Will landlord pay Rs 50 crore to restore Esplanade?
HC suggests it is interested in more than structural repairs, and wants to know how restoration of heritage structure can be paid for
Lengthy discussions at Bombay High Court on the fate of Esplanade Mansion on Tuesday ended up hitting the roadblock of cost of restoration. While MHADA and the state government said they don't have funds, the division bench asked the landlord, Sadik Ali, to reply if he would be able to contribute Rs 50 crore for the Grade II heritage structure's restoration.
The court had appointed a three-member panel to determine the viability and cost of restoring the 150-year-old structure. While all three were unanimous about saving Esplanade Mansion, there was a discrepancy in the cost. Conservation architects Abha Lambah and Pankaj Joshi had quoted a figure of R98 crore, while structural architect Chetan Raikar pegged the amount at Rs 23 crore.
Lambah defended the higher cost saying her report sought to restore the structure to its former glory. She emphasised on its historical significance, adding that the State had assured UNESCO of restoration before the inscription of 'Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai' was granted in 2018.
"This structure was built in 1869 and it is among the oldest habitable cast-iron constructions in the world. The point of restoration is not just structural integrity but also architectural integrity," Lambah said. She added that if the interior is left in the haphazard state it is in now, the same problems will resurface again.
Esplanade Mansion is one of the few surviving cast-iron structures in the world. File pic
Raikar's report, Lambah added, had a lower cost as it excluded aspects such as work on the internal plaster, using teakwood to restore doors, plumbing, fire-prevention systems, elevator overhaul, escape staircases and an external footpath and landscaping work.
Raikar argued that aspects mentioned in Lambah and Joshi's report can be worked on at a lower cost. "I have done a 3D analysis to figure out the structural stability and cost. I feel that restoration should not cost more than R45 crore to R50 crore," he said.
Objecting to Lambah's point of restoring the structure to its former glory, Raikar said since the building is occupied, they should be allowed to use the structure the way they want.
Considering Ali had earlier volunteered to foot the entire cost, Justice S J Kathawalla asked his advocate Cherag Balsara to confirm if he will pay R50 crore, at the next hearing on February 20. Throughout the arguments, the division bench of justices Kathawalla and B P Colabawalla implied that they were interested in more than just making the structure habitable again.
The bench observed that if the state funds the restoration, the building would have to be acquired. "The Esplanade Mansion is a cessed building and the costs involved place a huge burden on the state exchequer. Restoration and acquisition together will cost around Rs 800 crore," said Himanshu Takke, who represented the State. MHADA's advocate, Prakash Lad, added that the landlord took permission every year since 2007 to carry out repairs but did anything.
Rs 98 crore
Restoration cost quoted by conservation architects Abha Lambah and Pankaj Joshi
Rs 23 crore
Restoration cost quoted by structural architect Chetan Raikar
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