Esplanade Mansion: Give us funds, we'll restore, says MHADA
In response to state's stand that India's last surviving cast-iron structure be saved, MHADA says it will cost Rs 30 crore and that it does not have the money
MHADA does not have the funds to restore Esplanade Mansion, its vice-president Milind Mhaiskar has stated in no uncertain terms in his reply to Urban Development department's principal secretary Nitin Kareer. Mhaiskar has asked the state government to sanction special funds amounting to R30 crore, if it wished, for the restoration of India's last surviving cast-iron structure.
Mhaiskar stated that the MHADA has earlier taken up repairs of the building twice - in 1975-76 and 1988-89. The letter by MHADA stated that the 150-year-old Esplanade Mansion is a privately owned building with 156 tenants of which 56 are residents. In 2011, a proposal to restore the structure was prepared and was approved by the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee to restore the structure using 'like to like material'. It meant restoring it with the material that it was originally built of.
However, the estimated cost was around Rs 17.89 crore — Rs 2,000 per square feet — and the owner and tenants were not willing to pay that amount. He added that while MHADA had issued the no-objection certificate for the restoration, the BMC's approval was pending due to which restoration could not be carried out.
Mhaiskar added that MHADA has informed the court that if the structure has to be restored, they will need funds to the tune of Rs 25-30 crore. While MHADA doesn't have the funds to restore the structure, he added that it didn't seem appropriate to invest so much money in a structure that is privately owned. "We could have done it if it were a public heritage building like the Gateway of India or Marine Drive. It doesn't seem appropriate for us to spend public funds and give it back to a private landlord," said Mhaiskar, adding that a policy would have to be worked out without which restoration would not be possible.
In the letter, Mhaiskar said that MHADA can take up the restoration only if the state government sanctions special funds for it and has sought further guidance from the UD department. "If the state sanctions special funds worth Rs 30 crore for it, we will restore it. Else, IIT has recommended that the building be demolished and we will be left with no option but to follow it," he said.
Kareer for discussion
Kareer's letter that was sent on June 26, had referred to the letters sent by heritage conservationists from various organisations including TICCIH, a UK-based organisation who are advocating to prevent the possible demolition of the Esplanade Mansion. When contacted, Kareer said that he hadn't received Mhaiskar's letter yet and added that he will have a discussion with the MHADA vice-president after going through the letter. Kareer had recommended that the structure be restored and had added that Esplanade Mansion is part of the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai and added that UNESCO has also included the structure in the list of World Heritage Sites.
Day Urban Development department wrote to MHADA
Also Read: Why Esplanade Mansion must be saved
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