| The Parkomat in front of New Market under construction. Picture by Amit Datta
Drive down Lindsay Street, steer into the underground to park your car and pick up what you want for home — not from New Market, but from a new market below ground level.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has now decided that the Parkomat in front of New Market will house an underground market along with the car park. Officials pointed out that an underground extension of the market would, in effect, be dodging the heritage rules framed by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) itself. The heritage committee of the CMC headed by the municipal commissioner has already cleared the project.
New Market is among the enlisted 76 structures in the city bestowed heritage status through an enactment by the state government. The mayor had earlier planned a multi-level automatic parking plaza on Lindsay Street, dwarfing the New Market clock tower. He was forced to abandon the plan following a sustained campaign against the heritage-violating model that would have blocked the façade and changed the character of the 120-year-old market’s courtyard.
After pushing the Parkomat below Lindsay Street, Mukherjee has now drawn up grand plans to make the underground a destination for both cars and shoppers. Under the new scheme of things, construction of a two-storeyed park-and-purchase structure is already underway.
“The revised plan will not clash with the heritage structure of New Market. In European cities, similar utility set-ups can be found in front of heritage structures,” pointed out Mukherjee.
The first floor will house a 100-unit shopping arcade with a parking plaza for 250 cars on the second floor.
This time, Mukherjee says he will “stop at nothing” to put the market in place, though trade lobbies say this will “kill off” Calcutta’s landmark market.
Pradip Chakraborty of S.S. Hogg Market Shopkeepers’ Association said: “The mayor has taken away our inheritance rights to run our business and raised the rent by 300 times; now, this underground market will be the last nail in our coffin.”
The estimated project cost for the joint venture between the CMC and Simplex Projects Limited is pegged at Rs 15 crore. Senior commercial manager of Simplex Projects G. Dasgupta, who is also overseeing the Parkomat on Rawdon Street, said the Lindsay Street underground shopping arcade would be the sole revenue source to recover the cost of the hi-tech Parkomat, as underground advertising is hardly a bankable flow of funds.
“We decided to allow an underground shopping arcade instead of giving Simplex a soft loan or bank guarantee,” said Mukherjee, adding that when “India’s first” Rs 8.5 crore computerised, multi-level car-park had come up on Rawdon Street, the CMC had to offer a soft loan of Rs 3 crore to Simplex, repayable in five years time.