| Charles Correa and Harshavardhan Neotia with the model of City Centre at Swabhumi on Wednesday. Picture by Amit Datta
A bustling bazaar superimposing layers of order into an enchanting tapestry, rows of canopied pedestrian streets, a tramcar selling memorabilia, a central, open-air quadrant with a kund in the middle where one can relax and idle. Designer homes, and of course, endless shopping, food and movies.
City Centre, the largest mixed-use development in this part of the country coming up in Salt Lake, should play a significant role in engineering a shift in Calcutta’s centre of gravity towards the east, feels architect Charles Correa, for whom this is the first signature public project in the city.
“Just like the Rockefeller Center made a chunk of Manhattan move midtown, City Centre, which has been created to mirror the ethos of the city, will draw Calcuttans towards it like a magnet,” Correa told reporters during a short visit to the city on Wednesday to review project progress. The unique shopping-entertainment-commercial-residential development is expected to be complete by the middle of next year.
Recipient of the International Union of Architects’ award for ‘improvement in the quality of human settlements’, Correa felt the new energy gravitating towards the EM Bypass, which is “more organically linked to Chowringhee”, should be “naturally integrated” to City Centre.
“It is now in an advanced state of construction, and people can visit the place next January. It would, however, take a few more months after that before all the elements are in place,” said Harshavardhan Neotia, director, Bengal Ambuja Metro Development Ltd, the joint-venture company with CMDA developing the project spread across 6.8 acres with a built space of 5.8 lakh square feet.
Correa, who has always believed “a good design solution is getting a good grip on the problem”, stressed that City Centre will be a pluralistic venture. “A lot of these projects often become like islands, tending to zero in on a particular income group to the exclusion of others. But, in Salt Lake, we have been careful to build something which is part of the city, right off the streets, where people can walk in without feeling intimidated,” he explained.
From the Kovalam Beach Resort to low-income urban housing in New Bombay and Peru, ‘invent tomorrow’ has always been the driver for the tireless architect, and the Rs 85-crore City Centre promises to be another pioneer project, “addressing a whole range of people” with its broad spectrum.
City Centre, the architectural model of which was unveiled on Wednesday, will also house 60 luxury apartments, ranging from Rs 30 to 80 lakh, with a state-of-the-art residents’ club. “The lights in these residential units should keep the place alive at night when the other activities in the mall and the plaza cease,” the architect explained.
The idea of creating something along the waterfront to “bring the river back into the consciousness of the city” still occupies Correa. “It doesn’t need to be a hugely profitable commercial venture, but a platform to enable the public to participate in the river, to soak in its beauty and serenity and be energised,” he reiterated.