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the cha project

a heritage-led revival of kolkata chinatown

Our thanks to l Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) l Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark l Indian Institute of Technology l Institute of Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Development l Indian Chinese Association, Kolkata l The High Commission of India, Singapore l Jia Studios, Singapore l Ong & Ong, Singapore l Arquimat:e, Singapore l Insights & More, Singapore l IIT Alumni Association, Singapore l Tagore Society, Singapore l Meridien Society, UK l Asia Initiatives, New York

An urban regeneration plan for India’s ony surviving Chinatown initiated by Singapore-based THE CHA PROJECT in association with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Calcutta Regional Chapter



The Cha Project thanks the SoCCs team for helping to develop and implement Social Capital Credits in Kolkata Chinatown. Our gratitude goes out to individuals who have helped and encouraged us. Soma Dattagupta Krittivas Mukherjee Indrajit Basu Krishna Bose Rahul Advani Maanavi Anamitra Chakladar Vinod Vinod Aachi Leena Prakash Priyadarshini Roy Malavika Banerjee Ming Tung Hsieh Binny Law Rose Thomas Chen Robert Hsu Tripty Arya (Travtus) Rangan Datta Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey Dolly Davenport Partha Sarathi Mukherjee Dr J. Chaudhuri Li Han Kuang Monica Liu Moyna Sen Anuradha Kumar Kunal Basu

We also thank everyone who has ‘liked’ us on Facebook.


SoCCs is the brainchild of Dr Geeta Mehta, Founder, Asia Initiatives, and adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, New York. SoCCs Advisory Committee: n Marva Allen (Technology Entrepreneur, Founder Hueman Bookstore) n Susan Blaustein (Director, Millennium Cities Initiative, Earth Institute, Columbia University) n Urvashi Kaul (Manager, Robert F. Kennedy Center) n Sonia Khurmi (Director, Morgan Stanley) n John Korbel (Former Partner, PriceWaterhouseCoopers) n Kusum Gaind (Founding Member, AccessCircles; former Citibank Exec) n Eva Haller (Educationist; Philanthropist) n Amir Hasson (Founder, United Villages; Technology Entrepreneur) n Joan Holmes (Founder, The Hunger Project) n Janet Montag (Educationist; Philanthropist) n Janak Raj (Former Director, Shinsei Bank) n Kylie Schuyler (Founder, Global Girls Rising) SoCCs is being developed and implemented by the AI team in NY and Singapore, and the Digivation team in New Delhi (in Alphabetic order): n Rinkoo Bhowmik (AI Singapore) n Summi Gambhir (Co-founder of Digivation) n Sunita Jariwala Gajjar (AI New York) n Palak Gupta (Digivation) n Dan Morrison (former CEO and founder of Citizen Effect) n Leena Prakash (AI Singapore) n Jeenal Sawla (AI New York) n Sameer Vakil (Co-founder of Digivation) n Tara Varma (AI New York) GQ has been conceived by Rama Kannan, Ramya Nageswaran, Rinkoo Bhowmik, Madhu Verma and Anjana Anand

Transforming Kolkata’s Chinatown into an economically vibrant, clean, sustainable, arts-heritage-food hub with its own unique identity.


© The Cha Project 10 Anson Road, #10-06 International Plaza Singapore 079903 All rights reserved. Material used in this publication is privileged. Information from this document cannot be reproduced or distributed without written permission from The Cha Project ( We have credited all photos wherever possible. However some images procured from the Internet were unattributed. Photographers whose images we might have used without due acknowledgement are requested to write in to us so we may rectify the omission. Editor: Rinkoo Bhowmik




Homeless Survey



This report is dedicated to the memory of

Sylvester Tseng

(‘Ahtat’ to everyone in Chinatown) whose untimely death has left an irreplaceable void in our hearts. The Cha Project will be forever indebted to him for his invaluable contributions. The Working Team that’s making things happen.

THE CHA PROJECT’s advisors, benefactors and team include: n Rinkoo Bhowmik, Founder n GM Kapur, Convenor, INTACH, Calcutta Regional Chapter n Paul Chung, President, Indian Chinese Association n Dr Sugata Bose, Member of Parliament, Prof, Harvard University n Ambassador K Kesavapany, Fellow, Asia Research Institute n Gautam Banerjee, Chairman, Blackstone Singapore n Ashvinkumar, Group CEO, Ong&Ong n Nandini Das Ghoshal, Co-Founder, Insights & More n Yang Yen Thaw, RHT Law Taylor Wessing n Dominic Lee, CEO, Pou Chong Foods n Wong Chung Wan, CEO, Arqimat:e n Dr Kamalika Bose, CEPT Ahmedabad n Dr Tansen Sen, Mentor, Nalanda University n Dr Jayani Bonnerjee, Centre de Sciences Humains n Jackie Lai, Creative Director, Jia Studios n Arundhati Mitter, Museologist n Dipro Bhowmik, Founder, Local Environment Action Forum (LEAF) n Joseph Ling, Committee Member, Indian Chinese Association n Raj Sharma, Technology Consultant, Healthcare Statrt-up n Pradip Chopra, Chairman, PS Group and Dean, iLEAD n Suddhabrata Deb, Tourism Futurist & CEO, Living Roots n AB Ghosh, Philanthropist n Tapas Ghatak, Consultant to the Govt of India n Supratik Bhowmik, Benefactor n Janice Lee, Co-ordinator, Kolkata n Basabi Banerjee n Peng Wenlan, Chair, Meridien Society, UK n Khoo Salma, President, Penang Heritage Trust n Prof Dr Dato’ Anwar Fazal, Chairman, Think City n Dr Geoff Wade, Historian


8 14 19 25





the social enterprise model social capital credits how soccs works survey ethnic diversity diversity of built environment


HISTORICAL BACKDROP DEFINITION & SCOPE project overview location business development brand chinatown restoration heritage trail food streets social change sustainable development implementation influence

SURVEY AND DOCUMENTATION area & streetscape survey character of key streets individual property survey religious heritage recommendations

the groundwork surveys the groundwork the groundwork idea workshop raising bee study & survey community building home/shops sanitation design motifs




re-inventing chhattawallah gullee why are we starting with chattawallah chattawallah gullee today development simple alterations, big change food street re-inventing toong-on heritage centre heritage trail proposed enhancements phase ii: tangra




place management benefits guiding principles role of the cha project operations funding policy and advocacy initiatives giving quotient

FINANCIAL MODEL finance model and cash flow funding model where will the money go? governing policies and accountability costing



Not the usual ‘project report’

Our project report is meant to be a document with soul. It isn’t a dry assemblage of data and drawings but data and drawings that speak to one and all. A report that speaks from the heart. Rinkoo Bhowmik Founder, The Cha Project


et me be upfront. This isn’t a regular ‘project report’. To explain why calls for a brief digression into an anecdote narrated by the revered French anthropoIogist G. Clotaire Rapaille in an interview with the Harvard Business Review. Here’s a gist. Many years ago Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone company (NTT) commissioned AT&T to make some underground cables. Before AT&T shipped the order, it made sure that all the specifications were met. But when the cables arrived, the Japanese took one look and rejected them. Their explanation was that the cables were ugly. The Americans were dumbfounded. They had met all the specifications, and beauty had not been one of them. Besides, the cables would be buried underground and no one would ever see them. But for the Japanese, aesthetics is an archetype of quality and, ultimately of soul. To NTT, the ugliness of the cables was an indication of how little soul AT&T had put into its work.


That’s what our project report is meant to be – a document with soul. It isn’t a dry assemblage of data and drawings but data and drawings that speak to one and all. A report that speaks from the heart. We want everyone to get excited about The Cha Project’s plans, not just the government and local authorities, not just urban planners and stakeholders, but even the man on the street. The Cha Project is a community-led project and we want everyone to understand that this is about Kolkata, it is about creating a better life for all, and about reclaiming our pride in our city.

Seriously? No money? The first question that most people ask us is, “So, you have all the funding?” and we answer with a straightforward “No, nothing.” We are firm believers in what Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba in Brazil (and someone we consider the guru of urban transformation) said: “The lack of resources cannot be an excuse not to act.” What we have instead, is an amazing bunch of talented and driven people

“The idea that action should only be taken after having all the answers and all the resources is a sure recipe for paralysis” – Jaime Lerner, former Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil who are making this happen, piece by piece. And overwhelming support from the community. And so it is with a belief in the innate generosity of individuals, corporates, and the government that we are forging ahead with our plans of transforming first Chinatown, and then the rest of Kolkata. “The idea that action should only be taken after having all the answers and all the resources is a sure recipe for paralysis” – another quote from Jaime Lerner that inspires us to forge ahead. We have a vision, the big picture. But the little things will fall into place only once we start the process. We want to start small – little changes that will snowball into a major transformation.

The Singapore Factor Don’t get us wrong – we aren’t trying to turn Kolkata into a Singapore. The two cities are as different from one another as is possible to be. One is the epitome of efficiency and order and the other’s charm lies in its chaos and unpredictability. They don’t mix. What we want to do is pick some lessons from Singapore’s incredible growth story and apply them wherever

possible. Living and working in Singapore, The Cha Project team has imbibed a work ethic that we feel could help Kolkata transform into India’s most exciting city. We want Kolkata to be the example for the rest of the country that things can be achieved efficiently, transparently, and completely free of corruption.

revenue. And so The Cha Project hopes to inject Chinatown with good design sensibilities that can spread to the rest of the city. What the city needs is design regulations without stifling creativity. Iconic neighbourhoods can develop their own distinct identity only through a larger design strategy which The Cha Project hopes to devise.

The other thing we wish to imbibe from the Singapore growth story is the emphasis on good design. Very early on in its development, Singapore encouraged design education and the city now has an enviable number of design schools of repute. Over the years, good design has percolated into every stream of life. Design isn’t only about prettification; it is about making lives better, making things simpler and more efficient Better sanitation that uses less water – that’s design. More customer-friendly seating for food streets – that’s design. Solar powered stalls that double up as homes – that’s design. Use of colours that are uplifting – that’s design. Street signages that are easy to understand – that’s design. A British Design Council study shows that every pound spent on design translates into a £20 increase in

End of the day, it’s about making lives better The Cha Project isn’t only about making the city look pretty or attracting visitors, or injecting buzz into Kolkata. It is about making lives better, about pulling the marginalized out of abject poverty and creating a sustainable business environment. It benefits everyone, rich and poor, and we hope more and more companies will take this on as their Corporate Social Responsibility, and more individuals will come forward to help us in this grand plan. And none of this will be possible without the support of the current government that is keen on giving Kolkata back her former glory. Together let’s make this happen.


[messages] We are trying to upgrade the area so that it will bring more footfalls for activities that will be the drivers for economic growth. G.M.Kapur Convenor, INTACH, Calcutta Regional Chapter and Partner, The Cha Project


rban revival in India has quite a different connotation as compared to the western world. City spaces in the West tend to become derelict and abandoned due to migration of the population usually due to a cessation of economic and industrial activity. Inner city areas in Manchester and Birmingham, or the Canary Wharf area of London and the present day Detroit are some examples of such urban degeneration. The approach to regeneration of these urban areas for their revival is basically to bring back the people to the areas and the entire focus is towards this end. In India, the reason for urban decay is different. Here pressure of population and their inflow into areas which are close to economic activity is one of the reasons for the decay. This decay is currently happening under our very noses in Calcutta in the once posh and stately Chowringhee area. The arcades under the buildings such as the Grand Hotel, Firpo’s. YMCA, etc. were once the haunt of the rich and famous. The entire stretch of Chowringhee from Dharamtalla to AJC Bose Road


crossing is swarming with hawkers who have taken over the pavements forcing the pedestrians to walk on the streets. So, here it is the population inflow which has to be addressed. In Old Chinatown area, the problem is more complex. We are not trying to bring back the people to a once populated area. We are trying to upgrade the area so that it will bring more footfalls to the area for activities that will be the drivers for economic growth. We need to look at various issues related to the Chinese community, their hopes, aspirations, angst and anguish along with economic activity along with the various other communities. We need to find out ways and means of rehabilitating people engaged in eking out a living in the most degrading of circumstances. Can we make it a happening place? The Cha Project certainly hopes to make it happen. A lot of effort with inputs from some of the brightest brains are going into the preparation of this Detailed Project Report which will be the foundation for the urban revival of Chinatown.

The Cha Project is a creative, multifaceted project of urban renewal that draws on the historical connections of Kolkata with the rest of Asia. Seeking inspiration from the past, it is a futuristic project with immense potential for economic and cultural regeneration of urban spaces. – Dr Sugata Bose, Member of Parliament, India, and Gardiner Professor of History, Harvard University

What attracted me to The Cha Project is its commitment to community – it has identified the

community as a key stakeholder and has endeavored to build mechanisms that involve it effectively. I believe that what makes us unique as a nation is our diverse social fabric with all the communities that weave into it, and there is no better place than the City Of Joy to sit up, acknowledge, and preserve this diversity.” - Arundhati Mitter, designer, interpretive planner and educational outreach specialist

The Cha Project to me is one that will help me in my service to our community and society at last.

We long to lend our hands and hearts to build so that the conditions of the present can be better than before. Like a Phoenix, The Cha Project will make Chinatown rise again. Though I regret that I am a bit on the old side, it is better late than never. - Paul Chung, President, Indian Chinese Association

This is a great opportunity for small and medium enterprises in Singapore to spread their wings and also perfect for impact investors - making money while engaging in something meaningful. – Yang Yen Thaw, Head, South Asia Practice, Dacheng Wong Alliance

Being a knowledge consultant and a learning facilitator, I have conducted several corporate workshops

I commend this path-breaking initiative to

revitalize Kolkata’s Chinatown. Besides the economic benefits, it will contribute towards fostering inter-coommunity understanding, both within and outside India. K. Kesavapany, Ambassador and Distinguished Associate Fellow, Asia Research Institute

Kolkata’s urban heritage thrives as a

multicultural, multi-ethnic and richly textured ensemble whose true potential as a cultural and economic asset to the city and its people are yet unappreciated and unexplored. The Cha Project strongly recognizes these aspects and brings innovative, yet pragmatic, strategies in urban revitalization that are contextual and deeply embedded in local community values. Such holistic initiatives surpass cosmetic beautification of the built heritage to become strong vectors of change by strengthening the local economy, fostering social ties and making the city more liveable for locals and attractive for visitors. - Kamalika Bose, Conservation Architect & Planner, CEPT University, Ahmedabad

in Singapore, but working on The Cha Project and foreseeing the immense positive impact it can have on an entire community is deeply fulfilling.

– Nandini Das, Knowledge Consultant and Learning Facilitator; Co-Founder and Partner, Insights & More


[messages] The whole idea of being part of the transformation of a city is very exciting. The Cha

Project opens up big opportunities for a design company like ours. It helps us expand our global footprint.” – Jackie Lai, Jia Studios

In this increasingly globalised world Kolkata can be justifiably proud of the magnanimous way in

which it has welcomed and assimilated diverse communities over the decades. This spirit of acceptance has enriched our society, making people from all over the world readily associate Kolkata with liberal mindedness and generosity of spirit. The revival of Chinatown will be a worthy tribute to a community that has made significant contributions to Kolkata’s culture and economy. – Basabi Banerjee, Friend of The Cha Project

I was really excited to read that something was

being planned to preserve the only Chinatown in India. The Chinese have a long association with Calcuttans and it’ll be a pity if that history is wiped out due to neglect. I did a heritage trail walk in old Chinatown last year, and was amazed to find how little I knew apart for the famous Chinese breakfast. In addition to preserving and restoring Kolkata’s rich Chinese heritage, I hope The Cha Project will also herald a new beginning for the preservation of heritage structures in the city of joy. There is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered by the world’s tourist community.”

It was the preservation of history that drew me to the project. And now, seeing how many lives we will

- Soma Dasgupta, photographer, heritage buff

– Wong Chung Wan, Conservation Architect; Founder, Arquimat:e

cultural integration, and negligence so much that it has shrunk to a tiny community at the heart of the city. I came to Chinatown to study not only the unique aspects of this particular community, but also to understand how its culture has changed in the face of social and political constraints. The conclusion of our study was not just a set of architectural drawings, but an understanding of the people and their perspectives. It was an attempt to recognize the community’s boundaries and limitations, bringing them to light in the eyes of our society and the city as a whole.”

the coummunity but also the city as well as the country as a whole. The Chinatown brand name carries so much potential. The governments in Canada and the US are encouraging new Chinatowns to come up. There are six Chinatowns spread across the suburbs of Toronto. Dubai, Las Vegas, even Khorramshahr in Iran, are establishing Chinatown malls and new Chinese settlements to attract business and tourists. No wonder it is proven to be effective and beneficial to both the governement and the people. Once proper policies are implemented, a wave of people of all shades and skills will come flocking from all over the world to take advantage of opportunities.

