Garden like Versailles, an urban forest, planned on 120-acre Racecourse land | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Garden like Versailles, an urban forest, planned on 120-acre Racecourse land

Jan 21, 2024 06:36 AM IST

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to take over the Mahalaxmi Racecourse land and rebuild stables at their own cost. Ideas for the land include a topiary garden like Versailles and an urban forest. The proposed theme park will not allow construction on the land.

Mumbai: A topiary garden like Versailles, an urban forest, a garden full of marigold flowers are some of the ideas being thrown around for the 120-acre Mahalaxmi Racecourse land which the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to take over from the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC). The stables, which the civic body proposes to rebuild at their own cost by spending 97crore, are slated to be designed on international standards.

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When the RWITC members expressed apprehension over the state’s ambitious proposal to set up a theme park and a public garden on 120 acres of the 211-acre racecourse at the open house with civic chief Iqbal Singh Chahal on Thursday, many were left confused with the BMC’s concept of a ‘theme park.’

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Chahal was categorical that the proposed theme park was not an ‘entertainment park’ as no construction would be allowed on the land.

Topiary art – pruning and shaping trees in a form that they wouldn’t naturally grow into – is a French-style garden designed by André Le Nôtre. Le Nôtre was a landscape architect and principal gardener of King Louis XIV of France at the Palace of Versailles.

Speaking to HT, Architect Hafeez Contractor, who was roped in by the BMC to conceptualise the design for the revamp of the racecourse, shed some light on the proposal. Contractor said areas of the Racecourse that are left derelict should be used, made greener, and more open to the public. “The theme park terminology is being used casually,” Contractor said. “But there was an idea to make a topiary garden like in Versailles. That would be a great thing for anybody coming to the Racecourse and even for kids to play. The other idea was to plant marigold flowers, and it could have been the largest area with marigold flowers. These were some of the ideas being tossed around in many meetings.”

Stating that the land will be used most judiciously and effectively, Contractor said what is necessary for the racecourse members will be given to them and the remaining area will be made open to the public. “The theme is that where a few hundred people were using the racecourse will be used by the entire city after the revamp, which will be a win-win situation for all. The land made open to people of the city will be taken care of by BMC’s garden department,” he said.

Contractor said they were also thinking about revamping the stables like the way it is done all over the world. “Trees will be planted to make it more lush green in the area behind the racecourse which doesn’t obstruct the races and it will be like an urban forest.”

Vivek Jain, former chairman, RWITC said that the Turf club wants its lease renewed on favourable terms. “What I am not fully able to appreciate is why couldn’t the BMC or the state tell the club what they exactly want us to do. To keep the centre green, landscape it, have a water fountain, make a better walking track, make a cycling path, and look after the birds and flowers. I am sure the club can do it on its own or invite the corporates to do it for us.”

Jain added, “The civic chief has guaranteed and is willing to sign an affidavit that they won’t construct on this land. Why then can’t the club keep the open space as it is? A club which has run horse racing so successfully for 100 years is best equipped to maintain it.”

The online voting of members will take place from January 27 for three consecutive days, and it will decide the further course of action.

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