Not so long ago, New Market used to be the number one shoppers’ stop in town — sprawled over 10 lakh-plus sq ft on Lindsay Street and promising to offer everything under one colossal roof.
Now, the 130-year-old market has been reduced to something of an anachronism. Ravaged by a fire in the mid-Eighties and refusing to change with the times, footfall has fallen and business has gone from boom to bust.
How can New Market be saved' Left to the mayor, creating more of the same would do the turnaround trick.
With the civic body bracing for polls next year, Subrata Mukherjee has unveiled grand plans to create a new wing, diagonally behind the old New Market.
“My objective is very clear. I want to try and revive New Market by pulling shoppers out of the new-generation stores and malls that have come up all over Calcutta,” mayor Mukherjee told Metro from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he is attending an international conference.
Mukherjee plans to pump in an estimated Rs 7 crore into the proposed market-cum-office wing on a five-bigha plot on the Fenwick Bazaar Street side, off Chaplin cinema (see graphic).
“It will be a fully air-conditioned, four-storeyed office-cum-market complex with a basement. Whether the project will be carried out on a turnkey basis or as a joint venture on built-operate-transfer (BOT) basis has not been finalised,” added the mayor.
Not far from the ill-lit, stuffy marketplace, several shopping addresses now offer Calcuttans cool comfort, a wider range of products and a far superior range of services.
But the proposed work-and-play address may do little to revive New Market, warn some civic officials.
For one, the location — with a vacant plot on Fenwick Bazaar Street and another two bighas of the civic labour quarters campus on Korabardan Lane being amalgamated — does not present the most attractive of milieus.
Also, since New Market is a heritage structure, the architecture of the new complex will be “in harmony” with that of the old market, said the mayor.
This could mean ending up with an “ugly cousin” of the ‘new’ New Market that came up after the blaze.
The fact of New Market’s diminution lies in the figures that the Forums and 22 Camac Streets notch up these weekends. The Elgin Road address, for instance, records a 35,000 footfall over the weekend.
New Market, of course, sticks to tradition and turns a blind eye to the weekend shopper by downing shutters on Saturday afternoon and not lifting them before Monday.
The mayor, however, still lays store by good ol’ New Market. “The shabby-looking New Market still tops the list among the shopping centres in the city when it comes to dimension, style, heritage, diversity of merchandise and quality… But it will fail to sustain itself in the long run unless it is modernised,” said Mukherjee.
The add-on address plan comes in the wake of the failure to get the present shop-owners of New Market to share the cost for air-conditioning the market.
As a first step towards the New Market twin — or should it be the triplet — the civic authorities have moved to shift the 68 families living in the Korabardan Lane campus to the civic body’s central garage at Entally, said Shaktibrata Ghosh, officer on special duty to the mayor.