– Atreya Bhattacharya, Masters in Architecture Theory & Design, CEPT University, India

- Dominic Lee, CEO, Pouchong Foods

touch, I am hooked.

The Cha Project is a neat initiative which can connect the past to the future denizens of Kolkata and hopefully lay the foundations of something that will last long after we’re gone. – Raj Sharma, Advisor, Healthcare Start-Up

Chinatown, though it is one of the oldest settlements in Calcutta, has been affected by development,


The Chinatown revival will not only benefit

The historic urban landscape approach moves beyond the preservation of the physical environment, and focuses on the entire human environment with all of its tangible and intangible qualities. It seeks to increase the sustainability of planning and design interventions by taking into account the existing built environment, intangible heritage, cultural diversity, socioeconomic and environmental factors along with local community values. – UNESCO



Calcutta in the early 1900s...

Kolkata is ready to reclaim her old glory – The Cha Project, a robust urban revival project, hopes to preserve the unique culture and heritage of the Chinese diaspora, bring alive the history of a cosmopolitan Kolkata, and, along with it, unleash the huge unrealized economic potential of Chinatown, boost business, help increase investment and jobs, create a sustainable environment, and exponentially improve quality of living.

[why cha?]

Tea brings people together. Using tea as its theme, the idea of The Cha Project is to dot Chinatown with traditional tea houses, chai shops and trendy cafes to encourage more public interaction. We hope to create an atmosphere that will attract artists, musicians, writers, entrepreneurs et al, bringing about a cultural cross pollination as envisaged by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, an idea that also resonates with the Bengali passion for adda.

While most of India pronounces tea as ‘Chai’, in Bengali, tea is ‘Cha’ – as it is in Chinese. Hence, The Cha Project. It also stands for Calcutta Heritage Alliancce. 16

[giving kolkata back her lost glory]


he city of Calcutta (or Kolkata) was the jewel of the British Raj, arguably the most advanced and cosmopolitan city in Asia. Its streets bustled with people from all over India and the world including Marwaris, Jews, Armenians, Europeans, and of course local Bengalis. It even had a vibrant Chinatown!

Chinatown at Tiretta Bazaar forms the oldest and most distinctive settlement of the community, the only such to be found in India.

The Cha Project aims to give Calcutta back that lost glory. To quote from an article in the Business Standard: ‘The city’s government, its citizens and its wellwishers need to revive Kolkata as a hub of cultural/ intellectual innovation. This is not an elitist vision about high-culture but one that goes to the heart of what gives a great city its “buzz”. Cities like New York, London and even Mumbai are not just great commercial hubs but also important cultural and intellectual hubs. Their secret of success is the bubbling cauldron of ideas and influences.’ In order to give Kolkata back its “buzz”, The Cha

Project has identified two iconic neighbourhoods for the first round of regeneration – College Street and Chinatown. This report gives details of the project plan for Chinatown – Tiretta Bazaar, in Phase One and Chinatown in the second Phase. The Chinese community in Kolkata has a 250year long history and association with the city that was once thriving and vibrant. Chinatown at Tiretta Bazaar forms the oldest and most distinctive settlement of the community, the only such to be found in India. Change in the community’s economic fortunes over time and unplanned over-development of the area greatly threatens to corrode historic Chinatown’s urban character. Its significance and shared cultural value urgently calls for the area’s revival through conservation and economic development tools which The Cha Project has undertaken. The Cha Project intends to preserve and develop this unique ethnic heritage that is a critical ingredient of Kolkata’s cosmopolitan flavor.


[why chinatown?]

Because the Chinese diaspora added hugely to Kolkata’s lost image as a cosmopolitan, vibrant melting pot of cultures. The Cha Project will not only protect endangered heritage buildings but also preserve a dying culture. 18



[the chinese in india] Chinese have been travelling to India since the time of the silk route. The first recorded Chinese visitor to India was the Buddhist monk Faxian in the 4th century.


nce a thriving diaspora comprising over 100,000 immigrants, Kolkata’s Chinese community has dwindled to less than 5,000 and is at imminent risk of being forgotten forever. The Cha Project hopes to stem the decline and preserve a culture and heritage that once added hugely to Kolkata’s lost image as a melting pot of cultures. Chinese have been travelling to India since the time of the Silk Route. The first recorded Chinese visitor to India was the Buddhist monk Faxian in the 4th century, famed for travelling by foot from China to India in search of Buddhist scriptures. In the 5th century, large numbers of Chinese scholars visited the ancient university of Nalanda. In the 7th century, the Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveller and translator Xuanzang made his famous 17-year overland journey to India and has left detailed accounts of the interaction between India and China in the early Tang dynasty.

A 9th century painting of Xuanzang found in the Dunhuang caves


Modern movement between China and India began in the 18th century, when Calcutta was an important port for the British East India company, trading Chinese silk and tea in return for British silver. Trade through the city increased in 1778, when Calcutta was named the capital of British India. It was the

most modern city in the sub-continent at that time and the city everyone aspired to live in. The first recorded Chinese settler in India was a tea trader named Yang Dazhao, who went by the name of Atchew. In 1778 he was given a plot of land by the British, in return for a large gift of tea. There he set up a sugar mill with 110 Chinese men, mainly runaway sailors and indentured servants who settled in Kolkata, in what is now the eponymous Kolkatan suburb of Achipur. Atchew’s men were representative of the first Chinese settlers in India: they were mainly unskilled labourers who came on the ships from Canton, selling opium. The few skilled ones worked as carpenters on the ships. As policies towards opium changed, Kolkata became a key part of the opium trade, and the influx of Chinese migrants increased. The Opium Wars in the 19th century provoked a larger wave of migration, as people moved to Calcutta to escape the civil unrest in their own country. In 1857, the Chinese presence in Calcutta was estimated to consist of 500 people. More people moved during the second Opium War (a shift that was helped by the opening of treaty ports in China and the advent of the steam engine), and

The Opium Wars in the 19th century provoked a larger wave of migration, as people moved to Calcutta to escape the civil unrest in their own country.


Pei May, the last surviving Chinese school in Kolkata, shut down recently. The silence of the sprawling campus is another sad reminder of the dwindling population of Chinese immigrants in Kolkata, the only Indian city left with a Chinatown.

the population more than tripled in the next four decades. By 1901, there were 1,870 Chinese migrants living in Calcutta.

Calcutta in the ‘40s. The building in the middle distance with four pillars and overlooking the street and the mosque is a Chinese restaurant.


As Calcutta’s Chinese community grew, its members integrated into the Calcuttan economy. Calcutta’s famous brand of Indian-Chinese cuisine grew in popularity as Chinese chefs began experimenting with local flavours and adding certain Indian touches – a rather un-Chinese level of heat, for example – to make their food appeal to local customers. Parallel to the many who brought the food of their homeland to Indian shores, some Chinese found niches in the local economy. Certain ethnic subgroups – united by the community centres that still exist today – found industries that they could settle into. The Cantonese came to India with carpentry skills learned in China. Some began by doing maintenance in shipyards and on railways, while others made wooden containers for the shipment of tea. Many of the migrants from Hubei were “teeth-setters” and would roam the country doing dental work, much like they did in China. These ‘Chinese dentists’ found popularity among the local community because they would charge half the

fees of local dental practitioners. The famous Hakka shoemakers of Bentinck Street weren’t always shoemakers. When Hakka migrants came to Calcutta, they didn’t come with skills acquired at home. They learned shoemaking on Indian shores, and, since industries which worked with leather were considered “impure” under Hindu traditions and were relegated to the “untouchables”, they readily entered the shoe trade. As Hindu notions of purity affected the leather industry as well, Hakka migrants found it easy to set up tanneries and prosper economically. At the turn of the 20th century, there were just under 2,000 Chinese living in India. However, events abroad and at home pushed a lot of Chinese to settle in India, and the number surged phenomenally over the first half of the century. In 1910 the Indian government, pressured by the environmental concerns posed by the large number of tanneries, relocated the leather industries to the then-fringes of the city, to the area now known as Tangra. And a second Chinatown began to develop. A year later, the fall of dynastic rule in China caused many more to flee to India, and the population of the Chinese diaspora in Kolkata increased further.

If Calcutta Chinatown really improves I’m sure many people like me would like to go back. - Mangku Liang


he Japanese invasion and occupation of China caused many of the men who had settled in India to bring their families to India as well. The SinoJapanese war (and World War II as a whole) also caused more people to move from China to India; in the 1930s and ‘40s, the total population of Indian Chinese increased dramatically, and the proportion of women and children increased. By the end of the Second World War, there were 26,250 Indian Chinese happily living in India. Most lived in Calcutta, but there was a small presence in Bombay, as well as in the tea gardens of Darjeeling, Assam and Kalimpong. The increased Chinese presence in India had an effect on local businesses. Before WWII, there was a single Chinese laundry in Calcutta. By the 1950s, however, there were almost 20 Chinese laundries in the city. The number of Chinese dentists also increased – by the end of the war, there were over 300 practicing dentists all over India. The Hakka shoemakers of Calcutta had, over the years, succeeded in becoming quite affluent. This was in part because of their integration with the leathermaking industry (many shoemakers were also tannery owners), and in part because of their

growing reputations. By the end of the war the shoemakers had turned Bentinck Street into “shoe street”, with 140 Hakka shoemaking stores in the city. Of these establishments, 30 were large enough to have branches in other cities in India, as well as significant annual profits. The years leading up to and following Indian independence were as trying on the Indian Chinese of Calcutta as they were on the country as a whole. In 1946 Calcutta experienced the worst communal rioting in the history of British India, during the days following the so-called Direct Action Day. During the riots, which involved violence between Hindus and Muslims, the Indian Chinese kept the peace within their neighborhood. They protected the Biharis of Chhattawalla Gullee from the Muslims of Colootola Street. In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was established. This changed the situations of many Indian Chinese, who had papers from the previous Kuomintang government and may or may not have identified with the new Communist government. In order to stay Chinese citizens, they would have to renew their papers with the new government. The Indian Chinese population’s approach to their

These images are part of a fascinating collection of memories gathered by The Meridien Society in London to document the stories of Calcutta Chinese who left India in the ‘60s. Fluent in English, educated and skilled, they arrived in London and Liverpool to join post-war Britain’s much-needed whitecollar workforce. Their recorded oral histories offer a rare glimpse into life in Calcutta Chinatown and can be accessed on The Meridien Society’s website.


Being Chinese in India is a culture not a nationality.” – Paul Chung, President of the Indian Chinese Association

Fa Mu Lan, Kolkata’s all-girl dragon dance troupe, possibly the only all-girl troupe in the world, goes door to door in Tiretta Bazaar with their vibrant performance. Photo Afternoon Despatch and Courier.


immigration status was varied. Ten years later, in 1959, more than 8000 Chinese in Calcutta were registered as foreign residents. Some had outdated passports from the previous governent, while others identified as citizens of communist China. There were also thousands of unregistered Chinese, who were born in India but did not possess birth certificates. They were, therefore, stateless. Much of the current state of the Indian Chinese community in Kolkata is due to the Sino-Indian war of 1962. During the conflict, the Chinese population in India – Chinese citizens and Indian-Chinese alike – came under scrutiny by the Indian government. Persons of Chinese ethnicity were regarded with suspicion, and often percieved as enemies. Their rights to free movement were restricted, and they were not even allowed to leave their residences for more than 24 hours. Many Chinese were also dismissed from their jobs, both in the public and private sector. Organisations funded and associated with the Chinese government were shut down, including the Chinese consulate, branches of the Bank of China, as well as all schools which received funding from the People’s Republic of China. Hundreds of Chinese were charged with anti-Indian activities,

and sent to internment camps in Deoli, Rajasthan, before being deported back to the Chinese mainland. Many Indian-Chinese sent letters to the Indian government, pledging their alliegance to India and not the communist government, but sadly the social repercussions of the conflict still affected many of their lives. Weddings and funerals became low-key, and traditional festivals stopped being publicly celebrated. Covered by a blanket of suspicion and resentment, much of the traditional flavour of the community was lost. The events of 1962 still show their scars. Many of the Chinese in Kolkata left the subcontinent, and migrated to Europe, North America, and Australia and there are now less than 5000 Indian Chinese still living in Kolkata. In a city of 14 million, today’s community is barely a whisper in the bustle of the metropolis. In 1995, the West Bengal government decided to move the tanneries from Tangra to Bantala, a suburb 20 km away from the city. This move forced many tanneries to close and their Chinese owners to migrate to other parts of the world further asphyxiating the once-thriving Indian Chinese community. The Cha Project hopes to reverse that trend and turn Kolkata Chinatowns - Tiretta Bazaar and Tangra – into a bustling, vibrant neighbourhoods.

scope definition &


[project overview]

The Cha Project is a heritage-led urban revival project starting with India’s only surviving Chinatown in Kolkata.


alcutta was India’s first modern city.

Over the years, Calcutta acquired many names: City of Palaces, Black Hole, Graveyard of the British Empire. In 2001, it was christened Kolkata — slower, rounder, ostensibly more Bengali-sounding. – New York Times

On a rainy day in the late 17th century, an enterprising agent of the British East India Company named Job Charnock sailed along the Hooghly River, a tributary of the Ganges that flows from high in the Himalayas into the Bay of Bengal, and pitched a tent on its swampy banks. The company bought three riverside villages. Soon they would become a port — flowing with opium, muslin and jute — and then, as the capital of British India until 1912, draw conquerors, dreamers and hungry folk from all over the world. Calcutta, India’s first modern city, was born. – Somini Sengupta, New York Times

What made Kolkata a global city was the fact that it was a melting pot of cultures. The idea is to preserve that cosmopolitanism, restore the city’s old glory and re-establish it as a global city. The Cha Project will catalyse social change through the conservation of the rich history of the Chinese


Indian community in Kolkata, heritage restoration of architecturally significant buildings, business revival and rehabilitation, and employment of the homeless and marginalized in the neighbourhood. The revival of will take shape in two main parts: 1) Creation of food streets and street markets turning the entire Tiretta Bazaar area into a bustling, clean, attractive precinct. 2) The restoration of six Chinese temples and heritage structures in Old Chinatown and creation of a heritage trail that will bring alive the history of the Chinese diaspora. By integrating cafes and boutiques into restored heritage buildings, the trail could be an offbeat attraction for visitors. These two parts will take shape simultaneously, but can only be successful if the project lays equal emphasis on economic prosperity, and on poverty alleviation.

A COMMUNITY-DRIVEN PROJECT Participatory design can be powerful tool for civic engagement. Through workshops and surveys The Cha Project will incorporate the needs of stakeholders in drawing up the masterplan.






The Cha Project will offer know-how and free consultation to business owners and residents on setting up new businesses, enhancing existing businesses, and on making their properties economically viable.

Meticulous research will go into the historical and architectural significance of each building and the neighbourhood to ensure an authentic preservation. ECONOMIC REVIVAL

Run down buildings and struggling businesses will be given a new lease of life by the setting up of planned shops, cafes, galleries, public spaces.

As the economy looks up, it will lead to a stronger community, a more beautiful environment, more public spaces, better public facilities, safer streets, and a cleaner, better-maintained neighbourhood attracting visitors from the rest of the country and overseas.

Icons courtesy NOUN PROJECT




This is one of the most centrally-located areas in the city and a post-revival ripple effect can positively impact large areas of Kolkata.

Tiretta Bazaar is roughly bounded by BB Ganguly

Street in the south, Bentinck Street in the west, Chittaranjan Avenue in the east, and Maulana Shaukat Ali Street in the north. This is one of the most centrally located areas in the city and a postrevival ripple effect can positively impact large areas of Kolkata. The area is predominantly made up of mixed-use properties which have some heritage significance, and consist of residences, retailers of Chinese goods, and other commercial ventures. Most of the properties (including the Chinese temples) are badly maintained, with garbage overflowing into the street and squatters on the roadside. As it stands, it is unattractive for commercial investment, but its location presents unique opportunities. The area is serviced by the Metro Railway’s Central Station and sits a stone’s throw away from Poddar Court, a busy commercial and business hub; the trading epicentre of Burrabazaar; College Street, the education heart of the city and

Lal Bazaar, the police headquarters. This makes it the perfect location for food streets. Its proximity to public transportation also makes it an accessible tourist attraction for international and intranational visitors. Although the main objective of the project is to conserve the history of the area and revive the heritage of the community, the commercial aspect of the project is what will make it economically viable and sustainable. Besides serving officegoers in the area during the day, it will also be a vibrant night market and food street place attracting food lovers from around the city. New Chinatown or Tangra (which is Phase 2) is also located in an area that is rapidly developing and its position near the trade centre, major hotels and the IT hub can help turn it into a lucrative food and entertainment district, if properly developed. Being close to the fragile wetlands also makes it an environmentally important area that needs to be developed sensitively and with caution.


visualisation by RINKOO BHOWMIK

[business development]

The Cha Project’s model is rooted in creating a strong economic ecosystem within Chinatown, in order to strengthen our revival efforts.

