The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rat resort to plaza park

Call it a bit of Times Square or Hyde Park in the heart of Esplanade, with Marx keeping watch on modern markets and Lenin towering over a bustling food court.

A victim of ineffective pedestrian and vehicular circulation and parking patterns, run over by rats, infested with criminal elements and shunned by Calcuttans after dark, Curzon Park is all set to reinvent itself as a park-shop-eat-hangout destination. Once the green lungs of Esplanade, now languishing in clutter and congestion, the park will be given a whole new look thanks to a Rs 50-crore public works department (PWD) project.

Part of a city-centre resuscitation initiative pushed by Concern for Calcutta, and shaped by architect-town planner Dulal Mukherjee, work on reinventing Curzon Park is expected to commence by this year-end and be completed in 18 months.

“The redevelopment potential of this area is immense and the goal is to reorganise and reallocate functional use patterns while introducing a multitude of elements within the constraints of the existing framework,” explains Mukherjee.

The first step to beautification would be to ease the fume-filled bottleneck. So, the main design solution aims at relieving the choking congestion in the area with “an efficient pedestrian and vehicular movement network” and then enhancing aesthetics and the heritage ambience of the place. The idea is to “encourage positive social usage at all times, even after dark”.

A two-level basement parking lot below a pedestrian plaza to house around 1,200 cars and a 1.5 lakh-sq ft, twin-level perimeter retail plaza will form the fulcrum of the “self-sustaining” revival scheme. Around 50 per cent of the parking space will be leased out and the rest used as fee-parking slots.

The retail mall — with one level fully underground and the other partly above ground level — will showcase traditional arts and crafts of Bengal and the Northeast, besides housing usual branded stuff.

A meandering walkway ramping up to the central vista will link the western green section of the park with the eastern terraced garden, towards the Chowringhee flank.

Natural undulating landscaping will act as an open-air theatre for concerts and performing arts, with knockdown tensile structures housing refreshment stalls. A basement walkway will lead up to the open-air food court-cum-exhibition centre around the landmark Lenin statue, with two pedestrian subways connecting Curzon Park to the Metro channel.

Illuminated waterbodies around the existing sculptures with reflecting shelters, a perimeter jogging trail, a well-paved drainage system and a revamped Lalan Mancha complete the renewal initiative spread across nine acres.

“The idea is to encourage greater public participation in the park through a plethora of activities,” observes Partha Ghose, president of Concern for Calcutta.

The PWD is keen to club the Curzon Park revival plan with a facelift to the Maidan Market and Shahid Minar surroundings. “It’s an extremely viable project. Once implemented, it will transform the entire city centre,” says Amiya Mondal, engineer-in-chief, PWD.

A consortium of two Singapore-based government and semi-government agencies (Cesma and SembCorp) and a city-based organisation (Pragati) has, apparently, evinced interest to execute the project on a build-operate-transfer basis.

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