Three years after The Indian Hotels Co Ltd (IHCL), the country’s second-biggest hotel company by room inventory, took possession of a multi-storey hotel situated on a six-acre plot in Bandra, Mumbai, to build a luxury hotel, plans still remain largely on paper.
The plot is currently embroiled in a controversy over issues relating to irregularities in allocation of floor space index (FSI). A public interest litigation (PIL) had been filed this week in the Bombay High Court, alleging that former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan sanctioned extra FSI for the plot, which once housed the Sea Rock hotel.
The Tata Group-promoted IHCL’s project plans at this site include building a “world-class convention and hospitality centre”, while also integrating it with Lands End, a premium hotel which is a stone’s throw away from this plot, also owned by IHCL.
The Mumbai-based company bought the property for Rs 680 crore in 2009 through the purchase of 85 per cent equity in ELEL Hotels, which was a subsidiary of the Delhi-based Claridges Group of Hotels. IHCL controls rights for the project through ELEL Hotels, which is now its subsidiary.
The project for redevelopment, however, is running behind schedule by several months as reconstruction at the site was expected to begin in early 2010. The new hotel was originally set to open doors for guests in 2013, however, experts say it wont come on stream before 2015. The company had clarified it would require at least three years for the property to be complete before opening for guests.
In addition, IHCL is yet to secure approvals from the central and state agencies, including the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority.
In an interaction with Business Standard earlier this year, IHCL executives had said the company was hopeful to start the process of reconstruction of a new hotel before the first half of this year and that it had secured clearance from MoEF.
“With regard to the commencement of the Sea Rock redevelopment project, we can state all the design development and architectural drawings have been finalised, and ELEL will commence the project as soon as the last of the pending pre-construction approval is in hand,” a spokesperson of IHCL said in an email response to queries.
Constructed in the late 1970s, the Sea Rock was one of Mumbai’s best-known landmarks frequented by several big-wigs, ranging from Bollywood actors to corporate honchos and politicians. The property remained non-functional since 1993, after a bomb ripped through its 18th floor, causing extensive damage. The hotel building was razed to the ground last year and the plot barricaded.
IHCL has even finished appointing consultants, architects, designers after a competitive bidding process. It has also appointed construction firms to start reconstruction at the site.
The company planned to promote it as a landmark by bringing it on a par with its famous south Mumbai property Taj Mahal Palace or the Opera House of Sydney, Australia.