Mumbai: Wadala’s ‘New Cuffe Parade’ project hits height hurdle

The AAI, through a letter dated December 15, 2015, has restricted the height of buildings in the New Cuffe Parade complex to 119.61 metres to 133.48 metres, roughly sufficient to build 36- to 40-storey buildings.

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In a blow to an ambitious multi-crore real estate project of the Lodha Group, looking to brand Wadala as ‘New Cuffe Parade’, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has curtailed the maximum height permissible of the highrises here, with the location being in close proximity to the Mumbai airport.

The AAI, through a letter dated December 15, 2015, has restricted the height of buildings in the New Cuffe Parade complex to 119.61 metres to 133.48 metres, roughly sufficient to build 36- to 40-storey buildings.

The AAI had in October 2013 sanctioned a height of 136.45 metres for the plot, which was also seen as insufficient to accommodate project plans, an official from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) said.

The Lodha Group, a realty firm of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Mangal Prabhat Lodha, had planned 45-storey residential towers spread across about 23 acres as part of the project, according to the company’s website.

According to details from the MMRDA, the developer has submitted plans to build 12 residential and one commercial tower on the plot. Buildings close to the airport have to get a height clearance from the AAI to ensure the airspace is free of obstacles and highrises don’t interfere with radar signals or flight paths.

The company has now pinned its hopes on a fresh aeronautical study being conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialised United Nations’ agency, for an increase in the maximum height permissible for its ‘New Cuffe Parade’ buildings.

The MMRDA, special planning agency for the Wadala area where the project is located, has requested the ICAO to reconsider the height limit for the plot in the aeronautical study.

“The height for our existing under-construction towers has remained unaffected and four towers are now topped off. For future construction (buildings), the International Civil Aviation Organization will complete its study shortly and the final height will be decided thereafter. In a development of this size, approvals are received in tranches and we expect that the current issue for the future buildings will be duly resolved,” said an official spokesperson of Lodha Group.

A senior MMRDA official said, “We wanted to have an iconic tower on the plot when we bid it out. With that in mind, we had even granted a higher Floor Space Index on the plot. But with the AAI having granted a lower permissible height in the first place, and then having further restricted it, the developer is unable to use the entire permissible construction area.”

The ICAO’s fresh study, which will take about five-six months to be completed, will bring some clarity on the issue, he added.

“We expect that the maximum height permitted for the project will increase after the ICAO study,” the official said.

Several developers in the Bandra Kurla Complex, which also falls under the MMRDA’s jurisdiction, too have expressed grouses about being unable to use the entire permissible buildable area due to height restrictions by the AAI.

In case of the New Cuffe Parade project, the MMRDA had permitted the Lodha Group to build 4.95 lakh-square-metre or 53.28 lakh-square-foot on a 9.97 lakh-square-foot plot.

The developer had emerged as the highest bidder for the plot, making a bid of Rs 4,053 crore. While the tender specified the built-up area permissible on the plot, it was silent on the maximum height of buildings to be allowed.

UPS Madan, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, said, “The developer was earlier confident of getting a permissible height of at least 180-185 metres, and had thought of project plans accordingly. Even with the height sanctioned in 2013, they were not able to make do. Now for technical reasons beyond our understanding, the height has been further curtailed. With the current permissible height, the developer will be able to use only about 75 percent of the construction area granted.”

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