The country’s oldest wrought iron structure, the Watson Hotel, popularly known as Esplanade Mansion is in dire need of a facelift. But even before the project has begun, the cost of the project has become a stumbling block.
The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada), which is restoring the hotel, has said it can give only Rs1.2 crore for the heritage restoration. A total of Rs15 crore is needed for the project.
The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC), which is considering the proposal submitted by Mhada to name a new structural consultant for the project, said it is concerned about the monetary constraints.
“We have written to the Mhada authorities, asking them to consider the repairs as a special case because it has not adhered to the earlier financial norms,” said Dinesh Afzulpurkar, chairman, MHCC.
He added that they have formed a sub-committee who will look into the details of the project, and will meet the engineers and architects of Mhada on Thursday and chalk out a detailed plan.
“I have written to Mumbai Metropolitan Heritage Society asking them to monetarily help Mhada to execute this project. But we will also be inviting private associations and NGOs to fund the project,” he added.
He said there are about 135 tenants, of which 103 are commercial units. He suggested that they could be asked to contribute towards funding the restoration.
The Hindustan Times had reported that the tenants of the building had filed a petition to the MHCC in June alleging that Mhada’s restoration work was causing further damage to the structure. A stop-work notice was issued to Mhada.
“The sensitivity and the expertise needed to restore an important building is lacking in the Mhada, and with the fund crunch, it will be more difficult to execute the project,” said a member of the MHCC.