The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ambience thrust in city centre revival

Drive down to the twin-level basement parking lot. Take the meandering walkway ramping up to the soft-landscaped Lalan Mancha to stop by for some open-air theatre, or a music concert. Hang around to pick up pieces of authentic ethnic handicrafts from the heart of rural Bengal. Grab a bite at the tensile food stops, or simply rest your tired limbs by the edge of a well-lit fountain. All this right in the heart of the city, inside Curzon Park.

What seems like a distant dream at this instant, could soon translate into reality. The much-maligned and unkempt park is in the heart of a city-centre revival plan blueprinted by senior architect and town-planner Dulal Mukherjee at the behest of Concern for Calcutta, a city-based NGO “committed to Calcutta’s well-being”.

The grand revival plan, “blending pragmatism with aesthetics”, aims to relive the grandeur of the city’s heterogeneous skyline, restore ruined ambience and arrest urban decay that has blighted the city centre over the years, through conservative surgery.

“We can still make the Chowringhee-Esplanade promenade the pride of Calcutta. This is not a hi-tech solution, but simple thoughts that can go a long way in creating our own Covent Gardens and Suntech Cities,” Mukherjee said, while making a presentation of his concept design to the media on Monday.

The three-pronged prescription involves restoring the architectural façade of the Chowringhee spine, from Victoria House to Exide House, suggesting adaptive reuse wherever necessary, controlling the vehicular and pedestrian traffic chaos, including the parking problem, and bringing back the old-world ambience of Calcutta. Resuscitation of Curzon Park and New Market comes high on the NGO’s agenda.

While Mukherjee’s concept plan proposes conversion of New Market into a pedestrian plaza and creating space for parking on the ground floors of the vegetable and fish markets, Curzon Park is set to get a Rs 36.85-crore makeover, the fulcrum of the Rs 49.09-crore overall project. A two-level underground parking lot to hold 1,500 cars, terraced gardens, perimeter jogging trail, open-air stage for performing arts, food courts in knockdown tents, illuminated waterbodies, shopping plaza, boutiques to showcase indigenous arts and crafts and hold exhibitions, complete the central park redo scheme.

“The PWD has shown keen interest in joint-sector implementation of the Curzon Park segment of the masterplan, and we are scouting for private partners,” said Partha Ghose, Concern for Calcutta president. Ghose added that the concept has elicited “most encouraging response” from the state government, Calcutta Municipal Corporation and city police.

Creating a supplementary Humayun Place-to-C.R. Avenue flyover, incorporating appropriate ingress and egress to facilitate north-south and south-north flows, adding floors above Maidan Market for extra parking, remodelling the Esplanade bus terminus, installing skyways near Humayun Place to ease pedestrian movement… The scheme touches diverse areas.

Officials of the NGO stressed that the revenue model enables investors to recover their money in five years through parking fees, billboards, shopping plazas and skyways.

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