Lying in neglect for years, Delhi's historic Town Hall is all set to regain its glory, as the area's civic body on Wednesday cleared a proposal to lease out the over 150-year-old heritage landmark to a private player to run a hotel-cum museum.
The standing committee of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) while approving the decision, imposed certain restrictions to ensure that the architectural integrity of the iconic Victorian-era mansion remains intact.
Built in the 1860s, originally known as the Lawrence Institute, the hall was the seat of the Delhi Municipality and is a Grade I structure, the highest ranking for any heritage building that forbids any change in its facade and original design.
NDMC standing committee chairperson Veena Virmani told reporters that the building would be leased out for a period of 33 years on an "as is where is basis" for a monthly licensing fee of Rs 1.96 crore.
A "global tender" will be floated to select the licencee and the NDMC would want the best in the hospitality sector to bid for it.
"The licencee shall also use 'Town Hall' in naming the hotel. Town Hall is our pride and part of the city history, and so if the original name is not there then its identity would be lost," she said.
Virmani said restrictions include not changing the old design elements of the building, and the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Town Hall has to be in keeping with norms of the central government's Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC).
The gardens in the front and back portions of the sprawling premises will remain as green areas in the overall redevelopment plan, she said.
The redevelopment plan seeks a conservation of the Victorian-era mansion that will also house a museum, retelling the history of Delhi, the centre-piece of the attractions that are to be built.
A craft baazar, a dancing fountain, a maze, light and sound programmes, street food, children activity area, restaurant, courtyard and sculpture garden, digital library, lecture rooms, fine dining areas, are also planned to be developed in its premises.
The cash-strapped corporation had decided to go for this new model for redevelopment, after its Centre-funded restoration plan got shelved.
After trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the Town Hall housed the NDMC until it shifted to a swanky, multi-storeyed Civic Centre on the Minto Road here.
Asked, if public entry to access the museum would be paid for or free-of-cost, Virmani, said, "Let the tendering process be over. Other modalities can be deliberated and incorporated later."
The NDMC has been toying with the restoration and redevelopment plan for the last few years, but had not been able to make much headway.
The Union Tourism Ministry had in early 2014 cleared a Rs 50 crore heritage renewal project for the building, but the fund release was subject to preparation of the detailed project report (DPR) by the NDMC.
The civic body could not come up with the DPR for the restoration of the Town Hall, one of the finest heritage buildings in the city.
Lying in neglect for a long time, the last restoration plan was to breath a fresh lease of life in it, but "bureaucratic delays" had shelved it.
The then North Delhi mayor Preety Agarwal last year had said that the Town Hall would be redeveloped as an attractive tourist destination with "international standards" after which the city landmark would emerge as a centre of cultural and social heritage, depicting the history, culture and the life of Delhi.
The redevelopment project is also expected to earn good revenue for the BJP-led corporation that has been facing financial crunch for the past several years.After lying in doldrums, the fresh redevelopment plan has come has a much-desired fillip the Raj-era building needed that has seen the era of trams and Gothic clock-tower pass by in front of it.