Mumbai's business district braces for a much-needed makeover, that will return it to its former splendour
Picture Ballard Estate: Mumbai's well-known business district, which boasts a London-like feel, with its Edwardian neo-classical architecture.
But have you ever envisaged heritage trails, nighttime buggy rides, or a good view of the sea in this flourishing business hub of the city?
Well, all this could soon be a reality, if the civic body and the heritage committee give the green signal to the Ballard Estate Welfare Association (BEWA), who are currently working on a plan to reinvent and improve the district.
“It's too early to talk about our plans as we have yet to approach the municipal commissioner and the heritage committee and get clearances from them,” says SM Pathania, president, BEWA. BEWA endeavours to create uniformity that will bring back the architectural ambience of the buildings. BEWA has appointed conservation architect, Abha Narain Lambah, as a consultant on the project.
It was exactly a decade ago that plans to revitalise Ballard Estate were drawn up by the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), commissioned by BEWA.
“We realised that the global Floor Space Index (FSI) of Ballard Estate is much higher than that of Nariman Point. Buildings have a much more intimate relation with pedestrians and the street edge is more defined,” says Lambah.
After 10 years, plans to improve the area were taken to the implementation stage. Ballard Estate, with a strong sense of uniformity in building height, was consciously developed as a European district.
“The most visible areas in this business district are the street corners. They will be improved to impact the visitor's perception of the place,” says Lambah.
The makeover plan will also look at installation of heritage plaques on well-maintained heritage buildings.
“We are planning to look at viewing corridors and vistas and de-clutter important nodes near Grand Hotel and Customs House,” says Lambah.
The highlight of the makeover plan will be to revive nighttime use of Ballard Estate by creating heritage trails, night tours and illumination of the place.
“We intend to have cafes opened and introduce nighttime buggy rides,” she says.
There are also plans to explore the possibility of opening vistas to the sea towards the Port Trust land, which will open a whole new dimension for Ballard Estate.
The issue of courtyards behind buildings with large open spaces, which is a no-man's land and used as garbage dumps, will also be tackled. These areas will be utilised as plazas, art courts, food courts, service courts and amphitheatres.