Even as the official decision to scrap the private redevelopment of the 100-odd acre Bandra government colony project is still awaited, the project is now as good as shelved, with the Public Works Department (PWD) drawing up plans for redeveloping the 250-plus low-rises in phases on its own.
PWD officials say plans are afoot to redevelop three of the buildings into high-rises at a cost of Rs 100 crore before taking up the remaining buildings in phases.
The project was touted as the largest redevelopment project in Mumbai on the prime land that has housing quarters for families of 5,000-odd government officials and is located close to Western Express Highway and Bandra-Kurla Complex.
Five years ago, the cabinet committee on infrastructure under NCP leaders Chhagan Bhujbal, who is the PWD minister and Ajit Pawar, the water resources minister, trifurcated the redevelopment project, which was handed to DB Realty, Pune-based Kakade builder and Ackruti City (Hubtown). While the NCP has been pressing for the private redevelopment on a Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is opposed to the idea.
Bhujbal denied any plans to scrap the project. “We will go by whatever the local residents want. We have not yet taken a decision on doing away with the project,” he told Newsline.
Several senior government officials, however, confirmed the plans of junking the private redevelopment.
While local residents, all government servants, have been demanding houses on ownership basis after the private redevelopment, officials said they would not support any such move that leads to loss of precious housing quarters. “We will demolish three buildings and reconstruct them vertically so that there is more ground space and quarters available. We will do this through budgetary allocation since we don’t see any point in giving away prime government land. Moreover, the BOT has failed to take off in the last five years,” a senior PWD official said.
Over the last two years, the department has already spent Rs 60 crore on retrofitting some of the dilapidated buildings to improve the stability of the 50-year-old ground-plus-three structures.
As per the BOT proposal, the developers were to reconstruct the quarters into high-rises in addition to building a shopping centre, government administrative building and a super-specialty hospitality on 70 acres. The remaining portion was to be divided between the three developers for constructing residential and commercial towers for sale in the open market.
The project hit the first roadblock after DB realty’s promoter Shahid Balwa was arrested in the 2G spectrum scam in February 2011. But six months later, Bhujbal decided to go ahead with the tender formalities and asked the three developers to make the upfront payment of Rs 1,250 crore for the project within a fortnight.
While DB Realty and Ackruti never paid up due to a by-then slackened realty market, the Kakade group paid its share of Rs 142 crore. The Pune-based developer, known to be close to NCP chief Sharad Pawar, is now pursuing a case against the government in the Bombay High Court.
“After Chavan took over as CM, the then chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad made a file noting opposing the private redevelopment by saying it would lead to a potential loss of Rs 7,000 crore. Since then, the project never took off,” said Sanjay Kakade, founder of Kakade group. He added that in addition to the Rs 145 crore, the group has also paid an earnest money deposit of Rs 6 crore. “There is no way the government can scrap the project now. Over and above the sum we paid them, they will have to pay us over Rs 75 crore in interest,” he said.