KARACHI: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) on Tuesday announced that it had made preliminary plans to restore the iconic Empress Market to its original shape as it was built 135 years ago.

In a meeting held at the city commissioner’s office and attended by Mayor Wasim Akhtar and Commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani, the participants were informed that a blueprint for the restoration of the historical Victorian-era building had been prepared.

That blueprint or sketch offers greater similarities of the building to what it was originally seen when it was constructed over a century apart.

Officials at the commissioner’s office said the blueprint was presented before the participants for formal approval.

KMC’s municipal commissioner Dr Saifur Rehman and members of the Empress Market restoration committee comprising experts and researchers were there to give their takes. Those non-governmental researchers and expert urban planners included Shahid Abdullah, Tariq Huda, Marvi Mazhar, Komal Pervez and Durriya Kazi.

The meeting was told that the building named after Queen Victoria took five years to complete in 1889.

The participants said the building reflected the historical British architecture of the yore and the new blueprint and sketches had been developed with the help of documents and supporting material preserved in the KMC’s archives.

Mayor Akhtar said the committee comprised prominent urban planners and experts who belonged to Karachi and who had played their part in restoring the city’s rich history.

Commissioner Shalwani said Empress Market was the city’s historical heritage and reason behind restoring the building to its original shape was to regain the past glory of one of the great cities of the world.

The mayor said he would try to make it sure that the new-look Empress Market would be as graceful and universal symbol of the city as it deserved to be.

The participants asserted that no stone would be left unturned to make sure that the building was surrounded by beautiful gardens and the heritage was deservedly preserved during the forthcoming construction phase.

The officials said the committee would be actively consulted during the restoration of the building.

Frere Hall

The mayor and the commissioner presided over another meeting at the same place to review the preservation of Frere Hall, another great landmark of the city.

The committee for the preservation of Frere Hall gave a presentation to the participants in which it informed them about the steps and things that were required to successfully preserve the city’s most famous place, which had served as the town hall since 1865.

Director general of parks of the KMC and several members of the committee were present at the meeting.

Shahid Feroz, chairman of the Board of Guardians, informed the meeting that the board had prepared the plan and design to restore and preserve Frere Hall.

The meeting was informed about the details of the plan. They said the KMC’s staff deputed at Frere Hall was working under the Guardians’ Board.

They said the board had been entrusted to take care of Frere Hall’s administrative affairs through a memorandum of understanding on Nov 30.

Some 11 gardeners and two watchmen were working under the Gardians’ Board. The board had begun planting saplings and installing new garden lights. Some 24 garden lights would be mounted. Komal Pervez was taking care of the landscaping while the restoration of the library would be made under the supervision of Shahid Abdullah.

Mr Abdullah said the library, in a dilapidated condition at present, needed special care. He added it was a difficult task to restore the library to its original shape as it required ample time and funds; for which the Guardians’ Board was trying to get funds from potential donors.

The commissioner said all requirements to preserve the treasure of books be made and the library should be restored in a manner that its grandeur offered same enormity as it did a century ago.

The mayor asked the DG of parks to provide everything possible to the board.

The meeting was informed that 77 benches made up of fibre would be put up in the garden. The required material for those benches had been imported from China.

The meeting was informed that the Guardians’ Board was making all expenses from its own resources and contacts under the spirit of social service.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018