KARACHI: Work on the construction of the Shahabuddin Market and Parking Plaza (SMPP), which had been suspended last year amid a power tussle between the local bodies and the Sindh government, has finally resumed, officials and sources said.
They added that the suspension of work on the project had jeopardised the future of the scheme’s contractors and those who had invested millions in the huge structure for their shops and commercial space.
“You can say that there was no work at all [done] on the project between August 2016 and February 2017,” said an official wishing not to be named.
“The work restarted recently but still one can’t say about the expected time of the project’s completion. The project is supposed to be built in two phases and currently more than half of the first phase has been done.”
The SMPP project, located right behind the historical Empress Market in Saddar, was initiated in 2007-08. Hundreds of shopkeepers having their business establishments in the old Shahabuddin Market were relocated to a temporary market constructed in the Lines Area with a promise that they would be accommodated in the new market-cum-parking plaza building that was to be constructed on the site of the old market.
The ambitious project, costing Rs1.60 billion, is being built on a 27,539-square-yard plot. After completion, the structure would have over 900,000-square-foot covered area. It would comprise over 1,000 shops on the lower ground, ground, mezzanine and first floors while the four parking floors are expected to accommodate more than 1,650 cars and over 575 motorcycles.
“When the tussle between two [local bodies and the Sindh government] intensified last year, the contractor and those who had booked their space in the project became cautious,” said another official when asked about the reason behind the recent delay in the construction work.
“They had reasons to have concerns as the two key bodies Karachi Development Authority (KDA) and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had locked horns over proprietorship of the prime land, which took months to get resolved. During this period, those who had booked their spaces stopped paying instalments. As a trickle-down effect, the construction work also came to a halt.”
The KMC has already constructed a similar huge parking plaza to accommodate hundreds of cars and motorcycles and the building also has a large number of shops just a few hundred yards from the under-construction Shahabuddin Market. That Saddar Parking Plaza houses 160 shops and 118 offices and has a capacity for over 700 vehicles and 500 motorcycles.
After staying underutilised for many years, the Saddar Parking Plaza is now accommodating a large number of vehicles every day though its shopping centre has remained vacant for the past many years.
The authorities believe that the completion of the SMPP would help ease traffic congestion in this section of Saddar — especially around Empress Market — but frequent hiccups and slow pace of its construction work has affected the overall scope of the project.
“There are different reasons for the delay,” said a KMC official. “Sometimes there were genuine reasons and sometimes there was only lack of interest or seriousness. Whatever it is, the major beneficiary of the project would be the people of Karachi so naturally in case of delay they [people of Karachi] are suffering.”
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2017