The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has taken up a Rs 200-crore project to recreate New Market, dropping its earlier plans of keeping at least the fa'ade untouched.
Civic engineers have inspected the market and found the structure, including the fa'ade, weak and recommended an overhaul to mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya.
Sir Stuart Hogg had built the market over 120 years ago. The revamp is expected to be complete by 2010.
'We must be judicious in deciding what type of preservation a particular structure needs. The restrictions imposed on the preservation of Currency Building will not be applicable to New Market, which is a shopping hub and requires a facelift along with modern amenities,' said the mayor.
If the entire building is not reconstructed, he explained, the market will turn into an unsafe structure and collapse before long.
However, he made it clear that if the fa'ade had to be demolished, it would be rebuilt to look just like the original.
'New Market will be rebuilt in the same way as we are restoring College Street market, with private-public participation,' the mayor added.
Civic engineers, who checked New Market's structural strength in February, said the roof of the sprawling complex could collapse any moment and suggested reconstruction.
To avoid misunderstanding and hostile public opinion, municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay will entrust experts from Bengal Engineering and Science University, Jadavpur University and INTACH with the task of preparing separate reports on the stability and strength of the existing structure.
'We want to find out from these experts whether the entire fa'ade will have to be demolished or only a part of it,' said Nilangshu Bose, director-general (civil).
Joint municipal commissioner Mohammad Sahidul Islam said the CMC had plans to add an extra floor to the present market complex. 'The additional floor will generate over 300,000 sq ft of saleable space,' he said. The complex will be air-conditioned.
The owners of over 5,000 stalls in the market, however, want to know where they will have to shift during the four-year rebuilding process.
'We welcome the modernisation scheme, but we are eager to know what alternative accommodation the CMC will provide during the period the market will be rebuilt,' said Pradip Chakraborty, secretary of SS Hogg Market Shopkeepers' Welfare Association.