Sri Lanka’s business district of Colombo will come under a major transformation which includes moving the Foreign Ministry and Police Headquarters in Fort to other areas, creating pleasant walkways and restoring heritage buildings aimed at attracting tourists, a senior government official said. Urban Development and Housing Ministry Secretary Nimal Perera said that while the Colombo [...]

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Colombo being transformed; will emerge as heritage city

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Sri Lanka’s business district of Colombo will come under a major transformation which includes moving the Foreign Ministry and Police Headquarters in Fort to other areas, creating pleasant walkways and restoring heritage buildings aimed at attracting tourists, a senior government official said.

Urban Development and Housing Ministry Secretary Nimal Perera said that while the Colombo Port City would be the “new city”, the old, heritage city would be emerging with the transformation of 150-year-old buildings in Fort and Pettah.

He said the Foreign Ministry would be shifted to the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) premises at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, with ITI being moved to Malabe, while Police Headquarters would be relocated to Attidiya, Ratmalana where there is a large police-owned premises. In the adjoining building of the Ministry office, a Tea Museum would be established.

“All this development is aimed at winning back the accolade that Colombo won in 2015 as one of the fastest growing cities in the world,” he told the Sunday Times in an interview called to furnish extensive details of the work being undertaken by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) under the Ministry.

Continuing, he said, from the development undertaken from 2010 to 2015, work had already begun in many areas to restore heritage buildings like the Gaffoor Building which was being renovated by the Navy at a cost of Rs. 3 billion. This is being transformed into a boutique hotel with three floors and a rooftop swimming pool to be completed in December this year.

The 183-year old Grand Oriental hotel (GOH) which was dilapidated and where flooding took place during rain, has been refurbished at a cost of Rs.250 million and handed over to Water’s Edge for management. “There are some Singapore investors who are interested in this hotel as this resembles the legendary Raffles hotel (in Singapore),” Mr. Perera said,

The Gold Centre, where the St. John’s Fish Market was located, and developed on the lines of the Dubai Gold Souk; will soon open with Sea Street jewellers and gem merchants invited to open shops with an upmarket security system in place – again aimed at attracting in particular Indian tourists. The old General Post Office building, opposite President’s House, is also being refurbished.

“The road next to the GOH and running alongside Police Headquarters will be a pedestrian walkway with marquees on either side of food and other stalls aimed at attracting cruise tourists who spend one day in Sri Lanka,” he said, adding that the President’s vision is to attract 5 million tourists during his tenure of office and these developments are aimed at providing night-life and other entertainment in the city.

The secretary said investors would be invited for all these projects under PPP (Public Private Partnership) and full management control. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) would be called shortly.

In other developments in the city, the four-acre Visumpaya, the government guest house, will be refurbished into a modern international clubhouse, also to attract tourists. Two towers will be built on the premises and investors invited. The Srawasthi Mandiraya, currently housing the Western Provincial Council, will be redeveloped to house a conference facility for state events.

The D.R. Wijewardene Road (McCallum Road) from Lake House to Gamini Hall in Maradana will be developed into a tourist location while another major development will be the shifting of the Welikada Prison complex to a modern prison complex in Horana on 230 acres. This will release the 40-acre Welikada premises for commercial development. The modern Horana complex work will begin October at a cost of Rs. 28 billion with construction assigned to four contractors. (See Business Times for related story.)

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