An ambitious redevelopment project in Girgaum is on shaky ground as the state government is engaged in a fracas with the residents and developer, who want the original project to be recategorised under a 2009 scheme that will give them higher FSI and bigger homes

An ambitious redevelopment project worth a staggering Rs 800 crore in the Pimpalwadi area of Girgaum now stands suspended, having become the centre of a slugfest between the state Housing Department, led by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on one side, and the original residents and the developer Shreepati Group, on the other.

The much talked about Pimpalwadi redevelopment scheme, envisioned as seven towers, will affect 318 residents of chawls in the area, who have been rehabilitated with free dwelling of 225 sq ft, as per the 2003 government decision; section 33 (7) of the Development Control Rules, which applies to the redevelopment of cessed properties.

As per that original scheme, 134 tenements of 225 sq feet each were to be handed over free of cost by the developer to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA).

However, trouble surfaced when a 2009 insertion by the state government to the Development Control Rules in the form of section 33 (9), to implement cluster development, increased the Floor Space Index (FSI) to 4 and upped the free dwelling for original residents to 300 sq ft While higher FSI is allowed for cluster redevelopment, it is lesser for cessed properties.

Now, residents and builders want the project re-categorised under the 2009 scheme, and have been lobbying with the housing department for the same since a year.

While for residents, it is the prospect of larger homes that has led to a change of heart, for the builder, it is a windfall of higher FSI and consequently, huge profits.

The department, however, has stoutly refused to offer additional benefits to the developer. Irked over the delay in handing over the 134 tenements originally stipulated in the scheme, the state on August 16, 2010, stayed further development on the project.

Last month, a meeting chaired by Chavan ended with a decision to hand over the additional benefits of cluster housing only if the 134 tenements stipulated in the original scheme were handed over to MHADA free of cost by the builder, as the cessed property is acquired by the state housing authority. The meeting was attended by Mumbai City district guardian Minister Jayant Patil and Minister of State for Housing Sachin Ahir.

While an email to the developer went unanswered, MoS Sachin Ahir said efforts were on to find a solution to the current stalemate.

Meanwhile, Mangesh Mohite, Chairman of the Pimpalwadi Residents Association, said, "The government is not accepting something that will benefit the residents. I don't know why the government is unwilling to modify the scheme when MHADA too will get new tenements with 300 instead of 225 sq ft. Since Pimpalwadi was a pilot project, no hard and fast rules should be applicable to it. The bureaucracy is against the project and has been trying to convince us about how it isn't tenable under the existing law."

Current status
>> Pimpalwadi is a total area of approximately 53,400 sq feet. Real estate insiders say Pimpalwadi could fetch nearly Rs 15,000 per square foot. If calculated by this rate, an area of 53,400 sq ft and above would be worth Rs 800 crore.

>> The project, on City Survey no 370 has been redeveloped by Shreepati Group which has constructed three towers. A 39-storey tower in which 318 tenants have been rehabilitated also comprise flats for open sale. Two towers of 20 and 15 storeys respectively are to be used for residents of Pimpalwadi and 134 tenements with an area of 225 sq feet each are to be handed over to MHADA.

>> Currently, original residents have taken over the possession of the tenements. 134 tenements are yet to be handed over to MHADA.

>> The housing department is clear that the scheme cannot be termed as fully complete unless the 134 tenements are handed over to MHADA as it is part of the terms and conditions mentioned by the state government in its affidavit made before the Supreme Court.

>> If the scheme is modified under section 33(9) of the development plan, the state government will not get a single tenement if the scheme is modified, says MHADA. To modify the scheme when the developer has given a written assurance that he is ready to handover 94 tenements immediately and 40 tenements in three months will invite trouble as it will be against government interest.