HT Special | Reviving Chandigarh Sector 17: Long road to revival
The UT administration and municipal corporation have been coming up with a slew of plans to revive Sector 17 and restore its lost sheen, but the plans have largely remained on paper. Traders say as officers come and go, so do their plans. There has been no overarching master plan for its sustenance that has been followed over the years.punjab Updated: Mar 04, 2017 18:47 IST
The UT administration and municipal corporation have been coming up with a slew of plans to revive Sector 17 and restore its lost sheen, but the plans have largely remained on paper. Traders say as officers come and go, so do their plans. There has been no overarching master plan for its sustenance that has been followed over the years.
A few years ago, the entire flooring of the sector was changed, and the conventional lighting system was replaced with new light poles giving better illumination. In 2009, the MC spent around Rs 8 crore on the maintenance and beautification of the sector. Last year, the MC inaugurated a multilevel parking, and also proposed to make the plaza a vehicle-free zone by closing down two prime parking lots. But it was forced to roll back its decision and open those parking lots after the traders protested.
SMART CITY, SMART SECTOR
Now as part of Smart City initiative, the administration is drawing a detailed plan to rejuvenate the city centre. Last year, the administration engaged Architectural Studio Delhi at a cost of Rs 1.7 crore to draw a detailed plan for the city centre’s revival. The consultant gave a presentation to all the stakeholders, including traders, administration and MC officials following which the UT heritage and conservation committee also met to mull over the plans. It is learnt that 90 percent of the redesign suggested by the consultant, who is working on immediate, intermediate and long-term projects, has been approved by the administration.
Gurjot Singh, associate architect of the Architectural Studio, says the city centre project is not about the obvious, but about revitalising Sector 17. “It’s not merely about providing enough amenities, accessibility and managing waste. The city centre has survived on retail and offices both private and government since its inception. Its real potential lies in making it ‘the place to be’ for culture, recreation, conventions and events. That is what will create real and thoughtful public engagement. We are looking at activities that will keep the sector alive before and after retail, coupled with lighting solutions to make it safe after dark.”
Gurjot said they have provisioned for an administration-cum-facility management office to actively lease, manage, maintain and promote the activities envisioned for public spaces in Sector 17.
The plan envisages building an urban park behind Neelam theatre. This will have pro biking and skateboarding events besides food courts, seating within the plaza, and public screening of sport events on large screens. Concerts will also be organised here. As of now, the football stadium and the area around it covers nine acres; for this project, it will be increased to 12 acre. Tenders have already been floated for this Rs 11-crore project.
The plan also proposes to build a convention centre and a luxury hotel on an area of seven acres to the south of Neelam theatre. Planners say this will help in promoting Chandigarh as an international business and cultural centre. A habitat centre is also proposed on eight acres in front of Hotel Taj.
SUBWAY FROM ROSE GARDEN
Besides this, the administration also plans to rework the traffic circulation. It has already initiated work on a subway connecting the Rose Garden in Sector 16 to the Sector 17 plaza. This is aimed at increasing the footfall in Sector 17 as the subway would make it easy for people visiting Rose Garden to walk down to the plaza without encountering any traffic.
There are also plans to beautify the plaza with landscaping, installation of ornamental benches, lighting and new signages.
The MC proposes to shut down two parking lots — Empire Store and Sahib Singh parking lot —to develop a green belt, a play zone for children and an amphitheatre for the visitors. But so far, the traders have not agreed to the plan. There is also proposal to shift the UT Deputy Commissioner’s office so that the building can be converted into a National Gallery of the Modern Art Museum. The CMC parking lot is also proposed to be converted into a green zone. There are also plans to develop a plaza in the clogged Bank Square.
PROPOSALS GET FLAK
Not all of these recommendations are finding favour with local architects who have been associated with the city for ages. Some architects wondered why the administration had not assigned them the task of revitalising the city centre. They criticised the proposal to build another luxury hotel in the sector, saying that the sector is already home to three prime hotels that are yet to report full occupancy.
Similarly, the proposed urban park comprising an amphitheatre near the Sector 17 football stadium has also attracted flak. Local architects say it is not required. They also dismissed the proposal to set up an organic food market, saying that it would ruin the character of the plaza.
Plans proposed only to be disposed
■ In 2008, the MC cleared the setting up of an amusement park in Sector 17 on lease only to scrap it.
■ In 2013, the MC proposed a weekly Plaza carnival for local artistes, but this too was a non-starter.
■ During former Adviser K K Sharma’s stint in 2013, plans were made to beautify 50 to 80-foot area adjacent to the flyover under construction but all in vain.
■ MC had also planned to start a toy train and construct two fountains opposite the GPO but the project fizzled out.
The ‘smart’ proposals
■ As per the Smart City proposal, Sector 17 will be developed as an art and innovation centre. The area around the plaza will be declared a no-vehicle zone and only battery-operated carts will be allowed to ply.
■ Construction of a subway connecting the Rose Garden in Sector 16 and Sector 17 plaza.
■ Construction of another underpass between Sector 17 and Sector 9 for pedestrians.
■ Landscaping, installation of ornamental benches, lighting and new signages.
■ Urban park behind Neelam theatre on an area of 12 acres.
■ A convention centre and a luxury hotel on an area of seven acres to the south of Neelam theatre.
■ A habitat centre on eight acres in front of Hotel Taj
Change of use in existing buildings
■ Existing DC office designed by Pierre Jeanneret to be converted into a National Gallery of Modern Art with an amphitheatre in front of it
■ Revamp 17 bay and 30 bay buildings under UT Administration currently on rent to Punjab and Haryana. The buildings will be transformed as retail and cultural magnets
■ Creation of internal mobility with dedicated tracks for cyclists and golf carts