The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Retail majors target markets
- On prime land and running, bazaars get set for auction

The stink and filth at the city’s 20-odd markets, maintained by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), had hardly ever encouraged shoppers to step in. But today, some of the biggest retail players are queuing up at the CMC headquarters to bid for them.

“These markets are in prime locations and are bound to be hot property for retailers… These are already established markets, and those focusing on the hypermart format to sell fruits and vegetables will find them attractive,” said Abhijit Das, head of property consultants Trammel Crow Meghraj.

“Most of the markets are occupying two to four acres of land. It is impossible to get such clean land within the city and so, the interest in these markets is natural,” added Das.

By shelling out Rs 30.33 crore for Park Circus Market, Reliance Retail established the attractiveness of the CMC-managed markets.

To cash in on the craze, the civic authorities have set the ball rolling for the next phase of market makeovers, in which six run-down CMC markets will be transformed into multi-storeyed, swank malls through public-private-partnership.

The list of markets identified includes the CMC markets at Kankurgachhi, Ultadanga, Entally, Maniktala, Sakher Bazaar (Behala) and Bansdroni.

“Reconstruction of the markets is carried out as part of the urban makeover of the city. All the existing stall-owners will be given rehabilitation after reconstruction of the markets,” said mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya.

Setting a Puja deadline for placing the markets under the hammer, the civic body is expecting to mop up Rs 150 crore.

Of the 225-odd markets in the city, 23 belong to the CMC. But maintaining the markets is a loss-making proposition for the civic body.

Till now, four CMC markets — Lansdowne, Lake, College Street and Park Circus — have been given to private players to convert them into swank market complexes.

“We had earlier thought of rolling out an omnibus project for the remaining 19 markets… But the condition of all the civic markets is not uniform and so we have decided to go about things in a phased way,” said municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay.

A phased approach will also help in raking in the big bucks. The civic body got only Rs 2 crore from College Street Market, which is four times the size of Park Circus Market, for which Reliance Retail paid Rs 30.33 crore.

The companies like Spencers and the Salarpuria Group, which lost out to the Mukesh Ambani-led retail major, will bid harder in the next phases and push the prices further northwards.

“Nobody had ever thought of looking at re-development of these markets… But now, everyone is clear that it is the most workable model,” said Samar Nag, managing director Bengal Shelter, another bidder.

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