Height of neglect: Bengaluru’s Public Utility Building a shadow of its former self

Traders fed up with BBMP’s poor maintenance of one of Bengaluru’s oldest skyscraper

May 29, 2022 08:13 pm | Updated April 29, 2023 07:10 am IST - Bengaluru

Some of the shops are closed at Public Utility Building.

Some of the shops are closed at Public Utility Building. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

It might be one of the city’s oldest skyscraper, situated in the heart of the Central Business District (CBD), with a prominent view from Namma Metro. But today, it is a story of neglect and few give this iconic building a second look.

Traders who have set up shops inside the Public Utility Building hardly receive any new customers. Out of 85 shops in the complex, which occupies the first and second floors of the building, only 30 to 35 are now open for business.

A view of the premises at Public Utility Building in Bengaluru.

A view of the premises at Public Utility Building in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

Those who still run their businesses there say that one of the main reasons for traders to close their shutters was the landlord – the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Members of Public Utility Building Traders’ Association (PUBTA) alleged that maintenance and security arrangements have been neglected by the BBMP. When The Hindu visited the building recently, the hallways and stairwells were stained, while the stench of washrooms could be smelt from a distance.

Inside the washrooms, there were no doors in some stalls and the taps on washbasins were not running. At many places in the complex, there were also electrical wires hanging out of boxes.

A view of the premises at Public Utility Building in Bengaluru.

A view of the premises at Public Utility Building in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

“The association pays the salaries of the housekeeping staff to have clean washrooms for our employees. Even then, there are infrastructural issues like leaky taps and pipes,” said a trader who owns a textile shop in the complex.

He added that during the night, there are no proper lighting systems in place either.

The traders here also said that BBMP increases rent by at least 7% every once in a while, and it becomes a huge burden on them.

“They now demand ₹50 to ₹60 per square feet, much like the private spaces on M.G. Road and Brigade Road which is not easily bearable by the traders here. As most floors here are occupied by the BBMP offices, all of the rent which is missed out there is being forced on us. First of all, apart from our fixed customers, nobody new turns up here at all. Even if they come, the state of complex is so poor that they will not revisit,” said K. Ramachandran, president of the association.

A view of the premises at Public Utility Building in Bengaluru.

A view of the premises at Public Utility Building in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

While it was a premium shopping hub in the 1980s and the 1990s, some traders confessed to now regretting staying at the complex for decades. Some said that they open their shops and sit there the whole day and on some days, not even one customer shows up.

They say that they cannot relocate to different places as it will not be financially feasible.

Responding to questions, B.T. Mohan Krishna, Chief Engineer, BBMP (East), said that a tender has been called to fix duct-related issues in washrooms. He also said that to ensure security, six Home Guards are always on duty in the building.

“Nevertheless, we will have a meeting with the association and work out a solution to their problems,” he said.

PUB - Bengaluru’s iconic landmark
The Public Utility Building is a 106-metre commerical centre situated on M.G. Road, next to Mayo Hall
It is one of the first skyscrapers in the city and was built in 1970
As one of the tallest buildings in the city, there are a total of 25 floors which house many commercial establishments like a shopping complex, restaurants, boutiques, and also cinemas
It is owned by the BBMP, which has also occupied most floors on the building for its offices
The building is also known as Subash Chandra Bose Public Utility Building
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