The Ministry of Tourism has cleared a Rs. 50-crore heritage renewal project for the Town Hall in New Delhi, paving the way for the historic landmark to be developed as a major tourist attraction, a top NDMC official said on Sunday.
Although the project has been proposed by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, under whose jurisdiction the nearly 150-year-old building falls, the funds for the same is subject to submission by the civic body of a detailed project report to the ministry.
“The Town Hall restoration and renewal project has been cleared by the Ministry of Tourism. The Rs. 50-crore fund from the Centre, however, will be released by them subject to the submission of the DPR,” NDMC Public Relations Officer Yogendra Singh Mann told PTI.
Billed as one of the most ambitious projects by NDMC, it will see the heritage building in Delhi’s historic Chandani Chowk area come to house a museum and a library, among others.
It will also have a state-of-the-art conference hall, children’s corner, boutique hotel, multi-cuisine restaurants and audio-visual and meeting rooms.
“The museum will be themed on Delhi’s history and heritage. Steps will also be taken to offer people a great audio-visual experience which would complement the architectural grandeur of the place,” Mr. Mann said.
“The building adjoining the main block will be developed as a heritage boutique hotel. We want visitors to experience the history of this place dating back to the 1860s,” he added.
Known originally as the Lawrence Institute, the Hall was the original seat of the Delhi Municipality. After trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, it housed the North Corporation until it shifted to the swanky, multi-storeyed Civic Centre on Minto Road.
NDMC said that since it is a 19th century building, the aim will be to “remain loyal” to the original design, which means the restoration work will take time.
“The building was originally used by the British to hold public meetings. Built in yellow-painted brick and stone, and carved white stone trim, it was bought by the municipality around 1866 for its use,” he said.
The ornate columns, arched windows and the carvings on the porticos are an additional attraction at this historic sentinel of Delhi, which has seen the eras of tramways and Victorian clock towers pass by in front of it.
“The idea behind the project is to immerse people in history. The plan is to return to the original design and layout, including the old gates and fences, which would be complemented and supplemented by new amenities inside,” the NDMC PR officer said.
NDMC said that plans are also afoot to create an underground parking in the Gandhi park area lying behind the Hall.
“An underground parking has also been proposed in the Azadi Park area on the Hall premises, where the statue of Gandhi currently stands. As per the plan, the statue will be reinstalled after work on the parking space is completed,” Mr. Mann said.
Other attractions proposed at the 16-acre heritage complex include a crafts bazaar, art galleries, open-air theatre, exhibition centres, sculpture garden, cafes and landscaped gardens.
According to noted author and historian R.V. Smith’s book ‘Capital Vignettes: A Peep Into Delhi’s Ethos’, a bronze statue of Queen Victoria was installed in front of the Hall during British times although it was replaced following Independence by a statue of freedom fighter and social reformer, Swami Shraddhanand.
The iconic landmark is now an integral part of many heritage walks undertaken by history enthusiasts in the city.
As to the timeframe for the project, Mr. Mann said, “It will take at least two years from the time of starting, given the degree and extent of the restoration work involved.”