi and Badminton. There are art galleries, museums and associations such as National Association for the Blind located in Lower Parel. Some mill compounds like the Mathuradas textile mill today hosts musicians and artists.

Connectivity

Lower Parel is accessible from various parts of the city. The railways are the most popular means of commuting especially the western and central railway lines. Roads such as Bandra Worli Sea Link, Senapati Bapat Marg and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road are the major routes to Lower Parel from the north as well as south of Mumbai with numerous buses plying to various parts of the city. During peak hours these roads are clogged with traffic and this is perhaps the only drawback of Lower Parel. The second phase of the Monorail project which will connect Lower Parel to Chembur in central-north Mumbai is expected to be operational soon and will alleviate the road congestion. The proposed coastal road and metro connecting north and south Mumbai are additional development plans aimed at decongesting traffic in hubs like Lower Parel.

Lower Parel’s transformation has been remarkable with glass facade skyscrapers replacing most of the chimneys and competing with the odd chimney that still dots the skyline and stands as a reminder of the town’s rich history and heritage. Given the connectivity that this town enjoys, and the fact that its allure as a lively hub with unending options for fun and entertainment keeps growing, Lower Parel’s appeal as a commercial and residential real estate magnet is only set to zoom towards stratospheric heights.

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