Author – Tasmayee Laha Roy, ET Bureau >>
KOLKATA: Indians living abroad and private investors have taken a fancy for acquiring and restoring heritage buildings and palaces in the old city of Ahmedabad. They are not only interested in preservation, but also in converting them into profit-making centres such as studio apartments and shops.
Chandrakant Doria of Nairobi, Kenya, bought the 150-year old Sunilbhai Haveli near the walled city of Ahmedabad for Rs 80 lakh. Chetan R Shah, a private investor, acquired the campus of BD College of Arts and Home Science at Sankdi Sheri for Rs 15 crore. Both Doria and Shah plan to restore the acquired properties and recover their investments from rentals.
The restoration work in the old city is handled by the City Heritage Centre, a community-based resource centre in Ahmedabad that helps Gujaratis in preserving, sustaining and promoting heritage properties. Started by Rajiv Patel, co-founder of the Excel Group in Ahmedabad, this group of realtors provides legal, technical and financial help to those restoring havelis.
The campus of the more than 85 year old BD College of Arts and Home Science, the first institute for women’s education in Ahmedabad, went under the hammer in 2012 and is getting ready for a facelift. Shah, who is awaiting clearances from the Heritage Commission, plans to transform the 35,000 sq ft property spread over five levels into a fully air-conditioned gold and silver market with about 150 shops, targeting the large number of jewellery traders in the Manek Chowk area.
“It took me a lot of time to get the initial clearances. Also, the project being futuristic in nature, I will wait for the next two years till the gold and silver market is ready. If the model works out, I will definitely invest in more such properties,” said Shah, who is spending almost Rs 7 crore to restore the property
Doria’s 800 square foot haveli will be renovated by the City Heritage Centre and converted into two studio apartments that will be rented out. Another factor driving the restoration activity is tourism. With more than 28 million tourists having visited Gujarat in 2013-14, an increase of 13.3% over the previous year, the Gujarat tourism department announced incentives and guidelines in November to popularise homestays in the state.Deepali Patel, an interior designing entrepreneur, invested in French Haveli at Khijda Sheri in 2013. She put in Rs 1.25 crore to make this a bed-and-breakfast property and inaugurated it last month.
“We are trying to bring about grassroot development among haveli owners in the walled city, whose properties are in a dilapidated state. We are asking them to give out two rooms for bed and breakfast facilities so that the returns from this can be used for renovation of their properties,” said Patel of Excel Group, who acquired the 10,000 sq ft Diwanji Ni Haveli in 2007 for Rs 2.5 crore.This 250-year old traditional wooden haveli is being converted into an educational and cultural centre, with facilities such as audiovisual rooms, classrooms, cafeterias and a central courtyard that can be used for photo shoots.
Author – Tasmayee Laha Roy, ET Bureau