After much back-and-forth, the Maharashtra government has decided to retain the ‘Grade-I’ heritage tag given to Shivaji Park at Dadar. It has, however, restricted the tag only to the ground and has left out the precinct from the heritage list.
This effectively means that only the ground at Shivaji Park will be treated as a heritage structure, and there will no additional curbs on development in the area surrounding it.
The state urban development department on Thursday published a list of protected heritage structures in five wards – G North (Dadar, Mahim, Matunga West), G South (Worli, Mahalaxmi), F North (Sion, Matunga East), F South (Parel, Lalbaug) and D (Malabar Hill, Nepean Sea Road) wards. The list mentions Shivaji Park in the G North ward as a Grade-I heritage structure, limiting the boundary of the heritage tag to NC Keluskar Marg (North), NC Keluskar Marg (South) and Veer Savarkar Marg.
Grade I structures are deemed to be of national or historical importance, prohibiting any structural changes. For Grade II structures, the state permits some amount of alteration as long as it does not involve any structural changes or drastic changes to the building’s façade, while Grade III structures are considered important to the townscape.
The list also mentions Sion Fort, Mahim Fort, Sewree Fort, Worli Fort, Raj Griga (Dr. BR Ambedkar’s house) and Mani Bhavan as other Grade-I heritage sites. Structures listed as Grade-II include the Girgaum chowpatty waterfront, Raj Bhavan complex, the Royal Opera House, Mahalaxmi Temple Complex, Jinnah House, Towers of Silence, Babulnath Temple Complex, Dadar Kabutarkhana, the mayor’s bungalow, Haji Ali complex, and King’s Circle, among others.
The state government has classified the Queen’s necklace, the chief minister’s official residence Varsha, the chief justice’s residence, Lincoln House, Metro House, the chowpatty sea-face buildings, the central jail premises, among others, as Grade-III heritage structures. The list also mentions areas such as Parsi Colony and the adjoining Five Gardens, areas surrounding the Mahalaxmi Temple, Gamdevi, Opera House, Banganga temple, August Kranti Maidan, Khotachiwadi and Carmichael Road as heritage precincts.
According to Section 67 of the city’s Development Control Regulations (DCR), for Grade-I heritage structures, there is a buffer zone of a 100m around the structure where the ‘view to’ and ‘view from’ the heritage structure needs to be maintained. While there are no specific regulations on construction in this zone, any development activity here falls under the MHCC’s purview.
V Ranganathan, former chairman of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC), said, “Shivaji Park has always been a Grade-I structure and the state government has decided to maintain status quo. This will not impact any development in the surrounding areas because the proposal to declare it as a heritage precinct has been dropped.”
The MHCC had originally proposed to tag the entire Shivaji Park precinct, comprising 192 buildings, as Grade-I. Shivaji Park residents, however, opposed the move, saying it would be a major impediment to repairs and redevelopment of their old creaking buildings.
The Dinesh Afzalpurkar committee, appointed to review Shivaji Park’s heritage status, in its report to the state government recommended the removal of the Shivaji Park precinct from the heritage list and giving the ground a new heritage grade of ‘open space.’ Conservation activists were surprised at the move because the protected heritage status of the ground was never under contention, prompting the MHCC to write to the state urban development department urging it to not dilute the Grade-I heritage tag to the open space and preserve its sanctity.