The mill run by Raja Bahadur International Limited has been turned into a community building hangout, F&B hotspot and co-working space
Back in the day, if you told the rickshawallah to take you to Le Meridien (now Sheraton Grand), he wouldn’t know the directions. You had to tell him to take you to Raja Bahadur Mills, and he would take you there. Even after the mills shut down, the factory designed and manufactured drafting machines, but that business too was washed away with the sand of times. The Pittie family, who ran Raja Bahadur Mills, then went into real estate, making a building that was leased out to TCS on Tadiwala Road, which has other tenants now, and a few other projects.
Reinventing the space on which the non-operational mill still stands, at the dead end of a lane adjacent to Sheraton Grand, Raja Bahadur International Limited has turned it into a leisure hub. They’re calling it the Raja Bahadur City Centre (RBCC). “The established industries like spinning, weaving, processing etc, were shut down in Mumbai, Delhi, Kanpur, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad and all over the country for a number of reasons. There were only about 2-3 factories left. The world was changing with decentralisation of these industries. So we started designing and manufacturing machines. Our engineering department was so strong that in the 1962 Indo-China war, we collaborated with the Armament Research and Development Establishment and made radar erasing products and items to be fitted on bombs etc. Post that, we ventured into real estate. So we’ve always been active in a niche market,” says Shridhar Pittie, managing director at Raja Bahadur International Ltd.
Furthering the conversation, his son Umang, the vice-president of the company, talks of The Mills. “A part of the RBCC that we are currently developing, is The Mills. We’ve kept the look and feel of the mill intact, and have turned it into a leisure space with restaurants that surround a plaza area where we are planning to host events like flea markets, pop ups, exhibitions, concerts and so on. The aim is to make this a buzzing space, with positive collaborative experiences through well-curated events,” he says.
Just beside the railway station, and not too far from the airport according to Umang, this space is all about customer convenience. “We also have ample parking space because we know that it has become a problem in the city to find a decent spot to park your car when you go out,” he says.
The restaurants already open to the public at The Mills include Botanica, which is called the green house bar with the look of a tropical forest that is ironically created with artificial plants; Tathiya, an Indian fine-dining restaurant; Millers, a bar with a homely and nostalgic feel with Star Wars figurines and the charm of the era before the internet; and 2BHK, a hip club and diner. Cinco, which is somewhere in between a French pâtisserie and a nightclub, and an all-day diner called Baobab, will soon be opening their doors too. “There are many places to choose from which are so different from each other. You can choose where to go depending on how you want to spend the evening — partying, having a quiet dinner or casually hanging out with friends,” says Umang.
Keeping in with the theme of the venture, the restaurants are located in the sheds, giving it a feel of the mill with advantages like lots of natural light, beams across the ceiling and so on. The property is leased to the restaurants.
“The entire property measures 18 acres, but we have just used about 5-6 acres of land till now. We have presently used 50,000 sq ft as food and beverage space and 50,000 sq ft as commercial space. “We also have a co-working space, and are in talks with Hive, a pan-India collaborative workspace player. Ola has already occupied 4000 sq ft and are operational from here. We also have some space which we have reserved to make into a gallery or community space where we want to have community-building events,” says he.