How should Park Street fight the urban decay and reinvent itself?
Myriad views were on offer at Kolkata Colloquium, a forum organised on Tuesday evening by the Centre for Built Environment (CBE), in association with Oxford Bookstore. More than hundred stakeholders of “Calcutta’s drawing room” joined the forum and shared their plights and wish lists with architects and urban designers.
“In the rush to develop townships, we often tend to neglect the city’s core areas. Park Street and Chitpur are prime examples of such neglect,” said CBE president Santosh Ghosh, setting the tone for a lively interaction at Oxford, where Jayant Patel, whose Bombay Photo was an institution on Park Street for decades, now braving Parkinson’s Disease, was present.
“The time to act is now,” stressed Ayesha Das, residing in Queens Mansion for 65 years, who now feels overrun by the “outsiders” and the “unwanted traffic”. Her views were echoed by Swaran Chowdhury of Middleton Row, who felt Park Street is being “brutalised” everyday and if the urban decay wasn’t stopped now, it could be too late.
Architect-urban designer Monica Khosla Bhargava, Ghosh’s colleague in CBE, observed that the road, which once personified British Indian elegance, needs to be understood as the most prestigious destination in Calcutta, not just a transportation bypass.
Should Park Street delve into its glorious past to arrest the slide? “Most certainly”, felt Trincas owner Sunny Puri, who has lived all his life on Park Street.
Historian Barun De felt it was important to have a vision plan for Park Street for 2025 and proceed accordingly. “Park Street can again become one of the world’s greatest districts of knowledge, music and arts. But unless we have clear organisational priorities, we can’t achieve that,” pointed out De, also a member of the state heritage commission.
Experts suggested a sensitive and pragmatic approach to get the urban renewal effort off the ground. “Park Street doesn’t need any radical intervention, but a gentle method and minor patch-up, like a fresh coat of paint, some cobblestone areas, better signage and the like,” suggested Anupam Banerji, professor emeritus, School of Architecture and School of Planning, University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada.