Conservation activists say a government agency with no expertise should not be asked to restore a heritage building.
Reacting to the controversy over the restoration of Esplanade Mansion, a 130-year-old cast-iron structure in south Mumbai, Sharada Dwivedi, city historian and author, said: “MHADA cannot begin restoration of the building without a heritage consultant on board. The MHADA fails to understand the international value of the structure.”
After MHADA’s Repairs and Reconstruction Board began restoration work, the Burma teakwood flooring of the building was found damaged.
The tenants on Wednesday urged the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee to intervene. The committee gave its nod to carry out restoration of the building earlier this month.
The building is made of wrought iron imported from England. The Grade II-A heritage structure has been neglected for years. There are more than 150 tenants in the building.
Some of them have made illegal extensions, which the authorities have ignored, the tenants say.
This is MHADA’s first heritage restoration assignment. It was given to MHADA because the building is cessed and the owner did not have funds to appoint an architect.
“The building must be restored by full-time specialised architects as it is a structure of extreme importance,” said Conservation Architect Abha Narain Lambah, who studied the structure in 2001.
According to the tenants, the MHADA has taken up repairs all the four floors simultaneously and this is causing them inconvenience. The building was built in 1867 and housed a grand ballroom and lavish facilities with an internal foyer around which were housed dining and shops.