Esplanade should be fixed, not demolished, say heritage committee

Updated: Jun 13, 2019, 07:55 IST | Arita Sarkar

Panel agrees unanimously that the building is unique, pulling it down will be a huge loss to the city

Esplanade should be fixed, not demolished, say heritage committee
Esplanade Mansion, declared dangerous in 2013, has been sealed. File pics

Preserve, said members of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee unanimously, during their meeting on Wednesday, regarding the future of the iconic Esplanade Mansion in South Mumbai. After months of discussions and the MHADA urging its demolition, the building, which is a part of a World Heritage Site, had its power supply cut off last week. MHADA officials, on Wednesday, also broke open all the locks of the shops/offices in the building and will now lock the main gates.

During their meeting, members of the MHCC discussed the findings mentioned in the structural stability report submitted by IIT Bombay. One of the members, on condition of anonymity, said, "There was a unanimous agreement that the building is unique and it has certain characteristics that are not replicated in any other residential building in the entire city. Demolishing it would mean a loss to the city," he said.

Esplanade Mansion is part of a World Heritage Site in Fort, South Mumbai
Esplanade Mansion is part of a World Heritage Site in Fort, South Mumbai

All the members at the discussion, he said, emphasised upon the uniqueness of the character of the building. "MHADA should conduct a deeper examination of how at least the original part of the building can be saved." He added that the current Esplanade Mansion is eight-storeys high of which four were added later and the architectural features of the original building are not present on the higher floors.

He added that the members also discussed the costs involved in restoration of the structure. "The structure has been neglected for a long time. We first have to figure out if it's possible to restore the structure and the human resources required for it. We will then figure out how to arrange for the funding and whether the project can be crowd-funded," he said. He added that they will submit a written response to MHADA later this week.

Building will be locked

Meanwhile, MHADA officials broke open the locks of seven shops on Wednesday and have locked the main gate of the building to prevent anyone from entering. The officials, however, said that they didn't find any belongings in these galas barring one. "The office that was rented by the Maharashtra Council of Indian Medicine had 21 empty steel cupboards. The flooring wasn't very sturdy so we decided to leave them inside. We will send them a notice regarding removing the cupboards," said a MHADA official.

He added that MHADA has taken possession of 147 such shops/offices. Barring six where the owners came to remove their locks, they had to break open all the others where tenants left their own locks. All these have now been sealed.

The official said that MHADA was awaiting a copy of the Bombay High Court order over this. "We have to barricade the footpath under the building and create an alternative pedestrian path. Before that, we need to have a meeting with the Traffic Police and the BMC," he said. The official added that now that the building has been sealed, they will depute a guard temporarily until the High Court pronounces judgment in the case.

8
No. of floors Esplanade Mansion has

147
No. of shops/offices sealed by MHADA on June 12

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