Social change is pointless if it isn’t economically

sustainable, and if it needs periodic financial handouts it isn’t as effective as it should be. The Cha Project’s model is rooted in creating a strong economic ecosystem within Chinatown, in order to strengthen our revival efforts. The Chinese community was once renowned for their crafts, and was full of very successful entrepreneurs; we want to bring that electricity and confidence back to Chinatown (see section on building brand chinatown). Our business development aims can broadly be separated into two categories:

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT By restoring existing buildings – as opposed to raze-and-rebuild development – we minimise the additional resources required to improve the built environment, as well as reducing waste. This is at the heart of sustainable development: the re-use of existing structures, not the erection of new ones.


l Ecosystem development and l Business development. For the economic revival to be successful we need to work on creating a strong business environment, and we need to provide the necessary tools and support to let businesses within that environment leverage the opportunities presented by the space. Our roles pre-, during- and post-revival are as follows:

PRE REVIVAL l Survey properties and area l Work with property owners to evaluate strengths and opportunities for individual lots. Before development and restoration operations begin, the area is being extensively surveyed and evaluated. In addition to much-needed social and demographic surveys to identify the profiles and needs of the various subgroups within the community, the pre-revival efforts involve surveying business properties and the area as a whole. This has allowed us to identify the strengths and opportunities of underused but potentially lucrative commercial spaces, as well as the specific obstacles that need to be tackled in order to make the revival successful and economically beneficial to the community. In addition to general surveys of the streets and spaces within Chinatown, we will also work with property owners and tenants to evaluate opportunities and potential uses for individual lots.

DURING REVIVAL l Provide business consultancy to business owners who want to expand their businesses within Chinatown l Link property owners with potential tenants from overseas and in Kolkata (including business owners within Chinatown) l Work with property owners to develop baseline infrastructure in properties l When tenants move in, provide design guidelines to maintain a homogenous aesthetic across Chinatown l Develop infrastructure of public spaces During the development and implementation phase of the revival, The Cha Project will wear many hats. On a business-to-business level, we will provide consultancy to existing owners who want to expand their businesses within Chinatown, giving entrepreneurs the confidence and knowhow to enlarge their operations. We will also work property owners, giving them advice on what kind of tenant would be the best fit. By working with owners and tenants, we will be able to efficiently link property owners with potential tenants from both within the locality and from Singapore. To develop the ecosystem of Chinatown, we

will need to work both on public infrastructure and private properties. This will require creating partnerships with organisations and individuals who have interests in the area, as well as creating public infrastructure to improve access and traffic. We will also need to bring the properties to a baseline level of infrastructure, to make the area attractive to new business, so that the transition of a business into the area is as smooth as possible. When tenants have been matched to their appropriate lots, further development of spaces (for example, interior design) will be at their own discretion. We will, however, provide design guidelines to maintain a homogenous aesthetic across the area, in keeping with the style of the public spaces. POST REVIVAL l Maintain public spaces l Provide consultancy for business operations l Act as mediator for any disputes Once the development of the area is complete, The Cha Project and its partners will work on operations and maintenance in Chinatown. In the realm of business development, it will provide consultancy to both owners, tenants, and partners during changes in operations and will act as a mediator for disputes that may arise.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE MODEL We, at The Cha Project, are a social enterprise. We are not real estate speculators, and we are not the developers of huge, glass-and-steel malls. We’re idealists, who are also realists – we want to give the community a better life, but also know that a solid economic foundation is key to the success of a revival like this. And we won’t resort to trickle-down economics; we will work hand-in-hand with communities big and small to include them in the economic success in the revival, by employing marginalised communities, and supporting entrepreneurship. Our model of operation is a mix of different forms of social enterprise (see Section on Social Impact), but the bottom line is that The Cha Project will plough any profits that are made back into the organisation to be used as capital for further revival.


[brand chinatown]

The Cha Project believes that every roadside vendor, hawker, squatter and small business has a place in the ecosystem of a street or neighborhood and the project will provide consultation to all businesses in the area – big or small – in branding their store/stall and rethinking the way they do business.

Building the Chinatown Brand The Cha Project will unlock the enormous economic potential that the area and the community have to offer, which translates into an exponential increase in investments, in jobs, and in quality of life. The revival of Old Chinatown (Tiretti Bazaar) will focus more on preservation while the renewal of Tangra (New Chinatown) will be on the lines of redevelopment. Of the famous Chinese shoemakers of Bentinck Street, most have migrated out of Kolkata. The city now has only about 30-odd Chinese shoe shops and only 25% of their stock is made by them. Mr David Chen runs Sen Fo which his father set up 75 years ago. But his daughter is unlikely to keep the tradition on and will probably open some other business in its space, Mr Chen told blogger Bhavesh Bhimani. Unique shops like his (which is the only place that Mr Bhimani gets his oversized shoes) will soon become history if we don’t intervene and keep these traditions and skills alive. The Cha Project will provide branding, marketing, and design consultancy to rejuvenate these dying trades.


The project also hopes to revive some of the traditional trades and crafts that are fast disappearing. Kolkata was once famous for its handcrafted shoes on Bentinck Street. Here’s an interesting anecdote that goes to prove that we need to save this skill from disappearing altogether. This is a true incident that took place in a lift in an office building in Toronto.

Uncle Henry’s shoes One day in Toronto, an elderly Anglo-Indian man and a younger Chinese man, both from Kolkata but unknown to each other, find themselves in a lift. Suddenly, out of the blue, the Chinese man,

who has been staring at the other man’s shoes, asks: “Are you from Calcutta?” The Anglo-Indian man is taken aback. “Yes, but how did you know?” he asks in surprise. The Chinese man smiles and answers: “You are wearing Uncle Henry’s shoes!” (This story appears in a thesis paper on the Chinese diaspora in Kolkata by Dr Jayani Bonnerjee).

You could tell a Bentinck Street shoe by just looking at it thanks to its superior craftsmanship. Yet today, most of those shoemakers have migrated out of Kolkata. The city now has only about 30-odd Chinese shoe shops and 75% of their stock is massproduced, factory productions not made by them. This is true not only of the shoemakers but all other Chinese trades. In Chinatown, so many of the trades that the Chinese were famous for are fast fading into oblivion. The Cha Project hopes to provide branding, design and retail consultation to help revive these crafts. Branding and design are sorely lacking in








beauty parlours


Chinatown. Indian Chinese food, for instance, is a unique and hugely popular cuisine. By providing know-how on presentation, hygiene and stall/ restaurant design, this cuisine can become globally recognized and can provide a big boost to the tourism industry. Tourism will also stand to gain tremendously from The Cha Project’s proposed street food lanes modeled on the robust street food culture in Singapore, Malaysia and most of South East Asia. SE Asia has not only preserved traditional cuisines and dishes but provides hygienic, diverse and fresh food choices for a whole range of pockets. In contrast, one will be hard put to lay their hands on traditional Bengali fish and rice in affordable and hygienic environs. The project will bring a vibrant street food/ hawker centre culture to Kolkata where a student or a tourist or office-goers and locals can have a clean, hearty, low-cost, local cuisine from street stalls (see section on implementation). The existing street market in Tiretta Bazaar will be transformed into an attractive, bustling bazaar through simple design solutions. By providing the stall owners with better designed carts, a cleaner environment, knowhow on product display, better

lighting and protection from the rain and the sun, the entire Blackburn Lane -Chhattawalla Gullee area will be transformed into a food street for locals and tourists alike. There is already a Sunday morning Chinese breakfast but hygiene standards are very poor. A revamp will help restore its popularity. The Heritage Trail in the quiet area around Damzen Lane, will have more high-end cafes and restaurants and will also help boost business in the entire area. The Cha Project believes that every roadside vendor, hawker, squatter and small business has a place in the ecosystem of a street or neighborhood, and the project will provide consultation to all businesses in the area – big or small – in branding their store/ stall and rethinking the way they do business. Chinatown desperately needs to re-invent itself. Through design intervention, The Cha Project hopes to create new value and markets and unlock the full potential of Chinatown. Attractive store designs, events like food festivals, book launches, talks, literary fests, etc will help boost business, bring in investment, create jobs and turn Chinatown into a heritage and food hub.


shoe shops

provisions decorators drycleaners

Kolkata Chinatown: Brand Identity The only Chinatown in India Leveraging this unique position through events and festivals. Tangra Chinese food The unique Indian Chinese cuisine, with inventive fusions like Gobi Manchurian, came from Kolkata. By introducing the latest know-how in food hygiene, decor and presentation, the project can give Tangra Chinese food global recognition. Bespoke & handcrafted shoes With retail design and better marketing, the project can help Bengal get a bigger share of the multibillion dollar global market for bespoke shoes. Hairstyling With better design, branding, marketing and knowhow in latest technologies Chinese hairstylists can vie for a share in India’s booming beauty and wedding business. Traditional skills The project will also help preserve and promote the dying trades of carpentry, Chinese provisions, dry cleaning etc.


[design intervention] A British Design Council study shows that every £1(approx INR 100) spent on design translates to over £20 (approx INR 2000) in increased revenue and £4 (approx INR 400) increased profit. Although the specific numbers might not be applicable to Kolkata, it is an irrefutable fact that good design can exponentially boost business and quality of life. The Cha Project believes that all underused, dilapidated buildings can be given a fresh lease of life through proper design intervention. Even businesses in the area need a leg up through good design. The building on right (top) for instance is in a dire state and yet through smart design choices the owners can make every square inch count and be profitable. It has the potential of becoming an anchor building that adds character to the area and is commercially vibrant with Chinese stores and eateries.




Visualization: Rinkoo Bhowmik


The building at the bottom is in a mix of architectural styles mainly Islamic and can be turned into a boutique hotel or beautiful boutique stores. It can add significantly to Damzen Lane’s identity as an ethnically mixed neighbourhood. The Cha Project’s design team will not only make a building look beautiful, it will also make it profitable. The design intervention will happen in every possible space – include signages, store fronts, public spaces, shop interiors, in marketing, branding et al.

幸福 繁荣


[food streets]

For decades, this [Tiretta Bazaar] was where Kolkata’s large Chinese community lived and worked. For a few hours at dawn, the site reclaims its old identity as a traditional open-air market along the broad Sun Yat Sen Street. – Arundhati Ray, National Geographic Traveller Sunday morning breakfast

stop for officegoers.

The Cha Project will be converting three of the bylanes near Toong-On Church into food streets. These will be open-air eating spaces for the community to come together, and will feature a variety of cuisine options.

Implementation of the food streets will require closing the lanes off to traffic, allowing only pedestrians to enter them, and then setting up stalls and booths for food vendors to sell their products. There will be three food streets, with all sorts of cuisines at a range of prices.

The revenue generated by these food streets will be vital for the economic sustainability of the revival. The food streets are located between Poddar Court, a busy trade hub, and the Central Station of the metro railway, making the area the perfect lunch

More on this in our section on Implementation

The Cha Project will also bring back the iconic Nanking restaurant, which used to be in Toong-On Church but has since disappeared.




“Heritage conservation cannot happen without social upliftment and a greater awareness among stakeholders of the importance of preserving the past.” – GM Kapur, Convenor, INTACH Calcutta Regional Chapter

Heritage conservation The preservation and restoration of heritage is key for the successful revival of Kolkata’s Chinatown. Architecturally signficant properties (ie, those with heritage value) are dotted around the area, among buildings with less heritage value. In order to achieve an authentic and consistent aesthetic feel across the neighborhood, The Cha Project will take an approach to heritage that affects both public spaces and private properties. The Cha Project will re-imagine public spaces within Chinatown, and design them with a distinctly Chinese-Indian sensibility. Chinatown will be bounded by a set of gates (an auspicious landmark in Chinese tradition), and Chinese motifs will be incorporated in the design of the food streets. In addition, plaques and monuments highlighting the history of the Chinese community and aspects of Chinese culture will be installed at prominent intersections or on the walls of historically significant buildings. For private properties, our approach will be slightly different. Before any tenants can move


into the area, we must establish a baseline for infrastructure in the area. Since not all properties under the revival will be architecturally significant, we will use a mix of restoration and development. For buildings with heritage value, restoration and baseline infrastructure will be funded by The Cha Project. In return, The Cha Project reserves the right to choose what business will occupy the space and approve/disallow any further renovation of the space (for example, if the renovation will negatively affect the character of the heritage building). For properties with no heritage value, The Cha Project

will provide competitive financing and consultancy to owners to establish baseline infrastructure. It will then give design guidance to tenants who want to carry out further renovations (like the construction of displays, or exterior facelifts). The Cha Project will look at how spaces, whether heritage or not, can be utilized to the maximum with multiple uses. Through adaptive reuse we will create commercially viable investment assets for owners and users. We will ensure that through adaptive reuse previously defunct properties can once again become viable and sustainable.

Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation – although these make fine ingredients – but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, lowvalue old buildings, including some rundown old buildings.” – Jane Jacobs, visionary urban thinker, writer and activist

Students from the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Ahmedabad, survey old buildings in the proposed heritage trail.


[heritage trail]

Kolkata is littered with the remains of many worlds: the rickshaws that the Chinese brought; an Armenian cemetery; dollops of jazz left by Americans in the war years... – New York Times Tracing the past The Cha Project will restore key, architecturallysignificant buildings along Damzen Lane, converting unused properties into mixed-used spaces for commercial and non-commercial activities. The idea is to energize the place with cafes, boutiques, and restaurants but most importantly, bringing the history of the place alive.


The implementation of the heritage trail will require bringing all the properties in the area to a basic standard of sanitation and water/power access, and then surveying each property to determine what kind of business would benefit from its location/ layout/etc. This is being carried out in three stages. First, a survey of the area is ongoing to assess the current status of the properties in the area, in terms of infrastructure and commercial potential. Then, depending on the state of infrastructure in the buildings, there will be a short renovation phase to bring the buildings to a basic standard. Concurrently, The Cha Project will invite local or international companies best suited to operate there and who will contribute to bringing a buzz to Chinatown by taking up tenancy there. Renovation and development past the basic standard will be borne by the tenant. More in our section on Planning



Tourist Attraction Courtesy Wilderness Travels


Chinese Temples Kolkata isn’t a regular tourist destination – in fact, therein lies the uniqueness of Kolkata’s Chinatown which isn’t yet another touristy cliche. However there is potential for attracting cultural and spritual tourists without losing its essential identity. That’s where The Cha Project’s vision comes in. We will develop the history trail and the food streets to make it an attractive tourist destination, especially as a pit stop on the ‘Buddhist Trail’, without becoming kitschy.

Through the development of the food streets and a heritage trail, The Cha Project will also restore the six Chinese temples that dot the area.

Currently tourists from east and southeast Asia fly in to New Delhi to visit the important Buddhist sites that fall mainly in the eastern state of Bihar. By creating better amenities in Kolkata Chinatown, travel time can be considerably shortened for international and intra-national visitors.

Each reflects the unique identity of the particular Chinese ethnic subgroup that it was built by, and serves as a community centre for that particular group of people. By restoring and renovating these centres of community activity, The Cha Project will strengthen ties within the community and forge a deeper cultural identity for the Chinese Indians in Kolkata.

A. Toong-On B. Sea-Ip C. Gee Hing D. Sea Voi Yune Leong Futh E. Chonghee Dhong Thien Haue F. Nam Soon


[social change] The Cha Project will catalyse social change on all levels, from strengthening the Chinese-Indian community, and highlighting their contributions to empowering marginalised communities and alleviating poverty. l Poverty alleviation l Empowerment of marginalised communities l Providing better infrastructure, amenities and public spaces for the poor l Community building/strengthening l Promotion of Indian-Chinese culture/heritage

No amount of beautification and restoration can be a success if there is grinding poverty around it. Through a unique experiment that uses ‘Social Capital Credits’ or SoCCs, a transformative system of exchange, The Cha Project hopes to pull the shanty dwellers out of abject poverty and help them build a better life for themselves. In fact one of the first tasks on our agenda is poverty alleviation. By tying up with Asia Initiatives and implementing SoCCs, The Cha Project could help eradicate poverty in Kolkata Chinatown and empower the community to improve the neighbourhood. More in our section on Social Impact

[sustainable development] The Cha Project will be aiming at three different tiers of sustainability: l Social l Economic l Environmental By achieving this we can create a neighbourhood that will be resistant to dilapidation and will require less outside support. The community, neighborhood, and the city will benefit from a continuous vibrancy in all areas. Social sustainability will result in a strong sense of community and social inclusion among all sections of society. Economic sustainability will provide financial feasibility and economic vitality. Environmental sustainability means that physical interventions will dispel the negative physical effects of development.


