Orange City Street project finds no takers

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Dec 2018 10:25:17


By Kartik Lokhande,

CORPULENT concepts often get buried under their own weight. This is precisely what has happened in case of the ambitious ‘Orange City Street’ (previously known as ‘London Street’) project. The project involves such a huge investment that it has not found any takers so far. The ambitious project found its first mention in the budget of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) in the year 2012-13.Then,itsestimated cost was pegged at Rs3,654 crore.

The project was proposed to be spread over 31.15 hectares of 5.50 km longs tret chof land starting from Wardha Road portion (diagonally opposite Radisson Blu)to Jaitala T-Point via Khamla, Bhamti, Parsodi, Takli areas. It was proposed to be developed in three phases over a span of eight years, with various components -- residential, commercial, hospitality, retail, and recreational facilities.However, ithas proven to beanon-starter.

For, it has not found any takers. In fact, NMC has been trying hard to sell the project to bigger companies. In the past couple of years, even the political bosses of the city also tried marketing the project. In fact, a media baron who owns multiple businesses in India and abroad and who is a Member of Rajya Sabha was shown the‘project site’ and a presentation was made before him about the proposed design. Later, he sent his financial team to examine the feasibility of the project. The team of that company, however, found the project to be financially unviable.

The same thing happened in case of another company with panIndia presence. According to sources, though the project design is attractive, there is no guarantee ofreturns on investment. This is discouraging companies tha can afford to invest a few thousands of crores of rupees in the project. The last time one had heard from the authorities about the project was in 2015.

Then, NMC officials had stated that the project would be developed on public-private-partnership model. The project cost was estimated to be Rs 5,700 crore. Though the project has found no takers so far, the authorities keep talking about it on and off. In one of the latest developments, NMC prepared a ‘concept plan’ for a mall and two health hub towers.

The mall is proposed to be developed near Metro Railway Station coming up near Wardha Road at the starting point of the project. As there are no investors, NMC is thinking of developing the mall itself. The said mall is proposed to have eight floors. Each of the two health hub towers will have 11 floors. Surprisingly, NMC has the ‘concept’ that it can sell the space in these health hub towers to interested doctors at ‘commercial rate per sq ft’. In the past decade, real estate has become costlier in Nagpur city.

The number of local buyers is not growing at a speed that matches the properties coming up. Given the situation, even if NMC is somehow successful in generating enough funds to construct the towers, how many will buy the blocks in them remains an unanswered question. NMC officials as well as office-bearers shy away from giving any details about generation of revenue to fund the project, or date of commencement and conclusion of the project work. Still, efforts are made to bring the project back in public knowledge.

NMC Standing Committee in its latest meeting, passed a proposal for signing a revised agreement with project management consultant and architect Hafeez Contractor for the ambitious project. Virendra Kukreja, Chairman of Standing Committee, presided over the meeting. When the journalists asked him about the revised estimated cost of the entire project, he said that it would be assessed ‘on the basis of sale value and construction value’. Earlier this year, in May, ‘The Hitavada’ had carried a detailed report on how bad is the situation on ground at the site of ‘Orange City Street’. There are encroachments (not removed since May 2018 when it was reported with photographs). Scrap-dealers have made makeshift constructions to store the scrap.

Many stretches have been converted into dumping yards. Unregulated growth of vegetation has never been paid attention to. Some contractors have started using parts of the open space to keep their fleet of vehicles, and have deployed manpower in tin-sheds constructed on the land. When all this was pointed out to Kukreja recently, he paused for a while and after wearing a smile over the pause, said, “We will perform bhoomipujan of Orange City Street project before elections.”

Whether or not the bhoomipujan is performed, the fact remains the same as of today -- there are no takers for the ‘Orange City Street’ project. The entire project is unable to bear its inflated weight and size.