Mumbai: For the past few years, Kohinoor Square tower has been a defining structure in Dadar’s skyline — a monstrous glass building that tapers slightly towards the top. This ghost tower has, of late, been mired in controversy with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) Chief Raj Thackeray and Unmesh Joshi, son of former Maharashtra chief minister and Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi.
The ED summons are part of its investigation into alleged irregularities related to Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) group’s loan and equity investment in Kohinoor CTN Limited, which is developing Kohinoor Square tower.
Both Thackeray and Joshi are partners in Kohinoor CTNL — a consortium of Matoshree Infrastructure and Kohinoor Group.
The MNS chief has been summoned Thursday, while Joshi, who appeared in the ED’s office Monday, was scheduled to appear Tuesday again.
But this isn’t the first time that the Kohinoor Square tower has been in news. The structure has been mired in controversy since its inception. It has been a poster project for everything that can go wrong in Mumbai’s pricey, glitzy and sluggish real estate market — from changes in investors, project plans, policy and alleged violations to stop-work orders and financial troubles.
The ED’s notice to Thackeray has also created a political wrangle with the opposition blaming the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of using investigating agencies to silence a leader who has been critical of the government.
A shopping mall that didn’t take shape
Kohinoor CTNL had purchased a 4.8 acre property, an erstwhile mill plot, by emerging the highest bidder in an auction that ended in a hefty Rs 421 crore. Considering the prime location of the plot — opposite Dadar’s Shiv Sena Bhavan, a stone’s throw away from Shivaji Park and close to Dadar station — the initial plan was to build a plush shopping mall at the site.
The bid was backed by IL&FS, which invested Rs 225 crore in the company. But three years later, construction of the building failed to progress beyond its plinth.
IL&FS sold its share in 2008, booking a loss, but later extended loans to Kohinoor CTNL which the company could not repay. Around the same time, Thackeray too exited the consortium.
In an interview with The Times of India in 2009 — after Matoshree Infrastructure, of which Thackeray was a director, exited Kohinoor CTNL — Rajan Shirodkar, the then chairman of Matoshree, had said: “We had planned for a mall but later realised that it would not work at all, especially after the market crashed and lease rentals in malls came down from Rs 600 a square foot a month to under Rs 200/sf….After we completed the basement work, we realised that it would be tough to manage a mall with such low rentals in the island city.”
Stop-work notice, court cases
After toying with the idea of a shopping complex, there were also plans of building the largest five-star hotel on the plot. The plan was subsequently modified to a mixed commercial use building — to create one of the highest structures in the city with one diamond shape commercial tower of 203 metres and another 135 metre-long residential tower. The project, however, soon ran into troubled waters.
The complex was one of the handful of projects to which the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had granted additional Floor Space Index for creating public parking lots. These were to be handed over to the BMC upon completion.
The project was also granted a commencement certificate. But after former CM Prithviraj Chavan scrapped the parking lots policy in 2011 following heavy criticism, the BMC ordered the developers to demolish parking spaces above the structure’s fourth floor. The developers, by then, had already constructed seven floors of the total 13 planned.
They approached the Bombay High Court, which set aside the stop-work and demolition notice, prompting the civic body to approach the Supreme Court. Consequently, the project was delayed and took a massive financial hit.
In 2017, Edelweiss Asset Reconstruction Company had approached the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) after Kohinoor CTNL defaulted on a loan.
In January this year, Joshi lost control of the project after the interim resolution professional appointed by the NCLT recommended that architectural firm Sandeep Shirke & Associates take it over.
According to information registered by Kohinoor CTNL with the Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority, the project is now set for a 2021 completion.
Currently, it is in the process of getting a partial occupancy certificate from the BMC, a civic official, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.
He said that of the 13 parking floors, the BMC has taken over eight for public parking and it can accommodate over a thousand cars.
“The agreement was that the developer has to hand over a corpus fund and a bank guarantee after handing over the parking, after which the BMC was to release the partial occupation certificate. The bank guarantee is yet to come so the occupation certificate is still under process,” he added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.