[social and economic benefits] Implementation

m Revamping the Chinese breakfast in Chhattawallah Gullee and beautification of the area. m Creation of food streets and identifying right vendors to take up stalls m Creation of street market and identifying right products that will help increase footfalls. m Providing home-cum-shops and skills training for the homeless and marginalized; providing proper toilets and other civic amenities. m Revival of Toong-On and five other temples and beautification of streets connecting them. m Creating a desirable atmosphere and infrastructure for business and identifying the right businesses. m Creating a visitor-friendly atmosphere. m Revival of Tangra (Phase 2).

Economic Influence m Increased footfalls. m Increased value of properties. m Revival of traditional trades. m Better business through better design. m Better business environment. m Increased visitors; increased revenue. m Better maintenance of the public realm due to increased revenue and better management. m Better maintenance of heritage structures. m Awareness of the economic value of heritage buildings. m Better atmosphere for events like food and cultural festivals. m Maximum utilization of under-used properties through multiple use. m Creation of the Kolkata Chinatown brand m Increased tourist revenue. m Better standard of living for all.

Social Influence

m Better living conditions. m Better toilets, sanitation, water. m More jobs. m Better hygiene and health. m Eradication of poverty. m Schools, childcare facilities. m Empowerment of women. m Better public spaces. m Safer neighbourhood. m Greater sense of ownership and belonging among stakeholders. m Stronger sense of community. m More awareness of heritage. m Pride in the city, in the neighbourhood and in each community’s culture. m Increased emotional security. m Increased community involvement. m Sense of social inclusion among the marginalised. m Increased hygiene and cleanliness.


[ethnic diversity] It isn’t only about the Chinese community but the diverse mix of people living in Chinatown. In the late 19th century, Chinatown was part of ‘grey town’ spanning Colootola, Tiretta Bazaar and Bowbazaar, where Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Parsis, Chinese, Anglo-Indians and Muslims all lived in close proximity to each other, their lives often overlapping through business and social encounters. – Kamalika Bose, conservation architect

Located in the Tiretta Bazaar area of central

Calcutta, Chinatown developed as the ‘cosmopolitan intermediate town,’ buffering the colonial settlement in the south to the indigenous quarters of the north. Widely known as the ‘grey town’ which spans across Colootola, Tiretta Bazaar and Bowbazaar today, developed from the mid 18th century onwards. The ethnic character of the cosmopolitan zone of this intermediate town was to a large extent derived from the intense concentration of very small groups of people of diverse ethnic origins in an extremely limited area. This factor perhaps became an automatic choice of settlement for the Chinese, who moved here in the late 19th century. The term ‘grey’, used to define this zone, further gains meaning in the blurred boundaries and lack of strong territorial definitions of each ethnic group. Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Parsis, Chinese, Anglo-Indians and Muslims, all lived in close proximity to each other, their lives often overlapping through business and social encounters. The Cha Project will help preserve the identity of all ethnic groups living in the area.


The ethnic diversity of people who live, work and visit Chhattawallah Gullee. Photos: SOMA DATTAGUPTA and SYLVESTER TSENG.

[diversity of the built environment] This isn’t a typical Chinatown – it is a multi-ethnic neighbourhood without a distinct Chinese character. The Cha Project will preserve that diversity through the built environment.

What is most distinctive about Kolkata

Chinatown is its lack of a distinct “Chinatown” look.



That this is possibly the most important ethnic settlement left in Calcutta, from where the Jews, Armenians and Greeks have long since disappeared, enhances significance and strengthens its case for preservation. However, its preservation needs to be anything but cosmetic and as our conservation architect Kamalika Bose puts it, “the introduction of commercial notions of touristy Chinatown would be a terrible caricature and insult to the place”. Revitalization that empowers the community, strengthens their economic vitality and cultural identity, and enhances the value of living and working there can be the only way forward. In the face of incongruent development and demolition threats, emigration to developed countries and a general lack of value that has set into the minds of the Chinese community, especially the youth – a community-centric urban conservation is imperative.


[preserving history]

The Calcutta Gazette of 1788, described Tiretta Bazaar as occupying “nine bighas and eight cottahs of land, formed in two squares, with convenient shops, surrounded with a colonnade veranda, and the whole area of the square divided into commodious streets with pucka stalls”. The market was valued at nearly Rs 2 lakh and yielded a monthly rent of Rs 3,600.


he Cha Project’s meticulous research will bring out little known facts to weave stories around buildings, people and the city. Tiretta Bazaar, for example, has long been demolished but the project will make sure the past is preserved in inventive ways – from plaques to dioramas and archival photographs. Here’s the colourful history of Tiretta Bazaar that will be incorporated into the first phase of the revival: Tiretta Bazaar was named after the flamboyant Venetian architect Edward Tiretta who held the high post of Superintendent of Streets and Buildings under the British East India Company. In the late 1700s and early 1800s that entire area (Lower Chitpur, Colootolla and Tiretta Bazaar) was a bustling and colourful market. You could find everything under the sun. Vibrant displays of hookahs in crystal and silver shared space with marble shops that supplied Italian statues and tiles to the baroque mansions and gardens of the rich; there were fruit stalls stacked with exotic fruits patronized by the Jewish community. And then there was Tiretta Bazaar, a market for selective shoppers where Armenians and Portuguese shopped for birds and beasts in its colonnaded

arcades. It stocked cigars, shoes and the choicest foodstuffs. Edward Tiretta had acquired the market in 1783 but in 1791 he went bankrupt and his market was raffled off as a prize in a lottery, acquired by a C.Weston. Tiretta moved to other areas of business including setting up a burial ground on Park Street known as Tiretta’s Burial Ground where his young French wife was re-buried. Having lived in many parts of Europe, the Italian exile spoke in a strange mélange – “a compound of English, French, Portuguese and Hindustani, interlarded with the most uncouth and outré oaths in each language”, accordimg to memoirist William Hickey. Hickey reports how Tiretta once danced in a “full-trimmed suit of rich velvet” in the height of Calcutta’s summer on the King’s birthday, but despite the ridicule it brought him, Tiretta was professionally very successful. Edward Tiretta also happened to be a friend of the legendary Italian lover Giacomo Casanova. According to Casanova, when Tiretta’s mistress died he was in such grief that he left Italy on a ship headed for Batavia but ended up in Calcutta instead where he made quite a name for himself.

A scene from the Bengal Levee held at the Government House, Calcutta, every week. Governor General Marquess Corwallis made it a point to speak with everyone who attended. Here Cornwallis is standing in the inner room on the right, his right hand on his chest and his left in the pocket of his breeches. On the walls are copies of some of Thomas Daniell’s ‘Views of Calcutta’. A number of personalites within the image have been identified, in Dorothy George’s ‘Catalogue of Personal and Political Satires’ . Edward Tiretta can be seen greeting Father Parthanio, a Greek priest, who is wearing robes and a tall hat. This hand-coloured etching is by James Gillray (1757-1815) after a sketch, possibly by James Moffat, published by Gillray and H Humphrey, London, 1792. From the British Library Archives



survey & 45

In this Section... INTRODUCTION • Survey & Documentation Objective • Methodology & Findings n AREA & STREETSCAPE SURVEY • Landuse Plan • Building Heights • Building Age • Overall Character Of Key Streets • Detailed Street Survey 1: Blackburn Lane • Detailed Street Survey 2: Lhu Sun Sarani • Detailed Street Survey 3: Chattawala Gullee – Chinese Breakfast n INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY SURVEY n DETAILED SURVEY OF RELIGIOUS HERITAGE n RECOMMENDATIONS



This section is the result of an intensive collaborative workshop – Revitalization of Ethnic Identity through Urban Heritage of Kolkata – under the guidance of The Cha Project’s Consultant Architect Kamalika Bose (Asst Prof, Faculty of Design, CEPT University). The three-week workshop was attended by 15 students from the Centre for Planning and Environment, Ahmedabad, and 12 students from Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark, accompanied by Prof Thomas Hilberth. All measured drawings of religious heritage, maps and sketches in this section are courtesy students of CEPT and Aarhus School of Architecture.


s the migrant ethnic minority’s first formal settlement in India – old Chinatown is the result of the layering and intertwining of cultural and social values over 150 years, through continuity and change. Beyond the notion of ‘historic center,’ it includes the broader urban context and its geographical setting, which today is at risk. The Indian Chinese community’s tangible and intangible cultural traditions, reflected through occupational and faith-based practices, food habits, festive celebrations, and architecture transcend geographical boundaries of the settlement to lend identity to the broader urban landscape of the city. The settlement is an accretive evolution of diverse

sub-groups of Chinese descent – the Cantonese, Hakka, Hubei – who have come together, over cultural, economic and social enterprise to contribute to Kolkata’s heritage, society and its cosmopolitanism in a unique and irreplaceable way. And yet, the ravages of time and altered socio-economic circumstances have threatened to irreversibly erode this shared cultural landscape. This survey and documentation is the first of its kind to systematically identify and document the area’s historic architecture and urban features and evaluate their potential for revival and restoration. The survey intends to holistically capture and map this unique ethnic heritage that is a critical ingredient of Kolkata’s cosmopolitan flavor




1. Determine the survey boundaries based on a set of criterion that would best represent the history and resources of the Chinese community at Tiretta Bazaar. 2. Identify the significant open, built and landscape resources with the neighborhood. 3. Document specific properties within the survey area to identify their architectural and/or historical significance and to evaluate their integrity and reuse potential for the area’s regeneration, and their benefit to the existing community and visitors. 4. Document the nature of transformation and change that has set into the environment over time to determine core zones for revival. 5. Create an architectural record and inventory that can act as a tool for their conservation, reuse, individual and/or collective fundraising and awareness generation at various stages of the project and in future. 6. Provide a document to be used in future planning of the neighborhood’s heritage-led urban revival, including recommendations for their revitalization.

1. Area & Streetscape Survey: This systematic mapping takes a broad look at the buildings, open spaces and landscape resources within the Old Chinatown area. A database and photo documentation has been compiled from this reconnaissance level survey. 2. Individual Property Survey: Narrowing the survey area down to individual properties that continue to remain significant to the existing Chinese community in the area, approximately 30 properties have been documented in depth. 3. Detailed Survey of Religious Heritage in old Chinatown: These Chinese temples (widely referred to as churches in the colonial era) are the religious and community anchors of the area. Measured drawings, detailed photo documentation of each temple have been conducted for their future conservation. 4. Recommendations: A list of observations, findings and recommendations has emerged from the survey, which have been listed in a systematic manner. These are meant to aid the conservation, design and planning process of the project to achieve an innovative yet sensitive and contextual revitalization for the cultural heritage of old Chinatown.


[area & streetscape survey] This section presents a systematic mapping

of old Chinatown, which takes a broad look at thebuildings, open spaces and landscape resources of the community, near Tiretta Bazaar, in central Kolkata. A detailed survey of approximately 200 properties was conducted in the area. The scope of the survey encompasses the areas of Lu Shun Sarani, Sun Yat Sen Street, Blackburn Lane, Tiretta Bazar Lane, Damzen Lane and Chattawala Gullee. Rabindra Sarani defines the survey boundaries to the west, Srinath Babu Lane to the east, Damzen Lane to the north and Chattawala

Gullee to the south. A narrative description of each streetscape, embedded heritage value and potential as asset for proposed project is assigned to all streets surveyed. Panoramic views of streetscape with individual buildings photos/survey of two prominent streets – Lu Shun Sarani & Blackburn Lane – are included. These are viewed as having highest potential and impact in the project. Prominent individual buildings and resources of the Chinese community, from remaining streets, have also been surveyed.


survey area - landuse plan

This plan examines the overall land use pattern

of all buildings within the survey area, and not merely those under Chinese ownership, use or significance. It helps assess the broader patterns of occupancy and functioning of the area within which urban conservation would be attempted. It brings to light the variety of uses, which are active in the area and the complexities and opportunities they would present for the heritage revival of old Chinatown. Tiretta Bazar and surrounds has traditionally been a mixeduse area with a high concentration of business and commerce being conducted through the formal and informal sector. In the heart of central Kolkata’s office para (neighbourhood), a large number of office buildings and commercial complexes occur along the primary streets under survey. The mixed-use buildings largely follow the commercial on lower levels with residential on upper floors. Chinese temples are the dominant religious forms in the area, strongly asserting history and significance, to an area, which has altered character and demography since. Presence of newer mosques in close proximity further indicates the overlay of ethnic diversity beyond retail and office functions.


neighbourhood survey – building heights

The central core of old Chinatown consists of

narrow streets and lanes that are located in the former “Grey Town” of the erstwhile colonial capital. With urban renewal actions following independence, the Lu Shun Sarani (formerly India Exchange Place) was laid, connecting Rabindra Sarani and Chittaranjan Avenue - hence dissecting the urban fabric of the old neighbourhood. As the 20th century progressed, the Lu Shun Sarani served as the spine around which government and official buildings were constructed. The insertion of these high-rise official buildings consequently transformed the neighbourhood leading to a diversified urban fabric, with modern concrete monoliths juxtaposed with the organic cosmopolitan segment of the city. The buildings marked in red indicate heritage assets of the Chinese community. Their humane scale, ranging between single or double storeyed,

highlight the original scale and character of the neighborhood which is in sharp contrast to the taller office blocks which now dominate the area. Spread across approximately one square kilometer, old Chinatown today is an amorphous formation of loosely packed institutions, commercial establishments and residential tenements. Newer infill structures, formed through demolition of several Chinese held buildings have led to a dramatic physical and visual transformation of the area. It further impedes providing any physical definition or boundary to the limits of old Chinatown – to form a heritage zone or precinct. A key challenge of the urban conservation would be to tie together these amorphous fragments of great historic significance and construct a heritage-based narrative that would uphold the history and enterprise of the Chinese community in the area, and not merely focus on isolated efforts in architectural conservation.

survey area – building age

Insertion of Lu Shun Sarani (formerly India

Exchange Place) in the post-independence era under urban renewal led to widespread demolition of the older city fabric here. As a result the majority of buildings along this thoroughfare can be dated to the 1950s and later. Barring the two Chinese churches on this street – Sea Ip and Toong On – this stretch has an altered character. The oldest clusters dating to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, can be seen around Sun Yat Sen Street to the south and Damzen Lane to the north. Blackburn Lane’s residential, religious and institutional buildings belong to the early twentieth century as well.


overall character of key streets Lu Shun Sarani Formerly India Exchange Place, this busy oneway road is almost always heavily trafficked with both public and private vehicles moving down the street. In addition to this, high pedestrian movement creates a continuous throng of moving people through the day. Although the daily activities commence quite early, the thickest mass of people occur in the afternoon – with a comparable level of pedestrians carrying on into the evening hours. An assortment of PWD-moderne high-rise commercial and office buildings, from the 1960s-’70s, dominates the thoroughfare. Their scale and painted brutalist expressions using fins, continuous projecting bands, manufactured glass windows, are in high contrast with the low rise historic assets of the Chinese community that now get lost amidst these gigantic monoliths. Lu Shun Sarani (south) Poddar Court, Kolkata Improvement Trust, Telephone Bhavan and Malhotra building dominate this streetscape, adjoining which are the Toong-On Church, Sea Ip Church and Sing Cheung sauce shop. Lu Shun Sarani (north) The much-altered 18th century Tiretta bazar, the SBI building and two other office blocks on Blackburn Lane continue the blockish concrete tower architecture of the street. This edge however has a more informal character due to several shanty-like structures and shops.


Chhattawalla Gullee Located between the Lu Shun Sarani and Sun Yat Sen Street, Chhattawala Gullee is the current location of the Chinese breakfast - which on Sundays attracts both the local members of the community as well as vendors from Tangra. In addition to this, the lane also hosts an all-week morning market. Being thus the site of both the mercantile activities of the market as well as a place for the local Chinese community to socialize, the lane sees much activity throughout the morning - which subsides as the day progresses. Earlier many Chinese resided here in tenements but now other communities have moved in. Poddar Court and KIT building bound Chhattawala Gullee on either side. The southern side has a mixed-use nature with wooden louvered windows and continuous fretwork balconies on upper levels. The street has lost its historic features and is well known for the breakfast tradition only. The breakfast lane, in the backdrop of Poddar Court, is subsequently used as a parking area during office hours. This southern stretch is a narrow bylane, which is predominantly residential. Several Chinese families resided here until the Sino India conflict of the ‘60s, following which other communities have moved in to occupy those quarters.


Sun Yat Sen Street Named after the prominent Chinese revolutionary, this streetscape has an intimate scale and residential character, in spite of being mixed-use and inhabitation. Continuous balconies with wooden fretwork and slender cast iron columns are commonly found in the city’s traditional neighborhoods and are a feature that merits preservation. Hap Hing Co. provision store is the most significant Chinese resource on this street. The intersection with Chhattawala Gullee is from where the morning Chinese breakfast begins.


