MLAs hinder Rs 40 crore facelift for Colaba hostel

Despite state's plan to spruce up the heritage structure in Colaba, declared dangerous for inhabitation, 26 legislators are unwilling to vacate their rooms

Though the century-old MLA hostel in Colaba is disintegrating, certain legislators inhabiting it seem far from keen to evacuate it for renovation.

In bad shape: Experts say Majestic Hostel, opposite Regal Cinema in
Colaba, has developed cracks in its basement, columns and slabs and is
in urgent need of repairs.

Pic/Bipin Kokate

Despite the state legislature's approval of a Rs-40 crore plan to refurbish Majestic MLA Hostel, which was established in 1909 and declared a grade IIA heritage structure, officials are finding it difficult to convince some MLAs to even move temporarily to neighbouring buildings.  Even the declaration that it is dangerous for inhabitation has not moved some of the members of the state legislature to vacate rooms in their possession.

Designed by English engineer W A Chambers, the structure was among the first hotels in Mumbai before it was taken over by the state government in 1960 for accommodating MLAs. But the basement+ground+four-storey building with 98 rooms is now dilapidated and needs to be repaired, a committee of experts appointed by the state said.

"The structure has leakages and cracks in columns, walls, basement and slabs. Also, tenants living in the basement, multiple entries, unscreened public spaces, and compound walls only on two sides need to be reviewed from the security angle," said an expert on condition of anonymity.

"The facelift approved by the secretariat would preserve and restore the external facade to its former glory.

The internal structure will also be redesigned and reconstructed to standardise rooms and functions and secure the premises," said an official, adding, "To avoid inconvenience, members were even offered rooms at Manora MLA Hostel at Nariman Point and MLA Hostel near Akashwani, but there was no response," the official said.

Despite several circulars issued by the secretariat, at least 26 legislators have not yet vacated it. Secretariat officials refused to divulge their names. But reportedly, attempts to cut off water and power supply to get them to evacuate have also failed.

One such circular issued on June 23 (copy with MiD DAY) said that to avoid security hazards, members should vacate their rooms immediately and hand them over to the hostel's superintendent by June 25. But members have not paid any heed to the appeal despite the orders being approved by chairman of the state council and speaker of the state assembly.

Proposed changes
According to the approved plan, Sahkari Bhandar, a cooperative consumer store located at the basement will remain as it is. A few years back, the state PWD, entrusted with the job of maintaining the hostel, was unwilling to renew the lease agreement, saying the space was needed for the MLA Hostel. But the agreement was renewed for another 20 years, apparently due to interests taken by a big industrial house, which is keen to turn it into a swanky departmental store. Further, the servants' quarters located in the building will be handed over to the Sahkari Bhandar.

After the refurbishment, size of the rooms allotted to MLAs will be streamlined and standardised, with a carpet area of 600 sq ft instead of the existing 400-500 sq ft.

It will have a heritage feel, separate rooms for visitors, staff. But, the number of rooms will be reduced to 80 from the existing 98.

The building will get critical fire evacuation with the introduction of fire stairs, centralised air-conditioning with an AC plant on the basement, and rainwater harvesting through installation of solar power equipment.

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