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Dongri building collapse: ‘Redevelopment of building was neither viable nor feasible’

A group of tenants of Kesarbhai building had approached Rizwan Malik, the proprietor of ASB Realtors, to construct a 23-floor tower after demolishing the three-storey structure earlier this year. But Malik claimed that he was never seriously interested in the project.

Written by Srinath Rao | Mumbai | Updated: July 17, 2019 2:44:42 am
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A Dongri-based builder whom residents of the Kesarbhai Mansion had approached for its redevelopment earlier this year had maintained that the project was “neither viable nor feasible”. In the absence of a contract or sustained interest from the Trust that owns the building, talks of redeveloping the building, a part of which collapsed on Tuesday, had been finally shelved in March.

A group of tenants of Kesarbhai building had approached Rizwan Malik, the proprietor of ASB Realtors, to construct a 23-floor tower after demolishing the three-storey structure earlier this year. But Malik claimed that he was never seriously interested in the project.

“A group of tenants were very keen for the redevelopment and had reached out to me as they knew me as a local builder. But I was only advising them as a friend and well-wisher. My intentions were only to help poor people get homes,” he told The Indian Express.

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Malik said he had participated in two meetings called by the tenants between January and March. This was after he had studied the structure and analysed what it take would take to get the building redeveloped.

He claimed that the project only had the support of tenants, who had shifted out of their houses in September 2017 after lumps of sand fell off the walls and columns in a section of the building. “The other tenants, who were unaffected by the incident, had stayed in their houses and were not keen to leave. They wanted that the repair works were undertaken while they continued to live in the building,” Malik said.

Even as a majority of the tenants did not support the project, Malik said that he had reluctantly laid out his terms for carrying out the redevelopment work in a letter issued by the tenants to the Bai Hirabai Rahimbhai Aloo Paroo and Bai Kesharbai Dharamsey Khakoo Charitable and Religious Trust – which owns the Kesarbhai building.

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Malik said he had agreed to construct houses ranging between 325 and 400 square feet within five to six years. However, the letter specified that Malik would not pay the tenants any money to rent temporary or transit accommodation while waiting for the building to be constructed. The tenants reportedly had agreed to the terms and had urged the Trust to appoint Malik to carry out the project, and promised not to hold it responsible, should any disputes arise.

“We are aware that the Trust is not comfortable with the terms, which we have agreed with the developer, but we hereby request the Trust to grant development right to M/S ASB Realtors in the interest of the tenants,” the letter by the tenants stated.

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Tenants had also indicated their willingness to execute a bond of indemnity stating that it was their decision to appoint Malik’s firm as the developer, to accept his terms and to absolve the Trust of any responsibility, should he fail to complete constructing the building.

“When I told the tenants that I could not pay them rent for transit accommodation, I was looking for a way to get out the project, but the tenants were so desperate for the building to be redeveloped that they had agreed,” Malik told The Indian Express. He added that unless the Trust had acquired a plot adjacent to the building, it would not be able to meet the BMC’s requirement of maintaining a six-metre perimeter of free space around it.

From a business point of view, Malik added, the project also did not make sense. “Even if I constructed houses, I do not think that anyone would pay Rs 1 crore to buy a one BHK apartment in Dongri,” he said.

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Claiming that the Trust had not participated in any of the meetings for the redevelopment of the building, Malik said: “It never looked like they were serious about the redevelopment. If they had been, then they would have got an NOC from the Charity Commissioner, persuaded all the tenants to give their consent, acquired the adjacent plot and appointed an architect to survey the structure.”

He said that the informal talks also did not make any progress following a second meeting in March, and that no formal contract was ever signed in the matter.

Before ASB Realtors, the Trust had selected two other developers in 2011 and 2015 through tenders, to carry out the redevelopment, but the work never took off.

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