Damzen Lane Defining the northern boundary of the Chinese community and survey area, it is located in a largely Muslim neighbourhood, and is representative of the physical intermingling of the two communities. Characterized by newer apartment buildings and four major institutions; an eatery, a shaving brush workshop, a tea stall and the Chinese temple – people are frequently moving about either with a mercantile or social purpose. This keeps the street very vibrant and heavily visited through the day.

Intersection of Damzen Lane (left) and Tiretta Bazaar (right)

The Chinese temples attract the community whilst the adjoining commercial facilities conduct the coming and going of workers. Furthermore the close proximity of a butcher’s shop and washing area as well as a small eatery and cooking area also serve to draw many local workers to Damzen Lane.

Chong Hee Dong Church and Nam Soon social club intersection


Street condition in front of Nam Soon Church

Damzen Lane looking towards Nam Soon Church at the far end


Blackburn Lane-Lu Shun Sarani junction This junction serves as an access point to the community, where the Lu Shun Sarani suddenly branches into the interiors of Old Chinatown. Encompassing residential and social units, the junction holds occupational and work-related structures, resulting in much activity. Although heavily parked, the lanes are also very narrow, leading to them being used mainly by pedestrians. All corners are occupied by PWD-style office blocks and one KMC garbage vat, which adjoin the significant Toong On Church.

Being a slow transition into the inner streets of Chinese use and inhabitation, this junction is extremely important. Its architectural character has been greatly altered with incongruent office blocks at either street corner.

The iconic Toong On Church’s significance is greatly undermined by the poor waste management around it, which has lowered hygiene and sanitation standards around it. The unfinished, vacant Metro Railway building opposite it is yet another eye sore that has propelled encroachment and squatters in the surrounds.


Blackburn Lane (inner street) Blackburn Lane has retained, in ownership and typology, the largest concentration of buildings that directly relate to old Chinatown’s history and contemporary narrative. It contains religious, social, cultural and commercial typologies within this narrow street - and showcases the diverse cross section of spaces integral to life in the community. In an amorphous urban fabric that characterizes this settlement today, this lane therefore attains high value and significance to the revitalization project and its future. Two Chinese temples and three social clubs anchor the street entrance, lending a low rise built scale that is typical to the city’s paras (neighbourhoods). Double storey buildings with shared walls, louvered wood windows and balconies, and Chinese signboards in red lend a strong identity to the street, which is its strength.


The street culminates at a Chinese funerary house (green wall on the left). Several residential tenements here are still held and lived in by Chinese families who also run small businesses and workshops here.

detailed street survey 1 – blackburn lane

Blackburn Lane is the most significant

streetscape within old Chinatown that holds the highest potential and merits conservation through tapping its architectural, cultural and economic potential. Beginning at Toong On Church, as the most visible anchor on the main street, the change in scale and visual character are emblematic of the neighbourhood. It can be viewed as a complete cross section of what the old Chinatown would have been in its hey days.


Streetscape A - Blackburn Lane (west side)

Toong On Property Name: Toong On Church Address: 22 Blackburn Lane Built in 1924, this neoclassical edifice holds a temple on the upper floor while the lower level housed the iconic Nanking restaurant, the city’s first such. It is a Grade 1 heritage building.

Al Noor Manzil Property Name: Al Noor Manzil Address: 10 Blackburn Lane This three-storey structure operates as a residence cum guesthouse. Status: non-contributing to heritage character or significance of the neighbourhood.


Streetscape B - Blackburn Lane (south side)

Chen’s workshop Gee Hing Property Name: Gee Hing Church & Chen’s Carpentry Works Address: 13 & 14 Blackburn Lane It is a Grade 1 heritage building. The lower floor functions as carpentry office. Upper floor hosts the Chinese church and social club. A continuous balcony on upper floor and Chinese calligraphy around entrance door lendcharacter to built form.

Property Name: Workshop & Residence Address: 16 Blackburn Lane Functions as a workshop for Chen’s Carpentry with residential facility on the upper floor. Façade contributes to Chinese identity through colour and calligraphy.

Brick house Property Name: Locked storage warehouse Address: 16 Blackburn Lane This property is largely unoccupied and used as a warehouse under Chinese ownership. It offers potential to be adaptively reused.


First lodgings Property: Residential tenements Address: 15 Blackburn Lane This used to be a lodging house for the first Chinese immigrants. This double storey residential building continues to have several Chinese families and is a good example of Chinatown’s housing history.

Red house Property Name: Karishma Beauty Salon Address: 16 Blackburn Lane A family run Chinese beauty parlour, the upper floor is entirely residential. It speaks of the small commercial enterprises run by the community and woven into the neighborhood structure. Alms house Property Name: Chon Nee Than Alms House (Funerary Place) Address: 16 Blackburn Lane In spite of its modest exterior, this funerary Alms House is of great significance to pre-burial rituals in the Cantonese community and is an important cultural heritage. A ritual room, waiting areas and covered courtyard form the inner spaces.


Streetscape C - Blackburn Lane (north side) Overall Statement Blackburn Lane contains varied typologies of cultural heritage that encompass both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of old Chinatown and its ethos. It is a repository of some of the community’s best-held values, albeit in poor physical condition. This street therefore merits significant attention as part of the project’s core mission.

Sea Voi Property: Sea Voi Church & club, Chen’s, Hupeh Association Address: 17 Blackburn Lane One of the most significant buildings in this area, this mixed use structure houses a Chinese temples, two social clubs, some warehouses and a workshop, all Chinese owned. Its architecture is typical to the city with calligraphy lending ethnic identity.

Yellow warehouse


Property Name: Locked storage warehouse Address: 16 Blackburn Lane

Property Name: Locked storage warehouse Address: 16 Blackburn Lane

This property is largely unoccupied and used as a warehouse under Chinese ownership. It offers potential to be adaptively reused.

This property is largely unoccupied and used as a warehouse under Chinese ownership. It offers potential to be adaptively reused under The Cha Project.


detailed street survey 2 – lu shun sarani

Lhu Sun Sarani is the most prominent thoroughfare, which bifurcates historic old Chinatown into two parts – north and south. It is the primary connector and access point into the area, linked to both Rabindra Sarani to the west and Chittaranjan Avenue to the east. The area is well connected by surface transport and the underground Metro at the Central Station.

Streetscape D - Lu Shun Sarani (north side – from Rabindra Sarani to Blackburn Lane) Tiretta Bazaar

Todi Mansion

Property Name: Tiretta Bazar Address: Rabindra Sarani

Property: Todi Mansion & State Bank of India Address: 315, India Exchange Place

On the site of an 18th century market, by the same name, stands its much-altered version as a concrete monolith. It houses a variety of shops and offices and occupies a large foot print in this area.


A typical PWD modernist office block that is a non-contributing resource to the area. It houses a prominent bank and registered companies.

Milk Sale Centre

Welfare Centre

Nidhi Bhavan

Property: West Bengal govt milk sale centre Address: India Exchange Place

Property: Gandhi Welfare Centre, Missionaries of Charity Address: No. 4, New C.I.T. Rd.

Property Name: Bhavishya Nidhi Bhavan Address: P 15, India Exchange Place Extension

A single storey nondescript brick structure, it functions only for few hours in a day as a learning center for children in the age group of 4-10 years.

This four storey office building is at the corner of Blackburn Lane and displays the typical Brutalist idiom.

A large but informal set up of shack-like structures with large drum storage on the frontyard and encroached footpath mark this milk distribution center.


Streetscape E - Lu Shun Sarani (north side – from Blackburn Lane to Srinath Babu Lane)

Alms House extension Property Name: Rear of Alms House Address: 16, Blackburn Lane,

D’Ley Property Name:D’ley Chinese Eating House & Lily Beauty Parlour Address: 16, Black Burn Lane, This is a 90-year old, family run eatery with a recently added beauty parlour. It is an important home-style eating outlet with immense value in the neighborhood.


This marks the rear entry to the Alms House and is fronted by local shops. It holds huge potential for upgrading and beautification.

Pou Chong Property Name: Pou Chong Brothers Address: 11, Lu Shun Sarani This is a multi-generation Chinese sauce shop and provision store. It is a very significant cultural and economic resource in the neighborhood.

Streetscape F - Lu Shun Sarani (South side – from Rabindra Sarani to Blackburn Lane)

Poddar Court Property Name: Poddar Court Address: 18 Rabindra Sarani One of the earliest and landmark modern office complexes to have been built in central Kolkata in the urban renewal phase.

KIT Property Name: Kolkata Improvement Trust Address: P-16, Lu Shun Sarani A typical PWD modernist office block that is a noncontributing resource to the area.

Sea Ip Property Name: Sea Ip Church Address: 22/1 Chattawala Gullee This significant Chinese temple is a Grade 1 listed heritage building. It is the only one to have clear stylistic elements on the façade that are derived from Chinese architecture.


Toong On Property Name: Toong On Church Address: 22 Blackburn Lane This significant Chinese temple is a Grade 1 listed heritage building. It is important for clear neoclassical elements on the faรงade and housing the former Nanking restaurant in its premises.

Telephone Exchange

Metro Building

Property Name: Telephone Bhavan Address: P-10 Lu Shun Sarani

Property Name: Metro Rail Building Address: Opp Toong On Church

A typical PWD modernist office block that is a noncontributing resource to the area.


This unfinished, vacant building right opposite Toong On Church takes away from the usability of the surrounding area. The incomplete floor space has given rise to squatters and encroachments.

Streetscape G - Lu Shun Sarani (South side – from Blackburn Lane to Srinath Babu Lane) Overall Statement: Tapping into the potential of this street is paramount to the success of the Cha Project and its visible impact. The over development and change of urban form is a challenge to mitigate and yet the Chinese heritage resources on Lhu Sun Sarani must be sensitively highlighted and revitalized to enhance the community’s impact on the city and tourism. This survey identifies those significant cultural resources.

Sing Cheung Property Name: Malhotra House & Sing Cheung Address: P-12, Lu Shun Sarani A typical PWD modernist office block, the lower corner of which is occupied by the long standing Sing Cheung Sauce Co. This lends it significance in the economic and cultural history of the community in the area.

Raj Building Property Name: Raj Enterprises Address: P-17, Lhu Sun Sarani A typical PWD modernist office block that is a non-contributing resource to the area.


detailed street survey - chattawallah gullee

Chinese Breakfast on Chhattawallah Gullee The traditional Chinese breakfast is held daily at Chattawala Gullee – along the eastern periphery of Poddar Court. Serving the city and tourists at large, the street food is vended by both local resident families as well as those from Tangra, who join in during the weekend. Crowds swell mostly on weekends while the breakfast hours peak from 6am to 8am. Pou Hing is the only formal sit-down restaurant here for while the remaining is a street-based activity. The breakfast however is not the only activity animating this street. It shares space, and today is somewhat over-shadowed by the daily morning market that caters to all locals in and around Tiretta Bazaar. This has begun to qualitatively impact the Chinese breakfast experience and its long-term sustenance is a definite challenge that this project needs to address. The following images map the essential qualities and transformational features that this important cultural activity entails today.

Activity patterns & Qualitative values: 1. Street as a Chinese breakfast venue: A number of resident families sell traditional breakfast items to community members, visitors and tourists

2. Street as a confluence of Kolkatans and tourists who enjoy the Chinese breakfast: As a very popular activity on the city’s daily calendar, a varied group of customers is always present adding greater diversity.

3. Street as a social space for community elders: The early morning hours become the only time of the day when elderly Chinese members, especially women, are seen outdoors. The breakfast provides a platform for social interaction within the community, across age groups.


4. Adjoining market as a source of groceries: Vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, spices and other knick knacks allow the community to shop and locally stock up on weekly groceries. This activity provides a social space for community news, greetings and chatter, especially between male members, who would then proceed to work. 5. Availability of other types of breakfast items: The Chinese breakfast attraction has automatically created a lucrative market for other forms of traditional Indian snack items to be sold alongside, who tap into morning office goers. This overlap is slowly taking away from the authenticity of the Chinese food experience. 6. Morning vegetable and meat market: Sharing space with a dominant bazaar activity tends to overpower the breakfast and creates an additional bustle and congestion. Waste management, foul odour and sanitation become other issues, which get compromised upon due to such overlaps. 7. Poor pedestrian, vehicular and parking management issues: With market and vending activities spilling onto most of the street, there is marginal area left for movement, leading to congestion. With small vehicles plying this street at the same time, it also tends to be hazardous.


individual property survey – chinese community

This is a detailed survey of the Chinese

architectural and cultural resources embedded within the identified survey boundaries of old Chinatown. The map above allows a comprehensive understanding of existing historic assets of the community, albeit in various forms of use, ownership and condition. Surveyed resources have been categorized under four use types – Religious, Social, Educational & Commercial. Of these come typical individual examples have been illustrated in this section.






RELIGIOUS: 1. Sea Ip Church 2. Toong On Church 3. Gee Hing Church 4. Sea Voi Yune Leong Futh Church 5. Choong Hee Dong Thien Haue Church 6. Nam Soon Church 7. Ling Liang Church 8. Chon Nee Than Alms House SOCIAL CLUBS 9. Sea Ip Club 10. Toong On Club 11. Gee Hing Club 12. Sea Voi Club and Hupeh Association 13. Nam Soon Club 14. Han Fook Koon 15. Golden Dragon Club 16. Hoong Fat Koon 17. Low Fun Koon 18. Chun Chun Thong 19. Hoi Hei Koon EDUCATIONAL 20 Chien Kuo School 21. Ling Liang School COMMERCIAL I. Shoe shops 22 Ahon Bros 23. Wam Tong Shoes 24. Indo China Shoes II Restaurants 25 Pou Hing 26 Hoo Ming 27. D’ley 28. Tung Nam 29Chinese breakfast street III Beauty Parlours 30. Lily 31. Karishma IV Sauce shop 32. Pou Chong 33. Sing Cheung 34. Sing Ho V Wood workshop 35. Chen’s Carpentry 36. Chen’s Furniture makers 37. Unique Carpenter VI General 38. Hap Hing 39. Noodle Making units 2 VII Dentist 40. Dr Moo Chi Wee Dental Clinic


Hap Hing Co. Chinese Provision & Medicine

Store Owner: Ms. Stella Chen Address: 10, Sun Yat Sen Street | Open 6 am to 10am A family run shop, Hap Hing was started by Ms. Chen’s father in the 1920s at a different location in old Chinatown. In 1934 the store moved to its present address and has acquired the status of a landmark institution in the area. As a general store carrying a wide selection of items - ranging from dry fruits, pickles, dry vegetables used in traditional cooking, noodles etc – both imported from China as well as local produces, Hap Hing is well known for its selection of traditional Chinese medicine.


Chinese Dental Clinic

Owner: Dr. Mao Che Wee Address: 81 B, Chittaranjan Avenue | Open 10-12 am / 4-6 pm A contemporary version of the traditional Hubeinese teeth setters in Calcutta, Dr. Mao Che Wee’s Dental Clinic employs modern as well as traditional Chinese medicine in its treatment of dental ills. Included in the clinic is a laboratory as well as a workshop where medicaments can be prepared. He is being visited by a lot of Indian and Chinese patients from the neighbourhood.


Pou Chong Brothers (Sauce Shop)

Owner: Mr. Dominic Lee Address: 11 Lhu Sun Sarani | Open 9 am to 7 pm This multi-generational family business has its production unit located in Tangra while its flagship retail outlet sells Chinese sauces and traditional ingredients for local patrons. They also keep tumblers of their merchandise for wholesale to restaurants of the area. Besides its inventory of Chinese sauces, the rows of neatly stacked wooden cabinets also offers Chinese porcelain crockery, decorative utensils, a wide range of other kitchenwares and foodstuffs.


Sing Cheung Sauce Factory

Address: P-12, Lhu Sun Sarani Established in 1954, this retail outlet and provision store follows a similar format like Pou Chong Bros. and occupies a corner property while encroaching onto the pavement as well. Their large manufacturing unit is in new Chinatown, Tangra.


Ahon Bros. Shoe Shop

Address: 24, Rabindra Sarani, Kol-73 | Open 10 am - 7 pm Using locally prepared leather from a tannery factory in Tangra, Ahon Bros purveys a variety of leather mens’ shoes. Some are manufactured from the tanned leather produced in Tangra, but other imported brands are also marketed as merchandise belonging to the shop. Located on Rabindra Sarani where a great number of shoe shops previously used to exist, which extended further south to Bentinck Street, Ahon Bros also includes a residence for the family owning the shop - as well as a mezzanine floor for storage.


