The Urban Development Authority (UDA) is leading the city's development drive that has seen Colombo blossoming into a clean, green and people friendly city. The UDA, coming under the purview of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development has initiated a number of urban regeneration projects under the guidance and supervision of Secretary Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Mr. Rajapaksa is spearheading the Colombo development project with the aim of making it a showpiece city of Asia and a commercial hub of South Asia.
The 'Independence Square' redevelopment project is one such project that involves reviving iconic landmark redevelopment of around 100ha of landmass with vast open spaces and heritage buildings. A British colonial period horse racing ground with two architecturally creative pavilions, a two storied Dutch era building complex and the Independence Memorial building are also situated within this area. The Auditor General's (AG) Department also functioned in one of these buildings. Due to misuse and lack of maintenance and also haphazard development this important part of the city lost its importance and grandeur.
Work on the project was handled in stages. In addition to proving new space, the road network was improved with city roads being resurfaced, pavements upgraded and public convenience facilities being renovated and new ones constructed. Parapet walls of public buildings were scrapped down to make way for efficient land use.
Already the Old Racecourse has been developed and is now a popular high end dining and shopping hotspot and the ground has been turned into an international rugby ground. In addition to that the adjoining area has been developed for public use with walking and cycling paths and open spaces.
The old AG's building has been given a new lease of life with the building complex being given a complete overhaul and turned into a modern shopping complex. The once abandoned eyesore has been given a complete change over with modern facilities while no change being done to its architectural features. Out of the 90,000 sq ft floor area 40,000 sq ft will be available for the high end private sector business enterprises. Facilities have also been created to host large events and gatherings. The spacious shopping stalls have been installed with all modern amenities including special lighting and communication systems.
Development work was carried out with paying concern to the environment and enhancing its uniqueness. In keeping to the green, clean and open space concept the area under development was incorporated with stretches of open greenery, trees and plants and ponds thereby giving the city a much needed 'breathing space'. For the health conscious members of the public can use its jogging and cycling tracks will be an ideal venue to engage in their daily workouts.
The ownership of the land and building space will vest with the UDA. The work of project was handled by Sri Lanka Navy which has resulted to the increased cost effectiveness of the project. It is expected that the term management mechanism of leasing the building spaces for business ventures will help to recover initial development costs and the overall project plan ensures long term sustainability and growth. The assistance of line agencies including the Colombo Municipal Council was pivotal in the successful completion of the project. A pool of professional including town planners, architects, engineers and landscape designers of the UDA were involved in every stage of the project.
This latest addition to the commercial capital is to be declared open to the public on Sunday (13th July) by HE the President.
Colombo is now a much cleaner, greener, safer and more people friendly city than it ever was.(KH/SI)