Like blots they stand amidst the sprawling cityscape. They are a curiosity to passers-by who take a questioning look at them and move on. Local residents consider them as eyesores and an inauspicious presence in their area.
Unfinished buildings in the city, some of them as old as 40 years, have their own tales to tell.
One such building is at the Ravipuram end of MG Road where its shadow breaks the sparkle of the arterial city street.
The building, with exposed brickwork and overgrown with weeds, was to be a hotel. A close relative of the promoter recalls that the project began in 1980-81.
The former president of the Cochin Citizens’ Forum, Mathew Joseph, an old timer in the area, recalls the enormity of the project. The city had not witnessed any project of that magnitude till then.
The hotel was to be ready to host Santosh Trophy players and VIPs who would visit the city in connection with the football matches.
The project, however, went to seed following a family feud, ruining the fortunes of the promoter, then a top marine exporter. The unfinished structure stands as a mute testimony to the dispute that brought misfortunes on the family.
As time passed, the business prospects of the promoter family waned. Few people now know the whereabouts of the promoters of the project which was to be named Hotel Oceano.
The amount spent on the project was fabulous.
Not that the family had any problems with funds at that time.
They had assets in many places, including Chennai, say people who knew the family.
The project remains jinxed despite the promoter selling off the property 15 years ago to a gold merchant in Dubai.
All these years have not taken a toll on the seven-storey structure, set on 20 cents of land, because of the high quality of construction, says Mr. Joseph, who sees it every day in front of his office. But residents and shop owners around the place have a tough time dealing with anti-socials occupying the building and even toxic waste being burnt on its premises.
Another abandoned building in the city is at Kundanoor, which tells a story of people being cheated and the builder absconding. The promoter, who had floated a company during the initial real estate boom period of 1992-93, allegedly fled to Bangalore to avoid the investors who were gunning for him.
While some investors got their money back, many others were left in the lurch. Among them is M.P. Ravindranathan from Palakkad, who was an NRI at the time of investment. He paid the whole price of Rs.8.3 lakh with a bank loan.
Tough talking investors managed to nail the builder down for the payments but there are quite a few like him who have not received back any money. “There was a promise when I visited the builder’s office in Kaloor long time ago. Somebody called as recently as a year ago, promising to pay me back,” says Mr. Ravindranathan.
The promoter himself had allegedly set afloat the rumour that the building was tilting and also that he had committed suicide, he says.
The Maradu municipality regularly sends tax demands on the building addressed to the wife of the promoter, only to have the papers returned.
A society formed by the investors never pursued legal means, says Mr. Ravindranathan. “As I was abroad, I could not do much about it”.
Mr. Ravindranathan alleges that the builder had violated the building plan approved by the Maradu panchayat at that time and had built flats on the ground floor that was originally meant for car parking and as a common utility area.
The promoter has also not responded to an offer by a nearby hotel group to buy the property for expansion.
The story of an abandoned building at Elamkulam, just off the main road, is a little different. Spread over two acres, the building with six floors built at a cost of about Rs.4 crore lies abandoned for no obvious reason.
“I just lost interest in the project”, says the promoter, who is a doctor based in Kolenchery.
He had plans to build a hospital when he returned from Bahrain.
Though a doctor, he was into business in Bahrain. Twenty-five years on, the doctor now plans to convert it into a hotel.
“Many ideas came in after I stopped the building construction, but I was unable to get on with any. Since I didn’t have any loan against the building, I just hung on” he says.
He runs a lodge and a hotel at Kolenchery and another lodge in Thiruvananthapuram.
Though not quite sure of what he intends to do with the structure, he says he had applied for converting it into a hotel.
Keywords: Kochi city buildings