Iconic Kolkata To Receive Make Over From Foreign Investors
May 7 – Kolkata, once India’s capital under the Raj and one of its most enigmatic cities, is getting a makeover of its most historic areas from Asian practices familiar with preserving ancient buildings. Formerly known as Calcutta, the city was once one of the world’s largest ports and a flagship of the British Empire. It saw its fortunes wane, however, after trade from what became Bangladesh dried up and the Chinese occupation of Tibet ceased to connect the city with Lhasa. Up until that time Kolkata had been the import and export hub for Tibetan products – neither Lhasa or Kolkata have ever recovered their previous trade and historical ties.
As a result, Kolkata’s once thriving China town, home to the largest number of Tibetans outside of Lhasa, is now a pale imitation of what it once was. Meanwhile, iconic areas such as College Street, which inspired poets such as Allen Ginsburg, have been left to decay over the past five decades. The area is also home to the famous Indian Coffee House, which now serves coffee for just Rs 8 to students and tourists, yet in the 1970’s was a meeting point for Maoist insurgents and Indian communists. This building will be receiving a makeover as well, reminiscent of the Café Leopold in Mumbai.
College Street is full of bookstores and coffee shops, yet has been slowly decaying over the decades. That is about to change. Singaporean architects are working together with the city and State Government of West Bengal to give both Chinatown and the College Street area a complete makeover, opening up opportunities for construction companies, architects, designers and historians to all work together to protect and upgrade these historic areas of the city.
The Urban Revival Plan has apparently been approved by the local Government, with funding coming from both municipal funds and the private sector.
“We do not wish to disturb the existing set up – only to remove the aesthetic unpleasantness from these iconic neighborhoods. People will then want to come here, and that would be the best way to show respect to our rich heritage,” stated the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
“The revival project will preserve College Streets rich history, not glassed up in a museum but as part of a living heritage,” says Rinkoo Bhowmik of Singapore’s Buzzmedia, one of the planners involved. “Just like it should be at Chinatown as well, dotting it with cafes and teahouses, revamping the facades, taking down the decrepit signage that has crept up and bringing back the authentic Chinese ambience when the city had over 50,000 Chinese and Tibetan merchants here.”
Dezan Shira & Associates is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in emerging Asia. Since its establishment in 1992, the firm has grown into one of Asia’s most versatile full-service consultancies with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Vietnam as well as liaison offices in Italy and the United States.
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City Guide – Kolkata
Formerly known as Calcultta, Kolkata was built along the eastern bank of the Hugli River, forming an important trade and commerce hub in northeast India. It is the capital of West Bengal, a province rich in natural resources with a thriving tea-production industry.
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