State Housing Minister Sachin Ahir’s decision to bat for residents who are opposed to the heritage tag for Shivaji Park may have stemmed from sentiments other than purely those of human compassion. Last week, Ahir issued a clear and unambiguous diktat to the Urban Development (UD) department, telling it not to confer the heritage tag on old and dilapidated buildings in the area, especially cessed structures. And MiD DAY’s back-of-the-envelope calculations will give you a clear idea why.
In the island city alone, there are 14,950 cessed buildings, each with an average area of nearly 7,000 square feet - making the total area occupied by these buildings a whopping 10,46,50,000 square ft. The government has plans to redevelop most of the cessed buildings under the cluster redevelopment of DCR 33 (9), which allows an FSI of 4 for each building. This takes the maximum area that can be redeveloped to an eye-popping 418.60 crore square ft.
The average rate for development per square ft in the area stretching from south Mumbai to Shivaji Park, Matunga (Central) is Rs 20,000 per square foot. Applying this average rate to the 10,46,50,000 square ft that could be redeveloped but for the heritage tag, we arrive at the staggering sum of Rs 8.37 lakh crore. In effect, labelling these cessed buildings as heritage structures would mean closing the door on redevelopment worth Rs 8 lakh crore. And if Ahir successfully prevents the tag from being conferred, a construction boom in south Mumbai is in the offing.
According to Prasad Lad, chairman of MHADA’s Repair and Reconstruction Board, there are 14,950 buildings and the minimum size of a cessed building is 600-700 square yards. “In Shivaji Park and Matunga alone, no less than 1,000 buildings would be affected by the heritage tag. We have already told the municipal corporation that they shouldn’t tag all buildings as heritage, especially the old and dilapidated ones,” said Lad. Confirming that he had expressed his unambiguous objection, Ahir said, “I spoke to the ministry and told them that they shouldn’t tag all buildings as heritage.
This will obstruct the redevelopment process of the structures that are old and dilapidated” He added that when he spoke to the UD department, he was told that it is yet to receive any list of buildings to work on. “They told me that the list hasn’t yet reached the UD department, and so they cannot do anything right now. But I told them that whenever the list comes to them, they should know that the housing ministry has objected to any list that includes old and dilapidated structures,” he reiterated.
The objection came in the wake of the BMC’s proposal to declare the entire area spanning Shivaji Park, Hindu Colony, Parsi Colony a heritage precinct, a move that drew stiff protest from residents and political parties, including Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP (‘The ground has shifted beneath our feet’, December 4). While no proposal has been sent to the government yet, the housing ministry has already sprung into pre-emptive action.
Ahir also claims that most of the old buildings don’t qualify as heritage structures because they have undergone repairs multiple times. He insisted that his move was not a political one, but prompted by his belief in the importance of redevelopment.
The Bhendi Bazaar facelift involves redevelopment worth Rs 3,000 crore, spanning 250 buildings, making it the biggest redevelopment project in Mumbai in present day. According to the Bhendi Bazaar Redevelopment website, the project is spread over 16.5 acres of land and consists of 3,200 homes and nearly 1,250 business establishments. The project will impact 20,000 lives.