NDMC to lease Town hall in Delhi

Delhi Town Hall in Chandni Chowk.
Delhi Town Hall in Chandni Chowk.
Delhi Town Hall in Chandni Chowk.

NEW DELHI: Seeking to fast-track the much-delayed redevelopment project of the historic Town Hall here, the NDMC has proposed to lease out the over 150-year-old heritage landmark to a private player to run a hotel-cum-museum in its premises. Top officials said the tendering process would be completed in a month once the proposal is approved by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation’s standing committee. The cash-strapped corporation had decided to go for a public-private partnership (PPP) model, after its Centre-funded restoration plan got shelved.

The redevelopment plan seeks a conservation of the Victorian-era mansion that will house a museum, retelling the history of Delhi, the centre-piece of the attractions that are to be built. A craft Bazaar, a dancing fountain, a maze, light and sound programmes, street food, children activity area, a boutique hotel, food court, courtyard and sculpture garden, digital library, lecture rooms, fine dining areas, are also planned to be developed in its premises.”As per our plan, the building will be leased out to a private contractor for a monthly licensing fee of Rs 1.96 crore. The company will carry out the restoration work, but they will not be allowed to change the original architecture of the building. It has not yet been decided whether the museum world be housed on the ground floor or the first floor,” standing committee’s chairperson, Veena Virmani said.

She said the proposal would be thoroughly discussed during the panel’s meet and the changes, if any, would be incorporated in the plan.”It will be an open tender and we would like the best of the hotels in the country’s hospitality sector to bid. The Town Hall is a pride of Delhi and we want to lease it out to the company that best understands the value of heritage,” Virmani told PTI. Built in 1860s, originally known as the Lawrence Institute, the hall was the seat of the Delhi Municipality. After trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), it housed the NDMC until it shifted to swanky, multi-storeyed Civic Centre on the Minto Road here. Asked, if public entry to access the museum would be paid for free-of-cost, Virmani, said, “Let the plan come before the panel first and the tendering process be over. Other modalities can be deliberated and incorporated later.”

The standing committee’s chairperson added that the lease period has not been finalized yet and “it could be 33 or even 99 years”. The NDMC has been toying with the restoration and redevelopment plan for the last few years but had not been able to make much headway. The Union Tourism Ministry had in early 2014 cleared a Rs 50 crore heritage renewal project for the building, but the fund release was subject to preparation of the detailed project report (DPR) by the NDMC.

The civic body could not come up with the DPR for the restoration of the Town Hall, one of the finest heritage buildings in the city. Lying in neglect for a long time, the last restoration plan was to breathe a fresh lease of life in it, but “bureaucratic delays” had shelved it. The then North Delhi Mayor Preety Agarwal had last year made the announcement that the redevelopment of the Town Hall in Chandni Chowk – the headquarters of the erstwhile unified MCD — into a centre of cultural and social heritage would be taken up on a PPP model.”An in-principle approval has been accorded for the PPP project,” she had said. Agarwal said the Town Hall would be redeveloped as an attractive tourist destination with “international standards” after which the city landmark would emerge as a centre of cultural and social heritage, depicting the history, culture and the life of Delhi.

She highlighted that the objective of the redevelopment is to provide a wholesome experience to the visitors. The proposed museum would be dedicated to the history of Delhi and will display a number of historical and cultural artifacts. The redevelopment project is also expected to earn good revenue for the corporation that has been facing financial crunch for the past several years. After lying in doldrums, the fresh redevelopment plan has come has a much-desired fillip the Raj-era building needed that has seen the era of trams and Gothic clock-tower pass by in front of it. PTI

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