It's official! Esplanade Mansion building can be saved

Updated: Dec 30, 2019, 07:33 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

As two of the three-member high court-appointed panel agree that the heritage structure can be restored, landlord reiterates commitment to raise the funds

A panel member, Abha Lambah, has said that a cast iron building like Esplanade Mansion is modular and can be retrofitted and restored. File pic
A panel member, Abha Lambah, has said that a cast iron building like Esplanade Mansion is modular and can be retrofitted and restored. File pic

In good news for the beleaguered Esplanade Mansion, of the three members of the panel constituted by the Bombay High Court to inspect the 150-year-old building, two feel that the structure can be restored. However, they will have to figure out the cost involved to restore it, before they submit their report to the court on January 27.

While the landlord said he will bear the cost of restoration, now he has insisted that tenants also contribute. During the last hearing on December 18, an argument had broken out over the lack of coordination between the panel members, and the division bench of Justice SJ Kathawalla and Justice BP Colabawalla had directed them to visit Esplanade Mansion together. That did not happen. Structural architect Chetan Raikar, one of the panel members, had visited the building four times prior to the hearing. The other two members, conservation architects Abha Lambah and Pankaj Joshi, visited the premises a few days after the last hearing.

The Esplanade Mansion housed some residential spaces and some shops
The Esplanade Mansion housed some residential spaces and some shops

Sources working with the panel members said during their visit, Lambah and Joshi evaluated the illegal additions that have caused damage to the structure. "Based on their preliminary visit, they feel that the structure can definitely be restored. The structure has been damaged due to neglect and the illegal additions that will have to be removed. The panel members are now working together to come up with the scale of intervention for the restoration of the site, before they can figure out how much it will cost," said a source.

One member waits for tests
While Joshi wasn't available for a comment, Lambah said she won't be able to comment until the report has been submitted to the court. However, Lambah had earlier told mid-day that repairs may be possible and that new casting can be done for the cast iron columns that are in a bad state. She had said that a cast iron building like Esplanade Mansion is modular and can be retrofitted and restored. Raikar had said it is too premature to say whether the structure can be restored, and added that he will only know after examining the results of the non-destructive tests (chemical tests) to figure out the strength of the material the building is made of.

'Tenants must contribute'
Based on the estimate prepared by MHADA, the repair and restoration of the building will cost about R32 crore. Earlier, Cherag Balsara, the advocate representing the building's landlord Sadik Ali, had committed to bear the cost of restoring the structure. However, Ali won't bear the costs alone. "The landlord has identified bonafide tenants and will seek a contribution from them. The tenants have agreed to pitch in," said Balsara. Ali has also agreed to pay the consultation fee for all three panel members.

Some of the tenants, however, are not happy with the landlord's demand for a contribution. One of the tenants said that like him, some other tenants too can't afford to pay. "If we had so much money wouldn't we simply have bought another shop elsewhere? At best we can give a few lakhs. The cost of restoration will go into crores and there is no way we can pay so much," he said. He added that many of the tenants are now hoping that the landlord will settle the issue with them and buy their commercial space in Esplanade back.

Rs 32cr
The estimate prepared by MHADA for the repair and restoration

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