Chen’s Carpentry Workshop

Owner: Mr. Chen Yao Yua Address: 14, Blackburn Lane, Kol-73 The traditional profession of the Cantonese emigrants to Calcutta, the carpentry workshops of Old Chinatown is today mainly concerned with catering to private interior design commissions. Instead of mass-producing furniture for retail sale, most shops orient towards fulfilling specific custom requests regarding designing complete interiors. Whilst the owner and senior carpenter of the workshop usually would be of ethnic Chinese descent, the employees are mainly of mainstream Indian ancestry. Being placed crammed in between other buildings, the workshops generally employ the use of skylight to further working conditions.


Pou Hing Restaurant

Owner: Dominic Lee Address: 15, Sun Yat Sen Stree, Room No. 6, Kol-12 | 6am - 3 pm / open in the evenings It is one of the most successful of the Chinese family-owned businesses in Calcutta, the Chinese restaurants in the city has long been renowned for the quality of the food they produce. The restaurant, have been operating for at least 90 years .The restaurants are run by members of the Chinese community they also employ waiters and others professions from north-east Indian and Nepalese backgrounds. There is a residence adjoining the restaurant, which is currently occupied by the helpers. The owners stay close to the restaurant.


Tung Nam Restaurant

Address: 24, Chhattawala Gullee | 10 am - 3 pm / open in the evenings The restaurant serves Chinese food made to Indian taste. These restaurants, having been operating for at least 90 years, are family owned and run. The rooms adjoining the restaurant are run by the young couple and have Indian waiters mostly from northeast part of India. The kitchen area is huge and is divided into various parts as per different kitchen activities.


D’leys Chinese Eating House Address: 16, Black Burn Lane

This multi-generational family-run eating-house operates out of a single serving room with an adjoining kitchen facility. It has been operational for the last 90 years.


Hupeh Association (Social club)

Address: 17, Black Burn Lane (upper level) Forming the native club of the Hubei community of traditional dentists and teeth-setters, this association occupies the upper premises of the building. It is largely unutilized through the year and only opens on specific times when its largely emigrant members and family visit the city during festivals etc. The continuous balcony with wooden fretwork and cast iron railings add local character to the building.


Lily’s Beauty Salon

Address: 16, Black Burn Lane The Lily Beauty parlour is just a year old and is connected to the D´Ley Restaurant, which has existed for 90 years. Although run by the ladies of the family, which in turn operates the adjoining restaurant, a majority of the employees are ethnic Indians.


Hupeh Association (Social club)

Address: 17, Black Burn Lane (upper level) Forming the native club of the Hubei community of traditional dentists and teeth-setters, this association occupies the upper premises of the building. It is largely unutilized through the year and only opens on specific times when its largely emigrant members and family visit the city during festivals etc. The continuous balcony with wooden fretwork and cast iron railings add local character to the building.


Other Chinese native social clubs

Chun Chun Thong Club

Hoi Hei Koon Club

Old Chinatown is dotted with a number of native ‘huigans’ which are embedded within the urban fabric in an almost hidden state. Some have disbanded hence remain locked while others operate with a thinned out member group. However, their collective ensemble is of great significance in weaving a narrative of the social cohesion of the community and its migration, resettlement patterns.

Hoon Fat Koon Club

Golden Dragon Club


Muslim heritage within neighborhood – Damzen Lane

The urban boundaries of old Chinatown integrate and absorb multiple ethnicities, who share space and livelihoods alongside the Chinese community. It is necessary to be inclusive of such alternate cultural voices as well to avoid exclusion and prejudiced, insular narratives of a singular community.

House of Yousufbhai

That would also paint a false picture as this part of central Kolkata has traditionally seen multi-ethnic communities living in close proximity with overlapping urban narratives.

Damzen Lane environs


Hathi Gate

[detailed survey of religious heritage] The dominant institutions of the Chinese

community in Tiretta Bazaar area are churches (or Chinese temples) and associated social clubs (huigans). Although called churches, they are Chinese temples, dedicated to traditional deities or Lord Buddha, and this nomenclature seems to be a remnant of colonial city surveys. There are six churches within the core study area of old Chinatown along with their respective social clubs. Provincial grouping that is indicative of migration patterns from China, form the basis of the church’s formation. Each church belongs to one cohesive ethnic group, native to a specific region and thereby creating a sub-culture within the broader migrant community. Membership to the church, its associated social club and burial ground is restricted on basis of native place too. The clubs are currently used for community gatherings and meetings, festival celebrations and leisure activities, which complement and sometimes take precedence over the strictly religious nature of the temple. All churches are listed Grade 1 heritage buildings, thereby establishing their exemplary qualities. This documentation creates, for the first time, a set of comprehensive measure drawings that would aid their future restoration.


Sea Ip Church

Sea Ip Church

22/1 Chattawala Gullee | Status: Grade 1 listed site plan Records showing the exact dates of the temple are not available but the renovated date on the entrance plaque of these new premises reads 1905. The ground floor is used as the social club, where gambling was a regular activity in the previous decades. All income generated from this was used to construct and embellish the finer features of the temple on the first floor. The name Sea-Ip stands for migrant hailing from four districts from Guangdong province (former Canton) in China. Celebrations are held in this temple on two festivals- one in April, which is complemented by prayer service in their Tangra cemetery and another one in June. At present 20-22 families are members of the club, which is also primarily used for social gatherings and festival celebrations.

Front view from Chhattawallah Gullee


Prayers being offered in the shrine room

Evening activity at the social club on the street level


Toong On Church

Toong On Church

22 Blackburn Lane | Status: Grade 1 listed site plan This church belongs to Cantonese migrants from Koon Tong province of China. Land was purchased in 1917 and the church completed in 1924. Toong On is dedicated to the Chinese war Lord Quan Ti on the upper floor while the lower shrine has a giant Buddha statue. Presently the church and social club has 18-20 registered members. In 1925, Kolkata’s first and famous Chinese restaurant called Nanking was opened in its ground floor by Au Yau Wah. Later it was converted into a supermall. The temple was affirmed as heritage building in 2006. In 2012 the possession of Toong On was returned to the trust. However in the following year, the church was faced with yet another challenge. Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) decided to move the garbage dump yard on Lhu Sun Sarani(formerly India Exchange Place) deeper into Blackburn Lane and adjoining the temple building. After several sustained protests from the Chinese community, the KMC has decided to move the garbage vat but it is yet to be executed.



Gee Hing Church

Gee Hing Church

13 Blackburn Lane | Status: Grade 1 listed site plan The Gee Hing Church and club was established in 1888 at an alternate location in old Chinatown. In 1920, they were shifted to the upper floor of this current location at 13, Blackburn Lane. Gee Hing does not make any native group distinctions and is open to all Chinese communities. Individuals who do not belong to other community clubs can register here and members of other social clubs can also register in this club. With a registered membership of 60-70 persons today, the temple and club operate daily from 1 PM to 9 PM and is the most active site for senior community members of old Chinatown to engage in the traditional game of Ma Choi. It is not generally used for prayers but for social gatherings and celebrating festivals.



Sea Voi Yune Leong Futh Church

Sea Voi Yune Leong Futh Church

17 Blackburn Lane | Status: Grade 1 listed site plan Sea Voi church was started in 1908 and belongs to Cantonese migrants from the Se-Wui province. Other than the shrine room and social club, which adjoin each other on the ground floor of this corner property on Blackburn Lane, the community is further provided social support from this premise. There is a dormitory, which earlier provided short-term shelter to young Chinese bachelors, newly migrated to the city. There is another room where old dying people are made to rest and take their last breath. Today this temple is predominantly used as a community hall and gathering space for celebrating festivals, and has a membership of about 20-25 families. Deities in the temple are worshipped on the first and fifteenth day of the month.



Choonghee Dhong Thien Haue Church

Choonghee Dhong Thien Haue Church

17 Tirreti Bazar Lane | Status: Grade 1 listed site plan This temple belongs to the Hakka community, who has a dominant population in Tangra, the new Chinatown. Being a corner property in a mixed-use building, the temple is on the upper floor and opens onto a large terrace overlooking the neighborhood. It is dedicated to several deities such as the Chinese Goddess Thien Haue (Queen of Heaven), Kun Se Sin (Lady in white of Buddhism), TuTeh Chun (God and goddess of well being and happiness) and many others. According to notice board writings found here, the temple was built by Leong Chin and seven others in 1858. It has been renovated several times in the past years, the most recent being in 1999, when the Lim brothers, Chung Yee Tong and Mr. Lee renovated the temple.



Nam Soon Church

Nam Soon Church

13 Damzen Lane | Status: Grade 1 listed site plan The temple derives its name from two Cantonese provinces in China, to which the members of this congregation and club belong i.e. Nam Hai and Shun Tak province. Nam Soon Church was started in 1820 and has a current membership of approximately 60 registered members. Of these, 20-30 members are in active participation while others have migrated to different parts of the country or to foreign shores. Regular prayer is offered only on the first Sunday of the month, though the temple is open daily for a stipulated number of hours, for visitors and community members alike. Nam Soon is most actively used during Chinese New Year celebrations, from where the Lion Dance procession commences, and for conducting small community meetings and gatherings. The temple contains images of three key Chinese deities – the God of War, the God of Angles and the God of wealth along with smaller shrines of Buddha. Chien Kuo School, started in 1943 to impart primary education to students from the Chinese community in their native language, forms a part of the temple complex. It has since converted to an English medium school, with a Chinese principal, and opens to students from all backgrounds and communities.



Chonee Than Alms House

Chonee Than Alms House

16 Blackburn Lane | Status: Unknown site plan This serves as a pre-funerary ritual space for the Chinese community living around. Though it is adjacent to the major street, Lhu Sun Sarani, it’s main entry opens out to the narrower Blackburn Lane, thereby maintaining a certain degree of privacy. The entrance leads to a covered courtyard, fronted by the main ritual room, with rest rooms and toilets either side. The ritual room is given an individualistic impression and importance by separating it from the other spaces. With the decorations and use of contrasting colors like green and red, it stands out from the other spaces. The use of this building is now greatly reduced owing to the distance from the major Chinese burial grounds in Tangra, thereby isolating this Almshouse. Furthermore the high expense of conducting these elaborate rituals often deter bereaved families from conducting such traditional processes.



[recommendations] Old Chinatown is an accretive evolution of diverse Chinese sub-groups – the Cantonese, Hakka, Hubei – who have come together, over centuries of hard work, trust and social enterprise to contribute to Kolkata society and its cosmopolitanism in a unique and irreplaceable way, the only such in South Asia. It is this value that needs recognition when this historic settlement is examined from contemporary notions of heritage assessment and evaluation. The following recommendations are based on findings made during the survey and documentation. They are intended to help recognize not only architectural heritage of the Chinese community but identify all those tangible and intangible values embedded in this historic settlement that would aid a comprehensive, sensitive and contextual urban conservation effort through The Cha Project. Recommendations can be categorized as follows: 1. Recognizing old Chinatown as a Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) in contemporary Kolkata Following the principles of HUL, the key to understanding and managing inner city settlements like old Chinatown is to recognize that the city is not a static monument or group of buildings, but subject to dynamic forces in the economic, social and cultural spheres that shaped it and keep shaping it. As stated by UNESCO, “The historic urban landscape approach moves beyond the preservation of the physical environment, and focuses on the entire human environment with all of its tangible and intangible qualities. It seeks to increase the sustainability of planning and design interventions by taking into account the existing built environment, intangible heritage, cultural diversity, socioeconomic and environmental factors along with local community values.” The Indian Chinese community’s tangible and intangible cultural traditions, reflected through occupational and


faith-based practices, food habits, festive celebrations, and architecture transcend geographical boundaries of the settlement to lend identity to the broader urban landscape of the city. Urban revitalization here must empower the community, strengthen their economic vitality and cultural identity, and leverage its historic value for the city. In these ways economic development and social cohesion can be fostered to create a rich, dynamic balance between the historic environment and its contemporary future.

identified that Blackburn Lane has retained, in ownership and typology, the largest concentration of buildings that directly relate to old Chinatown’s history and contemporary narrative. It contains religious, social, cultural and commercial typologies within this narrow street - and showcases the diverse cross section of spaces integral to life in the community. In an amorphous urban fabric that characterizes this settlement today, this lane therefore attains high value and significance to the revitalization project and its future.

2. Protecting Chinese temples (churches) alone is insufficient to revive old Chinatown The Chinese temples serve as social anchor points and physical representations of the different subcommunities. While they form the nuclei of the settlement, and are the most visible and impactful physical asset, their setting and contributing typologies create the context within which they become central. The more modest social institutions, commercial establishments used and owned by the community, and residential units play an equally significant role in representing their identity and living practices. In their absence, the temples, as isolated monuments become mere relics in an altered urban landscape, bereft of context and meaning.

Blackburn Lane is the most significant streetscape within old Chinatown that holds the highest potential and merits conservation through tapping its architectural, cultural and economic potential. Across the road Toong On Church is the most visible anchor on the main street and the change in scale and visual character are emblematic of the neighbourhood. It can be viewed as a complete cross section of what the old Chinatown would have been in its hey days, ending at the prefunerary Alms House.

Furthermore, in an already over developed area, where Chinatown forms a loose, amorphous notion, any further collapse and destruction of the older urban form will severely delink the temples from their setting. The newer highrises on Lu Shun Sarani is a good example of such damage where Toong On Church and Sea Ip Church have already become isolated and seem out of place with incompatible development around it. To avoid further damage it is necessary to save the remaining original urban form, especially Blackburn Lane. 3. Revitalization of Blackburn Lane with Toong On Church & Alms House as anchors The detailed streetscape survey in Part 1 has already

4. Unlocking economic potential of unused/under performing buildings through adaptive reuse The land use surveys identify a set of buildings within the community, which are inaccessible, misutilized, underutilized or vacant. The untapped potential of these structures, eg: Nam Soon Club, Voi Ling club storage area, Alms house can be leveraged through reprogramming them for suitable new uses. These uses could enhance the social, recreational, tourism potential of the settlement while introducing self-sustaining revenue models for them. With minimal new construction, existing assets can help reinstall pride and identity for residents, trigger enterprise and be an attractive point of entry for tourists. The social clubs, attached to each temple, can further be capitalized upon as active places for cultural activities, visitor interpretation and community participation – connecting different age groups through cooperation. In unlocking such spaces, one can open up multiple innovative avenues for the community to re-engage

with itself and its needs while also welcoming visitors. 5. Restructuring of Chinese breakfast experience The morning breakfast at old Chinatown is undoubtedly one of the most unique experiences that the Chinese community offers to the city, and a highlight in any visitor’s tour itinerary. However the throng of the daily market is currently threatening to completely overpower the distinctive tradition thus furthering the submersion of the Chinese culture in the streets of Old Chinatown. Infrastructure such as improved hygiene, sanitation, drinking water, waste disposal and vending conveniences needs to be upgraded as well. This survey assesses that translocation of the Chinese breakfast to the adjacent street (also named Chhattawala Gullee), anchored at the ends by Sea Ip Church and Tung Nam restaurant, would be more beneficial to the activity and visitor experience. 6. Significance of interior architecture in buildings of old Chinatown Kolkata’s old Chinatown, unlike its global counterparts, does not claim territorial definitions through an explicit cultural expression of architectural form. To an expectant tourist, the discreet disposition of the settlement and its seemingly unremarkable buildings might also be a disappointment. Yet with a nuanced lens, enriched by a deeper understanding of migration patterns, resettlement issues and forces of colonization, can one appreciate the distinctiveness of the only such settlement in South Asia. As a migrant minority’s claim on a city through the formal expression of buildings, those in old Chinatown systematically shy away from exuding traditional massing, forms and decorative elements, especially on exterior facades. Yet it is the interior space of each temple that strongly expresses Chinese culture and characteristics through spatial elements, use of colour, calligraphy, artifacts and festoons, especially in the shrine room. Therefore the mere conservation of the architectural shell, while

necessary, should not overlook the restoration of interior spaces. 7. Strong link between tangible and intangible heritage in old Chinatown The tangible built heritage and artifacts within them often provide a backdrop to the intangible heritage that they contain. Life and activities on the streets is as strong an indicator of a traditional Chinese culture still alive. Storytelling, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices, and traditional crafts knowledge and skills form a key part. The morning breakfast, Ma Choi games by community elders in Gee Hing Church, abacus and evening social meetings in Sea Ip Church, the Chinese newspaper, festivals and dragon dance are pall bearers of their cultural heritage which is merits equal preservation. The traditional trades and skills such as carpentry, dentistry, shoe-making etc, need to be supported for their continuity. Built heritage can go a long way in preserving several intangible aspects of a culture by containing them within an original context and setting. This intrinsic link must be identified for a holistic revitalization process. 8. Economic revitalization through marketing and highlighting traditional trades The Chinese community has traditionally been identified with proficiency in a number of trades. The traditional skills specialized by the Cantonese carpenters, Hubeinese dentists, and Hakka shoemakers create an indispensible economic identity. Today the numbers of such independent family-owned and run businesses have dropped but the commercial activities in old Chinatown continues to retain, in its essence, the variety, diversity and great skill of this enterprising community. The project must tap into this unique quality and support enterprise and economic growth within the neighborhood. Examples of all trades, through retail outlets and workshops are still present within 1.5 km radius in old Chinatown. It is a great asset, which must

be capitalized upon. A new niche identity for the family run home-style eating houses can set them apart as a marketing and value-based USP against the multitude of commercially run Chinese restaurants in the city. Similarly other trades can be revitalized with more reach and marketability. 9. Identifying a heritage walking trail that highlights the community history and enterprise The amorphous boundaries of old Chinatown, as a result of demolition and newer infill development, have resulted in cultural resources being spread across a geographical area and not uniformly arranged within a few blocks. Therefore designing a heritage walking tour for the area is recommended to create a holistic awareness of the Chinese community’s history, settlement, tangible and intangible cultural heritage. It needs to showcase their living traditions that integrate religious, social, cultural and commercial components of their lives and history. Merely highlighting the temples and breakfast would be a great disservice and myopic view of the community. This tour can be enhanced for better user-experience through interpretation centers, visitor facilities and recreational services that are community led and managed. 10. To integrate other community histories and adjacencies within old Chinatown The urban boundaries of old Chinatown integrate and absorb multiple ethnicities, which share space and livelihoods alongside the Chinese community. It is necessary to be inclusive of such alternate cultural voices as well to avoid exclusion and prejudiced, insular narratives of a singular community. That would also paint a false picture as this part of central Kolkata has traditionally seen multi-ethnic communities living in close proximity with overlapping urban narratives. The walking tour and certain urban interventions through the project could sensitively address this issue.


Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” – Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities


[past and future]

Through good urban planning, The Cha Project will enable civic leaders, businesses, and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating an environment that enriches people’s lives.



he Cha Project’s meticulous planning is taking place concurrently on two different levels - one looks to the future and works towards improving the built environment of Chinatown, giving it its own unique identity and creating a more convenient, equitable, profitable, efficient, attractive place for present and future generations; the other looks back to the past and works towards identifying and preserving structures that have cultural, artistic, architectural, social or historical significance. Improving the built environment is a huge challenge due to the lack of infrastructure, the unplanned constructions, the mushrooming shanties, a disregard for cleanliness, and a sense of apathy and lack of civic responsibility among most stakeholders. The Cha Project is not a cosmetic makeover but one that weeds out the problems at the root.

future. It helps them find the right balance of new development and essential services, environmental protection, innovative change and a sense of the past.

Good planning helps create communities that offer better choices for where and how people live. Planning helps communities to envision their

l Characterization l Idea Workshops l Conceptualization and Design

Conservation of the built heritage is an important part of urban planning and development as historic areas like Chinatown add variety to the urban environment, stimulating visual interest and excitement within the city. Conserving and restoring historic buildings adds to the distinctive character and identity of a city. More importantly, it give its citizens a sense of history and memory even as they move into the future. In order to create an exciting built environment, The Cha Project has been working methodically to develop the following:

Historic areas like Chinatown add variety to the urban environment, stimulating visual interest and excitement within the city.




Indiscrimminate construction has resulted in a complete lack of character in Kolkata Chinatown. A Chinatown character does not necessarily mean the kind of touristy kitsch that pervades Chinatowns around the world. Kolkata Chinatown can have its own unique character which The Cha Project hopes to highlight from existing elements.

Workshops are being carried out with participation and inputs from the community. Subsequently all stakeholders will be involved including local government agencies, the larger community around the area, non-government organisations, developers, entrepreneurs, etc.

From the characterisation and idea workshops, conceptual design are being prepared with renderings, visuals and drawings depicting possible outcome of the buildings, faรงade and streetscape incorporating landscaping and lighting.

Planning workshops aim to develop ideas on the feasibility of options or types of right use or mix of uses that are both practical and commercially viable.

A proposal will be given on feasible mixed uses of buildings and viable activities along the street. These may include restaurants, handicraft shops, hotels/hostels, galleries etc.

Sources of funding, be it self-finance, from grants or derived from downstream economic activities are also being explored.

Recommendations will be put forth on upgrading of infrastructure, and restoration and regeneration of the historic buildings and the associated costs.

The workshops will be used as a platform to drive the message of the economic case for regenerating heritage and non-heritage buildings and the community.

Suggestions will be put forth for training and education to develop new skills and trades for the new economic activities. This will get people off the street to better living conditions. Activities and publicities can also be planned to generate traffic and promote the rich living heritage.

This involves collection of maps, photos and data of historic buildings and the archaeology of the area. Surveys are being carried out of heritage buildings for their condition, architecture, design interpretation, past and current uses, owners, layout etc. Detailed photographs are being taken. All these are being used to analyse historic patterns of human involvement. Costs of regenerating and restoration of the historic buildings are also being approximated. The characterization is not only confined to the buildings but also the surrounding built environment including walkways, signages etc.


[surveys] Europe’s Granada Convention states that the ambit of conservation applies even to “modest works of the past that have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time”.


thrive on economic, architectural, and human diversity, on dense populations and mixedland uses – not on orderly redevelopment plans that replace whole neighbourhoods with concrete office parks and plazas in the name of revival. People and the built environment The Cha Project believes that people and economic activity add real value to a place so although the built environment is the focus, its relationship with the community is of equal importance. Also, individual buildings are less significant than the overall ambience of the area, i.e., the whole public realm is greater than the sum of the parts. What The Cha Project envisages is not one or two restored structures but an entire neighbourhood that is revitalized and buzzing, an environment that offers better living conditions for all and is an inviting, exciting precinct for not only residents and stakeholders but visitors as well. Heritage buildings are the focal point and catalyst for the regeneration exercise. It is through them that awareness of the city’s rich past is created,


The Cha Project is cognisant of the fact that the built heritage consists not only of great artistic achievements, but also of the everyday works of craftsmen. In a changing world, these structures have a cultural significance that need to be recognized and conserved for future generations. Europe’s Granada Convention states that the ambit of conservation applies even to “modest works of the past that have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time”. Adaptive re-use Sympathetic maintenance, adaptation and reuse can allow the architectural heritage to yield aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits even where the original use may no longer be viable. The creative challenge is to find appropriate ways to satisfy the requirements of a structure to be safe, durable and useful on the one hand, and to retain its character and special interest on the other. The Cha Project’s conservation-minded approach looks at how existing buildings can be adapted to multiple uses so as to conserve and highlight

In the process of designing for change, The Cha Project places special emphasis on identifying and holding on to the inherent character of a structure and its physical and aesthetic strengths.

their qualities and be sustainable at the same time. The Cha Project has conducted, and continues to conduct, extensive surveys in Chinatown to help put together a viable plan for a revived Chinatown. Extensive surveys One of the primary objectives of the field survey has been to identify and evaluate the architectural and historical resources in Chinatown which is basic to the preservation of its cultural heritage and distinctive built environmental character. In the process of designing for change, The Cha Project places special emphasis on identifying and holding on to the inherent character of a structure and its physical and aesthetic strengths. Old buildings can perform as well as, and sometimes better, than new ones in terms of the durability and flexibility of their materials or their adaptability in use. Structures can be read as historic evidence just like written documents, and can aid the understanding of past conditions and of how society changes.

Social history is revealed by structures such as markets, the structure of a home, etc. There are personal histories and events of the distant past that leave their mark on places, be they mansions or humble homes. The evidence presented by a surviving structure has been carefully researched for clues to the understanding the past. Effective preservation planning depends on a survey of the area’s above-ground cultural resources, such as old and new buildings, streetscapes, landscaping, open spaces, views, and vistas. Comprehensive descriptions of an area’s physical characteristics will help to establish its historical character and to trace its development. Building survey The Cha Project’s surveys have identified structures that have: n Cultural and artistic significance n Architectural value n Social interest n Historical significance

Team of engineers from Singapore surveying the Blackburn Lane area


[unlocking the value of old buildings] The Cha Project’s conservation-minded approach entails changing assumptions about existing buildings and rethinking how they can be used or redeveloped so as to conserve and highlight their qualities.

Artistic interest SOMA DATTAGUPTA

Buildings of artistic interest will include: l good craftsmanship; l decoratively carved statuary or sculpture that is part of an architectural composition; l decoratively-carved timber or ceramic-tiles; l ornate plasterwork ceilings; l decorative wrought-iron gates; l religious art in a place of public worship l funerary monuments within a graveyard; etc.


The Heritage Trail will connect buildings that are of interest and highlight them through plaques, brochures etc. Social interest A community may have an attachment to a place because it is an essential reference point for that community’s identity, whether as a meeting place or a place of tradition, ritual or ceremony. This category of special interest may sometimes not be directly related to the physical fabric of a particular



structure or structures and may survive physical alteration. Care should be taken to recognise the pattern or internal relations of the parts of the structure that constitute its special interest, in order to ensure that they be conserved. The fixtures and features that testify to community involvement in the creation of a structure, or have a spatial form or layout indicating community involvement in the use of a structure, could include such elements as memorials, or stained-glass panels. A structure may display vernacular traditions of construction and may be set in a group or area which illustrates the social organisation of the inhabitants. Cultural interest The characteristic of cultural interest permeates the architectural heritage and can, in the broadest terms, include aesthetic, historical, scientific, economic or social values of past and present generations. Special cultural interests apply to:

“Chinatowns are generally associated with loud neon signs, billboards and large buildings with Chinese characters. Kolkata’s Chinatown is very distinct in that it does not visually declare itself; only when you start walking within it do you discover its hidden secrets.” – Thomas Hilberth, associate prof, Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark, working on a study titled ‘Cheenapara: Cultural Identity & Urban Heritage of the Chinese in Calcutta’.

n Structures that have literary or cinematic associations, particularly those that have a strong recognition value; n Structures that illustrate the development of society, such as schools, temples, printing presses. If these associations are not related to specific aspects of the physical fabric of a structure, consideration will be given to noting them by a tourism plaque or other such device. The project will devise appropriate interventions that are low key and can be financially economical. Specialised conservation techniques will be used to prolong the existence of structures and which rely on empathy with the original constructional materials and methods. Surveys are being conducted to determine:


n Those structures to which the Granada Convention refers as ‘more modest works of the past that have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time’;

n condition of building n existing infrastructure n interpretation of the architectural design n occupancy n orientation, accessibility n streetscape activities - day, night, weekday, weekend, festivals Surrounding infrastructure The Cha Project is conducting surveys of the inrastructure within a walking radius of 400m or a driving distance of 5-10km to place the neighbourhood in the larger context of tourist friendliness. Climate data The Cha Project will collect data on temperatures, rainfall and average humidity to determine how the weather affects the built environment. Is there water logging during the rains and if so, how does it impact the neighbourhood. How does temperature and humidity affect the building exteriors? etc.

The above building for instance lies in extreme disrepair. By leasing the space out for a store, a gallery or a restaurant, the owners not only preserve their property, they earn good revenue from it, help create jobs, boost the surrounding economy, preserve history and heritage, attract investment, increase the value of properties in the area and create awareness of the importance of heritage conservation.


[the groundwork]

Healthy cities are organic, messy, spontaneous, serendipitous.” – Jane Jacobs, visionary urban writer / activist


Surveys and condition assessments

The Cha Project is conducting detailed surveys on Chinatown’s diverse population. The survey of the homeless for instance, offers some startling revelations on depency ratios and male-female ratios which is being factored in when designing the revival.

l Recording of the construction details and development of as-built drawings, possibly by the use of photogrammetry or laser scanning. l Logging of all major defects and deterioration including their extents and locations. l Determining the conditions of weathertightness of envelope, wiring, internal pipe work etc. l Limited in-situ testing and sampling which can comprise non-destructive tests such as infrared thermography and radar, to minor intrusive inspection like drill resistance measurement and borescope inspection, and finally composition analysis of materials used in the original construction

Road network An understanding of the streetscape is also required for the desktop planning – widths, lengths, conditions, level etc of the lanes and streets. Maps & Drawings Besides current maps and drawings, The Cha Project will also source old maps of the area to get a better understanding of the history of Tiretta Bazaar and how the place has changed over the years. The National Library, the National Archives the British Library, and the Geological Survey of India are some of the resources that The Cha Project’s researchers are looking into.


Design considerations l Routes for running new services l Potential to install plant, air conditioning etc l Realistically usable area l Capacity of rainwater drainage etc l Load bearing capacity of floors and structure

Dilapidated and poorly maintained, the buildings are not put into optimum economic use. Their values can be unlocked through re-use and adaptation for mixed uses. This is the heart of sustainable development as it not only lessens the amount of energy expended on new development, but heritage can be used to boost local economies, attract investment, highlight local distinctiveness and add value to the properties.

After archival research and condition assessment of the heritage buildings, The Cha Project will present recommendations for their restoration and repair. This will typically involve restoration and preservation of the façade and internal finishes, replacement of stained glass and windows, roof waterproofing, repair of damaged or missing details, structural repair, corrosion treatment, electrical works, plumbing works, cleaning and repainting. Depending on the proposed new use of the building, space layout, lighting planning and landscaping design will be incorporated into the entire scheme. Aside from allocating spaces for activities, proper infrastructure and services need to be put in place to bring life, comfort and warmth to the place and facilitate the activities. These include: l Water and sanitation l Pathways and walkways l Lighting l Cleaning l Waste management

n The Cha Project will make every effort to retain the building’s original materials and features. n The project recognises the fact that all buildings are products of their own time and will respect changes that have taken place over time. n The conservation will be extremely sensitive to the craftsmanship that has gone into the building. n The conservation project believes in repairing rather than replacing worn architectural features wherever possible. If replacement is necessary, care will be taken to ensure new materials match the old in design, composition, and colour. n The project will use the gentlest methods possible in cleaning the facade, avoiding damaging pratices like sandblasting. n The project will ensure that contemporary alterations, if any, do not destroy the historical or architectural fabric of the building nor impair the underlying structure.


[idea workshop]



[study and survey ]


Students from the CEPT (Centre of Environmental Planning and Technology), Ahmedabad, India and from the Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark, doing a field study and survey of the Chinese temples in Kolkata Chinatown.


[community building]


reen walls are all the rage these days. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing but also great for the environment and can actually bring down temperatures in buildings by several notches.

Raising Bee In 18th and 19th century rural America, when a farmer needed a new barn he would host a “raising bee”. Friends and neighbours would be invited and they would all help build the barn together, over food, drink, laughter and news of one another. Ostensibly it was a barn they were constructing, but they all knew that what they were really doing was building a strong community.

However the idea as conceived by French landscape designer Patrick Blanc is prohibitively expensive and students of Singapore’s Hougang Primary School have come up with a low-cost alternative. Creating the green wall together has been a great bonding exercise for the students who now have a wonderful sense of ownership and pride in their school. The Cha Project hopes to use this low-cost solution to create a similar sense of neighbourliness

among residents, rich or poor, in Chinatown. Not only will it help green the neighbourhood, it can also help cover any unsightly structure that cannot be removed. But the biggest benefit will be the sense of pride and belonging that it will give its residents and the sense of community it will help build. The students of Hougang Primary could help the community in Kolkata Chinatown over Skype to set up the green wall – a great example of crossborder friendship and collaboration. The Project is looking for corporate sponsors who can help make this happen.

Students of Singapore’s Hougang Primary School and their low-cost green wall



[waste management]

The winning ideas at the Re-invent the Toilet Challenge provide a great resource for sanitation solutions.

Here are some of the many ideas put up at the

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Re-invent the Toilet Challenge which could provide solutions to the lack of proper sanitation facilities for the underserved in Chinatown. National University of Singapore has developed a toilet that uses biological charcoal (biochar) to dry and combust feces. The heat generated is used to extract water from urine by boiling it under pressure. The system is fitted with activated carbon and exchange resin to recover highly purified water. To make public toilets more accessible to the urban poor Eram Solutions of India has come up with an eco-friendly and hygienic e-toilet where the interface is automatically cleaned and that water is recycled for the next user. The e-toilet can be maintained and operated remotely improving local service quality and consistency. Another brilliant solution has come from the Delft Institute of Technology in The Netherlands which uses microwave technology to transform human waste into electricity. The waste is gassified yielding synthesis gas (syngas) which is fed to a solid oxide

NUS’ idea that uses biological charcoal to dry and combust human waste.

fuel cell to generate electricity. At this year’s contest the winning idea came from California Institute of Technology of a self contained solar powered toilet and waste water treatment sytem. A solar panel produces enough power for an electrochemical reactor that is designed to break down human waste. Excess power generated is stored to provide a backup energy source for nighttime operation and to be used during low sunlight conditions.

