INDIA’S PREMIER business district, the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, is all set to be repositioned as a luxury residential destination as well. The BJP-led government of Maharashtra has decided to clear a two-year-old proposal of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), permitting residential activity on plots reserved for commercial use.
According to sources, the state’s town planning wing has already cleared the proposal, and the file is now awaiting the approval of the Chief Minister-led urban development department. In 2016, the MMRDA’s directorial board, headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, had adopted a resolution for modifying the development control regulations (DCR) in BKC to allow residential activity on commercial plots.
But with questions over how a modification would be applied to commercial plots already auctioned through a tendering process, the state’s nod to the controversial modification was deferred.
Now, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP government has taken it up for approval. According to the modification, plots allotted or reserved for commercial activity in BKC’s G block, which has evolved into a top-end business and financial hub with corporate offices of top business houses, international banks, financial institutions and diamond merchants among others, will be permitted to utilise up to 30 per cent of the permissible buildable area for residential construction.
The MMRDA has contended that the construction of high-end housing for mid and top level executives working in offices in the BKC will promote the “Walk to Work” concept, but sources conceded that a top business group with an ongoing construction activity in the region will benefit the most from the move.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised on whether modifying land usage after tendering out the plot doesn’t violate the sanctity of the allotment terms and conditions. In BKC’s G block, the plots have been allotted on the original condition that they shall be developed for the reserved commercial purposes, within three years of allotment.
While the government has slapped a penalty and raised a demand for additional premium, as required from some of those who have missed the construction deadline, a few of them have challenged the move legally, and are yet to pay up.
A committee, comprising the MMRDA commissioner and the principal secretary (urban development), was earlier asked to examine the controversial proposal, and recommend the manner in which it could be implemented.
Sources said the committee has voted in favour of the proposal, arguing that residential premiums in the BKC’s G block were lower than commercial premiums, and that the change of use will not result in a loss to the MMRDA’s income.
In the past, the MMRDA has had to fight legal cases where questions have been raised over modification of the tender conditions after allotment. Incidentally, while the 2016 resolution had also recommended permitting mixed use for residential blocks in the BKC, the state government has decided against allowing this for now.