Over a century ago, his great-grandmother JerbaiWadia built the first of Parsibaugs for middle-income and weaker sections of her community. On Sunday, industrialist NusliWadia, along with son Ness, stepped into the 105-year-old NowrozBaug in Parel to meet residents and discuss a plan to redevelop the 5.5-acre property.
Accompanied by architect Hafeez Contractor and trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP), which controls the property, the senior Wadia urged the residents to "look at this project in a positive and objective way; not in a combative way". "We want to give you something better than you have," he said. The Wadia Group chairman is now a major real estate player in Mumbai, with his Bombay Realty being into building luxury apartments. His Sunday visit was, however, not linked to his business but owing to his association with the Wadia managing committee, which along with the BPP, manages the welfare of major Parsi baugs.
The 22,000 sq-m land close to ITC hotel in Parel is considered a prime location in central Mumbai. Nowroz Baug comprises about a dozen low rise buildings containing 358 tenements-ranging from 150 sq-ft rooms to over 800 sq-ft flats -and a playground.
Making the redevelopment plan come alive, a flashy power point presentation showed how the old structures would be razed to be replaced by a "new deluxe Parsi colony" with four skyscrapers, each 40-storey high. Architect Contractor, who prepared the plan, requested the residents to approve it because "you will never get an opportunity like this".
According to the plan of the project, which will be initiated and funded by the Punchayat, existing residents will be provided with new apartments with a minimum area of 400 sq ft (carpet) to a maximum of 1,250 sq ft in the towers free of cost. BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta said the plan, estimated to cost over Rs 400 crore, will entail 1 million sq ft of construction. "We may receive around 500 additional flats, part of which will be allotted to community priests and young couples. The rest could be sold at market rates to recover the construction cost," he said.
But the project may face a few obstacles. The plan entails building a 40-storey tower on the playground, which is proposed to be shifted elsewhere. But the civic authorities are unlikely to approve it and the trustees may have to approach the state to relax the norms. Residents were told they could temporarily use the playground at Rustom Baug in Byculla when the construction starts. Another problem would be procuring the consent of 70% tenants of the baug. While some seemed to support the project, others said the century-old buildings were still sturdy despite claims that they were beyond repairs. "The project can proceed only if the minimum required consent comes through," said Mehta.
Not quite sure about what they have in store, a woman resident said, "We are boxing with shadows right now. Give the plan in writing to each resident so that we can deliberate on it." At this, Wadia asked for
a "level of trust" between residents and the project proponents. "Please trust us. But if you don’t, you shouldn’t," he said.Bai Jerbai Nowrosjee Wadia (1852-1926) was a philanthropist who conceived plans to build low-cost baugs or housing colonies. Between 1908 and 1956, five baugs were built on over 35 acres housing 1,500 flats in 646 buildings for lower- and middle-class Parsis. These include Cusrow Baug (14 acres) at Colaba, Rustom Baug (9.5 acres) at Byculla, Ness Baug (2.7 acres) at Nana Chowk, Jerbai Baug (2.7 acres) at Byculla and Nowroz Baug (5.5 acres)
At present Nowroz Baug is situated on a 22,000 sq-m land close to ITC hotel in Parel. The colony has about a dozen low rise buildings, which houses 358 tenements that range from 150 sq-ft rooms to over 800 sq-ft flats, and a playground. The buildings will be pulled down to be replaced with four skyscrapers, each 40-storey high. Existing residents will be given new apartments with a minimum carpet area of 400 sq ft to a maximum of 1,250 sq ft free of cost.