As the plot over the lease of Mahalaxmi Race Course thickens, its existing heritage status could come in the way of the Shiv Sena’s ambitious plan to turn it into a massive theme-based park of international repute.
According to the BMC’s heritage list, the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) has been granted heritage grade II-B status on both the existing as well as the proposed lists. According to heritage regulations, all development in areas surrounding heritage grade-II must be regulated and controlled. And any new construction cannot detract from the existing heritage buildings or precincts. Moreover, a portion of the plot also comes under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), which could be another obstacle.
“In the case of the decision to convert the green lung into a theme-based park, no new construction will be permitted. Modifications can be made by seeking permissions, but the character of the entire plot has to remain unchanged,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute. On Monday, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray mooted the idea of converting the race course into a theme park named after Bal Thackeray. By definition, a theme park would involve settings and attractions having a central unifying theme.
“The Mahalaxmi Race Course has great historic value attached to it. More than its architectural value, the functional value assigned to it has made it a heritage plot. Changing its overall use and adding additional structures could become a point of contention,” said a heritage expert.
When asked, V Ranganathan, chairman, Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC), said he was yet to receive a concrete proposal for this transformation. “We will have to scrutinise the proposal based on the existing regulations. We will not permit any violations,” he said.
However, mayor and Shiv Sena corporator Sunil Prabhu said that the party’s plan of a theme park would not involve any new constructions. “We are not planning to make any concrete additions. Our proposed theme park would be of international repute with only green cover,” said Prabhu.