Mumbai: In redevelopment market, future of heritage houses on fragile ground
Publish on : 2022-01-17 18:42:04
Over the past two decades, several heritage properties have been redeveloped with their heritage facade retained and a tower built behind it.
MUMBAI: Mumbai’s sprawling heritage homes are much sought-after by developers and the city’s uber rich, but the fate of some of these gorgeous properties remain uncertain.
In south Mumbai’s Laburnum Road, a charming street that’s home to Mani Bhavan where Mahatma Gandhi spent several years, a Grade 2 listed heritage building, Laburnum House, was last month sold for Rs 93 crore. Laburnum Road falls under the Gamdevi heritage precinct. The four-storey mansion with 12 bedrooms and seven car parks, owned by the Amersey family for over six decades, has been bought by Krishna Patel of Chandler & Price India Pvt Ltd.
The plot size is less than one-fourth of an acre (871 sq m) and it is not known if the new owner plans to retain the elegant structure or pull it down. “Laburnum House is listed as a Grade 2 heritage property, which can be redeveloped if the front facade is maintained. One can also dismantle and reinstall the facade,’’ said property market sources.
On Bandra’s sea-facing Carter Road, the family that owns Taj Villa, one of the best-maintained bungalows in this western suburb, has entered into a joint development agreement with a local builder, who plans to construct a 16-storey building with 18 luxury apartments on the plot. The early 20th century ground-plus-one storey bungalow is a Grade 2A heritage property. Any redevelopment proposal will require clearance from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee.
“Some buyers continue to appreciate heritage facades and art deco elevations, and developers have been selling such products at high premiums,’’ said Gulam Zia, ED, Knight Frank India. “But many heritage structures are in a sad state. The lack of robust financial models to restore and maintain such structures has been the sole reason for such a sorry state of our cultural wealth. Heritage laws must be reviewed to incorporate a balance between protection and commercialisation.’’
City historian and heritage conservationist Dr Jehangir Sorabjee rued that Mumbai has not been able to strike the right balance between conserving heritage structures and monetising the value of such properties. “It is sad redevelopment is taking place by retaining the heritage frontage in a stop-start manner, which is very unaesthetic and ugly,’’ he said.
Over the past two decades, several heritage properties have been redeveloped with their heritage facade retained and a tower built behind it. Like the Buckley Court heritage property in Colaba where the builder retained the sprawling old mansion and constructed a high-end luxury tower with 6,000 sq ft apartments. Or the Taraporewalla Mansion, the heritage bungalow where writer Mulk Raj Anand once lived in Cuffe Parade, that was retained and restored even as a highrise, Mittal Grandeur, was built by Mittal Developers. At Bandra Bandstand, actor Shah Rukh Khan purchased a heritage bungalow called Villa Vienna (later renamed Mannat) from a Parsi owner in the late 90s and kept the outer facade intact.
Later, he built a multi-storey building behind the bungalow plot. The picture is not all rosy. “In our neighbourhood of Nepean Sea Road, the redevelopment of the Morarka bungalow property has been going on for 15 years causing distress to residents. We need to find a solution where people are encouraged to maintain their properties in good form and yet achieve the same level of monetisation of land as someone on the adjacent non-heritage plot can,” said Sorabjee.
Conservation architect Vikas Dilawari said Mumbai, despite being the pioneer in the country to introduce legislation for protection of heritage, has gone downhill. “New rules allow grade 3 listed structures and buildings to be demolished after documenting them. Their heritage features can be incorporated or replicated in the new redevelopment, whose footprint is totally different and most are highrises with glass facades. Hence, retaining the original and old is being replaced with redevelopment with a pastiche treatment-like approach,’’ he said.
There may be a lot of money changing hands over heritage properties, but unfortunately, aesthetics is not guaranteed. The four-storey Laburnum House with 12 bedrooms and seven car parks, owned by the Amersey family for over six decades, has been bought for Rs 93 crore by Krishna Patel of Chandler & Price India Pvt Ltd. The transaction was registered on December 8.
Taj Villa belongs to businessman Tariq Gore, who mainly resides in Dubai, and has siblings in Karachi. Although Gore was unavailable for comment, Mumbai Mirror has learnt that Gore has tied up with Nissar Kazi of Fortune Builders. “The agreement includes a payment of Rs 50 crore to the Gores and 50% share in the sale of apartments,’’ said property market sources. Dilawari rued that heritage interventions are out of scale and not adhering to any urban design pattern, unlike the earlier developments of the past like that of City Improvement schemes.
Another issue in redevelopment is that the parking area is granted free and hence new podiums are taller than the rest of the heritage precinct even as the access road widths remain the same.
“The fragile century-old infrastructure is overburdened with redevelopment. Stringent laws are not the need of the hour, but quick repair permissions and encouragement for conservation needs to be given an opportunity to balance development and conservation,’’ said Dilawari.