Colombo’s up and coming Heritage Square is set to also include both the current Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters and Foreign Ministry buildings, due to their historical value and architecture. The initiative is looking to relocate both organisations to new locations, while using their old buildings as tourist sites within Fort.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Urban Development Authority (UDA) Director General Prasad Ranaweera stated that following its relocation, both the old buildings will be renovated and used as tourist attractions under the Colombo Heritage Square initiative. As of now, the UDA has planned to turn the current CID building into a tea museum, with no such plans being made for the Foreign Ministry building.
This project comes under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” manifesto, which pledged to restructure underutilised and underperforming state institutions. Accordingly, the Government is set to facilitate wide-ranging tourism development programmes with the objective of increasing annual tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka. The Government also wishes to endow Sri Lanka’s rich heritage and culture in the wake of its initiative to zone Colombo as a heritage square to promote city tourism.
Ranaweera explained that the Colombo Heritage Square project will involve the renovation of historical buildings in the area, and create pedestrian corridors to connect the buildings, by which tourists can access them on foot. He stated that this concept aims at replicating the walking streets of Barcelona, Spain, which is home to several tourist attractions such as the Plaça de Catalunya and the Christopher Columbus Monument.
“We want to renovate these buildings into tourist sites, such as museums, and have a path of corridors running around the sites so that the tourists can go on walking tours. This is similar to what they have done in major European cities like Barcelona.”
A similar project based on the Heritage Square initiative was completed earlier last month (18 March), when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa reopened the Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH) in Colombo, which has a history of 183 years and is of archaeological value to the country. The project was carried out by the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing in collaboration with the Engineering Corporation of Sri Lanka, at a cost of Rs. 225 million.
Ranaweera stated that the UDA has taken measures to relocate both the Foreign Ministry and CID to prime spots within Colombo. The Foreign Ministry will be relocated to a plot of land in Torrington, while the CID is being relocated to land opposite the Sri Lanka Telecom head office.
He went on to state that development of the new building for the CID headquarters has already begun, and it has an overall budget of Rs. 1.2 billion. This budget is allocated for the building which will host two commercial floors, two CID floors, the Divisional Secretariat’s office, and a carpark.
Photo Pradeep Dambarage