Bigger, better mall sequel - Grand designs for Bypass shopper stop

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  • Published 16.04.05

Nine lakh sq ft vs two lakh sq ft. Nine-screen multiplex vs four-screen multiplex. Space jam for 200 vehicles vs parking lot for 2,500 cars?

The script for this sequel, by mall mogul Rahul Saraf, reads bigger and better. Sprawled on the EM Bypass, Forum II is poised to dwarf its Elgin Road ancestor in scale and style.

Planned as a tripartite venture among the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, the PC Chandra Group and Saraf, the Rs 150-crore project will come up on a portion of the 30-acre plot opposite Science City leased out to the Chandras by the civic body.

Construction ? set to commence once the last couple of clearances, including the environmental green light are in ? time is pegged at 20 months.

Designed by DP Architects of Singapore (also doing the ?world?s largest mall in Dubai?), in association with J.P. Agrawal, who created Forum in 2003, the mall will have landscape layout by Henry Stead.

Sq Peg of the US, the firm behind signage at Disneyland, Florida, has been roped in as signage consultant, while Singapore-based Bo Stiber is the illumination expert for the mall.

Lifestyle from Dubai will be one of the five anchors, apart from a 25,000-sq-ft supermarket and a children?s play format. PVR will bring in the ?country?s largest and most modern? multiplex.

?Forum II is my life?s first opportunity to design a mall from the greenfield stage using my learning experience from Forum on Elgin Road,? says managing director Saraf.

And the learning curve couldn?t have been steeper. Forum was initially conceived as an office tower and 80 per cent of the foundation was complete before it was converted into a mall. The anchor (Shoppers? Stop) was slated to be G+2 instead of the four levels and the INOX floor was to have housed a business club.

?The multiplex was actually planned after my roof was cast and it represented a huge retrofit challenge. No multiplex usually sits so high, but we hardly had a choice,? says Saraf, convinced his first product is now ?a generation old? and must be repositioned in future to remain relevant.

If the narrow, deep site gave the Elgin Road mall little design manoeuvrability, the city?s tepid response to formatted retail and the handful of high-profile brands seeded back then were serious impediments, too.

?The situation has changed dramatically and today, every retailer wants a footprint in Forum, while there are at least a dozen well-known international brands queuing up for Forum II,? declares Saraf.

Unlike the out-and-out vertical Forum, its giant sibling will be totally flat, with a 75-ft wide, continuously curving passageway running through the mall.

If one were to just window-shop through the mall, the path traversed end-to-end would be no less than 1.2 km.