Delhi:Plan to convert historic Town Hall into hotel scrapped

- June 13, 2024
| By : Idrees Bukhtiyar |

MCD scraps plan to convert the 160-year-old Town Hall in Chandni Chowk into a hotel. The historic building will be conserved and repurposed for public use instead

FAILED PROJECT: The municipal corporation first proposed to convert Town Hall into a heritage hotel in 2008. However, it had to be shelved due to lack of interest from hoteliers

Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has abandoned the plan to convert the 160-year-old Town Hall building in Chandni Chowk into a heritage hotel.

“We have shelved the plan as of now. However, we will surely put this structure to some public use in the coming months,” stated a senior official of Delhi MCD’s Heritage Division, privy to the development.

According to reports, North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) first proposed turning the historic building into a heritage hotel in 2008, but since then it has been hanging fire due to various reasons.

An MCD official revealed that they had invited expression of interest from different hotel operators to lease out this old building for a period of 33 years with a minimum reserve price of 1.90 crores per month. 

“Tenders were floated in 2021. But with the huge reserve price, no hotelier showed any interest in the project. The cost was unaffordable for them,” said a maintenance wing official from MCD.

Officials had then said that no bidder came forward due to the poor situation of the market because of the pandemic.

In 2022, the Union Cultural Ministry expressed interest in taking over the structure for a 33-year-long lease period and developing it into a museum with a library and restaurant. However, the plan didn’t move forward due to a lack of clarity over how the ministry and MCD will share the funds.

Another official highlighted MCD’s financial constraints as a hindrance for not taking this project forward.        

The aim of turning it into a heritage hotel was to attract tourists to the historic building, showing them Delhi’s culture and cuisine. Additionally, it would have also helped the department generate revenue.

The Heritage Division of the department is set to undertake the conservation of the building in the coming months. 

“Since the plan of turning it into a hotel has been scrapped, we will now take up its renovation likely in a month or more as we are waiting for the conservation plan from Agha Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC),” he said.

The building will undergo renovation which includes its lime plastering. 

“Since these are Victorian-era buildings, they have used lime. We too will use the same for its restoration,” the official said. 

“We will also remove good quality plaster from the walls as it is a huge load on the building.”

“The broken glasses and its windows, doors will also be repaired,” he said.

“There is seepage on the ceiling of the building which will be fixed and whitewashed,” the official said.

In August last year, the outer portion of the Town Hall building received a whitewash ahead of the G20 meet in Delhi.

Currently, the building is lying in poor condition as its walls are filled with rust, webs, broken doors, window glasses and broken plaster and paint lying on the ground.     

The Town Hall has served as the headquarters of the erstwhile unified MCD. 

Abandoned Conversion
Abandoned Conversion: MCD’s 2008 plan to convert Town Hall into a heritage hotel was shelved due to high costs and lack of interest from hoteliers

The construction of Town Hall started in 1860 and completed in 1863. The building was initially known as Lawrence Institute, and it housed the Delhi College of Higher Studies before it was bought by the then municipality for Rs1,35,457 in 1866.

Besides government offices, the building also had a library and a European club. 

After the municipality shifted its headquarters to the high-rise Civic Centre, Minto Road in central Delhi, the Town Hall has been lying vacant and in shambles. 

It was the seat of the MCD from 1866 during the British Raj till late 2009.