NDMC revives plan to turn 150-yr-old Town Hall in Chandni Chowk into a cultural hub
Though the plan was earlier proposed in 2012, it did not see the light of the day due to lack of coordination. The NDMC mayor, however, said the plan has been finalised and this time it will be implemented through PPP model.
Town Hall, a British era building in the heart of Chandni Chowk — which was once the headquarters of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) — will be redeveloped into a centre of cultural and social heritage.
North Delhi mayor Preeti Agarwal said that a proposal to develop Town Hall as a tourist destination of international standards has been finalised and the place will soon emerge as a centre of culture and social heritage, depicting the history, culture and life of Delhi.
The complex will be redesigned with a craft bazar, fountain, facility for lighting and sound for holding cultural programmes.
There will also be dedicated zones for street food, play area for children, boutique hotel, courtyard, sculpture garden, digital library, lecture rooms, museum and dining areas.
The Town Hall was the headquarters of the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi once and sprawls across 16 acres. It is one of the most important landmarks in the area.
“A museum, spread across 1,574 square metres, will be the centre of attraction. The theme of the museum will be history of Delhi,” she said.
North Delhi municipal commissioner Praveen Gupta said that the project will be developed on public-private-partnership mode. It is likely to start in the next nine months and be completed in two years.
He said that apart from depicting the history of Delhi, the project, once completed, will generate good revenue for the corporation that is reeling under a financial crisis.
The place, where the Town Hall stands today, was once a garden and an inn. The garden was made by Shah Jahan’s daughter, Jehanara. The sarai (inn) was used as guest house for VIP visitors and wealthy Persian traders. The area was known as Sahibabad or Begum Bagh at that time. The construction of the present building started in 1860 and was completed in 1863.
Years of neglect towards the nearly 150-year-old structure later, the structure started to crumble with broken window panes, doors, flaking plasters, crumbling ceiling and walls showing the remains of a lost era.
Since the municipality shifted its headquarters to the swanky Civic Centre on Jawaharlal Nehru Marg in 2010, the building has been lying vacant.
Adjacent to the Town Hall main building is a Press Building, which will house the boutique hotel, officials said. “The hotel will offer a luxurious stay at Shahjahanabad,” said an official.
The rooms will be decorated in traditional style depicting the history and culture of Shahjahanabad.
There will also be a dining space , kitchen , swimming pool and a cafe. Three lecture halls are proposed on the ground floor with a seating capacity of 60.
On the ground floor of the building is a British era meeting room which will be converted into a hall for audio visual shows.
Since 2012, revamp plans on paper only
The proposal to convert Town Hall into a boutique hotel and a museum is not new and has been on the corporation’s agenda since 2012— after the trifurcation the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the shifting of the civic body’s headquarter to Civic Centre .
However, a lack of coordination between the Centre and state government has led to the project not seeing the light of day.
In 2012, the last commissioner of the unified corporation KS Mehra had proposed a
similar plan to develop the Town Hall as a centre of cultural heritage.
“The idea was to provide a wholesome family experience. It was to be developed into an attractive tourist destination of international standard, with facilities like museums, library, children activity room, light and sound programme on history of Delhi,” Mehra, who retired on May 2, 2012, said.
A senior official of North Corporation said that the project was approved by the tourism ministry in 2013 and the fund was to be released upon the submission of a detailed project report.
“However, it could not be executed due to change of government at the Centre and shuffling of officials concerned. The corporation had written to the centre but didn’t get any concrete response on it,” he said.
North Delhi Municipal Commissioner Praveen Gupta confirmed that the project was initially to be funded by Union tourism ministry but could not materialise. So it will now be developed in a public-private partnership mote.
Another official o claimed that the project this time will not suffer any roadblocks as the corporation was not depending upon any other agency for its development.