There is a rubbish dump in front of the half-

constructed Metro building, which contains refuse from the three wards that surround the area. The rubbish from the dump has overflown onto the street, and there are people living next to the trash. This is a health risk in such a highdensity area, and is also an eyesore. The trash must be properly disposed of/stored before any development or renewal of the area can take place. The people living off the trash can be employed in the waste management process or as maintenance crew in the area.


[homeless survey] Photo SYLVESTER TSENG

What Chhattawallah Gullee needs is recreation centres, teashops, etc to encourage social interaction, reading rooms, childcare centres etc. – an infrastructure to help build a more connected community.

The Cha Project is working, in association with Asia Initiatives’ SoCCs scheme (see section on Social Impact), on a mobile phone application to connect all stakeholders to work towards the common goal of a more liveable neighbourhood. 118

“The male to female ratio in Kolkata Chinatown’s Chhattawallah Gullee is alarmingly lopsided. This implies serious social imbalances which could result in social ills and atrocities against women. It is imperative that we engage the community in positive activities.” – Nandini Das Ghoshal

The Cha Project’s homeless survey in Chhattawallah Gullee shows a male female ratio of 1.43 (normal is 1.06)


he Cha Project is not about a superficial beautification of an iconic neighbourhood. We are extensively studying the social structure, the demographics, the available amenities, the aspirations of the local communities, the history of the neighbourhood and the people, the built environment and its relationship with the community, and other details to help us bring about ‘real’ change, one that transforms the neighbourhood inside out and reaches every stakeholder, rich or poor.

survey results

SoCCs can bring about improvements where there is no money for development.

Our surveys, some of which are ongoing, have revealed some interesting results. For example, we have found a marked difference in the malefemale numbers which can be explained by the fact that there are many migrant workers in the neighbourhood, males who come looking for work in the big city with families left behind in their native villages. The male-female ratio in Chhattawallah Gullee is 1.43 while the normal is 1.06. What does this imply? According to Nandini Das Ghoshal of Insights & More, “this implies serious social imbalances which could result in social ills

and injustices and atrocities against women.” She concludes that “it is imperative to engage the community in positive activities.” The importance of social engagement cannot be overemphasized. Community centres, recreation activities, even teashops that become the hub of interaction, can go a long way in strengthening ties between residents. Reading rooms, group activities, regular workshops on health, hygiene, skills training etc can exponentially improve lives. Proper toilets, availability of drinking water, subsidized food etc will also go a long way in creating a vibrant Chinatown. Another thought-provoking figure is dependency ratio on women. The survey reveals that on an average women have two children and an elderly adult to look after. This is seemingly due to the high abandonment rate of men among lower income families. With women as sole breadwinners, poverty levels are higher and basics like children’s education and health get neglected. With the introduction of Social Capital Credits or SoCCs these families can get avail of many basic needs that they now deprived of (see section on Social Impact).


[home/ shops for shantydwellers]


vending cart that turns into a home; a shop shutter that doubles up as seats for customers; display shelves that can be raised when not in use to make space for a sleeping area... There are many, many bright ideas out there to ensure Tiretta Bazaar can turn into a model neighbourhood and one that ensures the well-being of all its residents, rich or poor.

is not what this revival is all about. Ours is about bringing change from within, about looking out for every stakeholder, big or small; about sustainable development; and about low-cost solutions to big problems. We want to ensure no-one is uprooted and yet the place is cleaner, more attractive and is economically viable. That’s a much tougher task at hand.

It is easy to bring in the bulldozers, clean up the area, plant trees, make it look pretty and voila! the neighbourhood has been upgraded. But that

More often than not, a good design, however wonderful, fails because the designer has no real understanding of the context, the real needs and

the challenges faced by the end user. So what we will first do is provide temporary tent-like spaces to the homeless while the designs for more permanent mobile homes evolve as we get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. The Cha Project will get some of the best minds to create design solutions for the under-served – but most importantly, not solutions imposed upon the end user but developed from ideas that come from them. What we will do is gives those ideas and suggestions shape and form and turn them into workable designs.

First temporary structures, then once we understand the needs of the people, we will design shop cum homes.

These are some ideas from designers from around the world, to show that there are endless possibilities. Clockwise from above: Modular Market, Coroflot/Inhabitat; EcoKiosk, Bizarreka; CU-Box, Motion Code: Blue



[re-inventing chhattawallah gullee] First Action Area

Kolkata’s Old Chinatown in Tiretta Bazaar is poised to celebrate the next chapter in its history. From a bustling commercial hub in its earliest days to a place that the Chinese diaspora called home, Chinatown is an important part of the city’s past and present. It forms the oldest and most distinctive settlement of the Chinese community, the only one of its kind in India. Change in the community’s economic fortunes over time and unplanned development threaten to corrode the historic character of Tiretta Bazaar. The Cha Project will help preserve the history of this neglected area and also help catalyze economic development through a planned revitalization to turn it into an economically vibrant and selfsufficient precinct.



Why are we starting with Chhattawallah Gullee?

Because in 1946, when one of the the worst communal riots in living memory was raging in Calcutta, it was in Chhattawallah Gullee that some of the most touching stories of brotherhood were being played out as the Indian Chinese community protected Hindus and Muslims from marauding mobs and kept peace in the neighbourhood. As a tribute to that sense of community we have marked Chhattawallah Gullee as Action Area One. 123

[chhattawallah gullee today] Our first action area, Chhattawalla Gullee, is a great location for The Cha Project’s pilot food street. Situated off Lu Shun Avenue, Chhattawalla Gullee has the potential to be converted into multiple street markets including lanes dedicated entirely to street food.

Sunday morning Chinese breakfast

On Sundays, this market becomes Kolkata’s famous Chinese breakfast, where food sellers gather to hawk local Chinese Indian cuisine. Although the Chinese breakfast is known across the city, many Kolkatans are reluctant to visit because of unhygienic preparation practices. The Cha Project will make the Chinese breakfast more attractive by setting up seating and appropriate locations for vendors, as well as raising the standards of hygiene, to bring more Kolkatans to this nigh-visited attraction in their own city.


Most of the properties are not utilised to their full potential, either abandoned or obstructed by makeshift shops and shanties on the street. Moreover, the state of infrastructure (sanitation, water and power access) among these units is low. The buildings need to be brought to a basic standard of infrastructure if they are to be opened for commercialization.

Business is sluggish for the vegetable sellers and the few Chinese food vendors who sit on the road beside open drains. They have no proper stalls, no running water, no infrastructure. Great potential for turning the place into a bustling morning market. The Cha Project will provide better tools and training for a more visually appealing, efficient and profitable way to do business.

By mid morning, the street transforms into a parking lot for the nearby trading hub around Poddar Court. • Huge untapped potential for serving tea/ lunchtime customers • Potential to monetise the space with hourly parking charges for the upkeep of the street. • Potential to give the street a Chinatown character.

By late evening/ night, when the traders and office goers have left, the place gets relatively deserted. There is no scope for community activities except drinking. Drunken brawls are common. Huge business opportunities are being lost. The place has a lot of potential for a bustling night market especially on weekends. Along with the cleaning up, The Cha Project will look at better recreation facilities for adults and children, community building activities and better public spaces.

Pavements are far from userfriendly. Items spill onto the sidewalk but not in a visually pleasant way. People squat, even sleep on the pavement. Huge business opportunities are being lost. The Cha Project will provide business consultancy to all these shopowners on how best to rejuvenate the area.


[development strategy] Chha Gullettawalla h e

Preservation needs to be anything but cosmetic and the introduction of commercial notions of touristy Chinatwn would be a terrible caricature and insult to the place. – Kamalika Bose, Conservation Architect

The development of Chhattawalla Gullee will

begin small, and then build momentum. The first step of our development strategy is to clean up the area, help the families living on the street move to more secure accommodation, and build temporary structures to increase traffic to the Chinese vendors already doing business in the area. Once traffic increases and we have made the necessary tweaks to our plan to fit the market, we will begin the establishment of management and the development of permanent infrastructure. This development will involve building infrastructure for food stalls, shelter and seating, utilities, and developing systems for waste management. Chhattawalla Gullee’s Chinese breakfast already has a number of vendors doing business on Sunday mornings. Our first phase will involve making their operations more attractive, thus increasing traffic to the area. We will set up awnings over the shops and ground-level businesses, and set up seating for customers around the food sellers. Many of the


food sellers set up their equipment on the road, which is an unhygienic practice. We will provide temporary food carts to improve the way they do business, thus making the Chinese breakfast more attractive to customers. Once set up, we will help build publicity (through media channels as well as word of mouth), to increase footfalls to the food stalls. Publicity of our the big picture will help revitalise business for the existing Chinese breakfast and build momentum for our development plans. Phase One will also require drawing more vendors to the area, and making the street food available every day (rather than only on Sundays, which is the current situation). Subsequently the idea is to develop it into a 24-hour market where multiple vendors can do business from one single space maximising use. As traffic into the area increases and we draw more street vendors to the area, the development of permanent structures will begin. This will involve

resurfacing the street for safer pedestrian access (the current tarmac surface is bumpy and prone to puddling), and installing infrastructure for the operation of the food street. This infrastructure will include food stalls, with water, gas, and equipment for food preparation; seating areas, with rain-proof tables and chairs; shelters in the form of large umbrellas so customers can enjoy their food even if it is sunny outside; lighting; and signage. A public toilet will also be developed. We will also set up a management structure for the day-to-day operations of the food street, and hire personnel for maintenance, cleaning, and waste management. We will hire openly, but we want to focus on giving opportunities to marginalised residents from the area itself (such as the families who live in makeshift housing). The employment and business opportunities that The Cha Project will provide will act as a multiplier for our revival efforts, accelerating the pace of change within the community.

A quick look at The Cha Project’s to-do list for Chhattawallah Gullee. Many of these activities will happen concurrently. 1. Clean-up 2. Provide cleaner, temporary accommodation for families on the street 3. Temporary improvements to food vendors to increase footfalls 4. Provide training in hygiene and presentation to food vendors 4. Once customer traffic increases, develop and manage more permanent and attractive food street and market, develop water and sanitation facilities, public toilets, waste management 5. Publicize food street through media and word of mouth to gather momentum for the bigger development plans 6. Inclusion of more vendors carefully selected to increase vibrancy of the street market. 7. Turn market into 24-hour bazaar 8. Development of more permanent structures – rain-proof stalls, home-cum-shops, customer seating, beautification, lighting, tiling etc. 9. Develop proper management and maintenance structure


[simple alterations, big change] visualisations by RINKOO BHOWMIK

These vendors can have a better way of selling their wares. While the tentage remains, the stalls can change with the needs of cutomers - vegetables in the morning, then tea/ food stalls through the day right till late night. That way, multiple vendors can do business from one space.





With simple changes like awnings, canopies and cleaner streets, Chhattawallah Gullee can become a vibrant neighbourhood. The Cha Project will provide consultancy to all shopowners and vendors, big or small, on how best to boost business through design changes.

A sustainable city cannot afford the luxury of leaving streets with proper infrastructure and services vacant. It is a shame to leave downtown areas idle during large portions of the day or night. It is necessary to fill it up with multiple functions – the essence of sustainability. The Cha Project will strive to convert under-utilized spaces into 24hour markets and food zones.

Kolkata Chinatown’s defining identity is that it does not display the touristy visual cliches associated with other Chinatowns across the world. The Cha Project will respect that, while also preserving and highlighting existing pieces of cultural identity that are getting lost in unplanned, incongruent and characterless constructions that have eroded whatever sense of Chineseness existed in Tiretta Bazaar.

Simple additions can bring about a major overhaul. visualisation by RINKOO BHOWMIK

In order to enhance the overall vitality of the street, The Cha Project will provide free design consultation to shop owners on the importance of a good retail experience, frontage design, signage, logo etc. In doing so The Cha Project also hopes to reverse the negative effects of indiscrimminate advertising and unplanned development.


[food street]


culture of street food and a love of good food mark the intersection between Chinese and Kolkatan culture. Therefore, food streets would be a great way to kickstart the revival of Kolkata’s Chinatown. Food centres have always been points of communal gathering, and there are few things that match the community-bonding effect of sharing a good meal. In addition, Kolkata’s addiction to good food presents an opportunity for attractively planned and managed food streets to be highly lucrative. Our first action area, Chhattawalla Gullee, is a great location for The Cha Project’s pilot food street. A reasonable wide lane with a mix of government offices and ordinary buildings, Chhattawalla Gullee could be converted into a very successful street food destination thanks to the nearby trading hub and Metro station. The implementation of a place-managed food street is a task that requires inputs and consultancy from many sources and stakeholder groups, as well as a detailed plan. This document outlines some initial points of consideration. For a preliminary costing of the revival of Chhattawalla Gullee, please see our dedicated section on finances.

Challenges Managed street food in India presents a number



of challenges. According to a Bureau of Indian Standards survey, the main problems in the street food industry are to do with hygiene practices, quality of food, and control mechanisms on vendors. Therefore, the first step in planning a managed street food centre is to address these problems. The table on the next page outlines some challenges we may face, as well as their proposed solutions. These will need to be addressed if The Cha Project’s food street is to be successful. Chhattawalla Gullee presents a great location for a managed food street. It is centrally located, and only a short distance from a number of major office blocks. It is also near Kolkata’s Central Metro station,

making it perfectly located for tourists and locals alike. In creating a centrally managed food street, we can design an atmosphere that is attractive and clean without sacrificing authenticity. We will bring in notable food vendors from the area, and establish an attraction that is trusted by customers (many people avoid generic food stalls around the city because of hygiene concerns) and lucrative for vendors. We hope that in a city that is obsessed with its street food, a managed food street can change perceptions of food sold by small independent vendors. Implementation of our concept, however, requires some hard thinking and very careful evaluation and planning.



Biological hazards during food preparation

• Create hygiene and food quality standards and enforce penalties • Train staff on food handling procedures • Periodic testing of food quality • Staff health checkups • Effective waste management and disposal system

Low quality ingredients (eg use of food dye)

• Periodic food quality testing • Vendors must use approved suppliers

Poor food handling methods

• Provide training • Creation and enforcement of quality standards

Low awareness and compliance of basic F&B knowledge, standards, and practices

• Provide training • Create awareness of customer engagement and build motivation to be service-centric, through management and vendor association channels • Build awareness of key issues like safety and hygiene within all stakeholder groups (vendors, vendor associations, NGOs, consumers)

Low standards of equipment hygiene

• Provide training • Periodic (and random) testing of food preparation equipment and premises • Provision of easy-to-clean equipment Subsidization of cleaning products



Low quality of water

• Provision of clean, reliable potable water supply for use in food prep • Periodic water testing

Improper waste management

• Provide proper waste management system within food street • Enforce standards for segregation and disposal of waste

Little consumer awareness, involvement and participation

• Provide training for customer service techniques and practices • Suggestion box/automated system allowing customers to commend friendly staff and point out unfriendly staff

Little legal control over vendors, with rare enforcement of penalties

• Registration and training of vendors through a centralized management body (registration allows the management to enforce penalties, and training gives incentives for vendors to uphold standards)

Little coordination between stakeholder groups

• Involve all stakeholder groups – vendors, vendor associations, NGOs, consumers – in awareness building • Recognize and synergize diverse stakeholder groups

[waste management]

Cleanup effort Before a food street can be developed in Chhattawalla Gullee, there must first be a cleanup effort. Densely populated urban environments have created spaces that are covered in litter and detritus, and this must be cleared before any development can take place. The Cha Project will proceed with the initial clean-up by promoting the bagging and disposal of trash. Simply putting

roadside garbage in bags for collection can increase the cleanliness of a neighborhood immensely. Advancements in plastic materials allow us to use biodegradable bags, which will decay when taken to landfill and are therefore less harmful to the environment. They are also less likely to contribute to urban waste in themselves, because they decay. If we offer a monetary incentive, or social capital credits (SOCCS), for every bag of roadside trash, we can mobilise the community to take charge




Partners contribute towards a fund for garbage scheme – paying for both biodegradable bags and bagged garbage



Sponsor logo here



• Corporates • Businesses • Government • Residents

of their neighborhood’s waste and clean it up. The cleanup effort will also promote good trash collection habits, meaning that once the area is clean, it is more likely to stay clean. The Cha Project will partner with a company under its Corporate Social Responsibility program to subsidise bags and sponsor the incentive scheme. Having the distinction of “Cleaning Kolkata’s Streets” will get our partners a lot of publicity and positive branding.



• Baggers get paid, • Sponsors get publicity • Neighborhood is clean



Community groups and ragpickers bag garbage for cash

THE CHA PROJECT Making the world a better place.

The biggest challenge that The Cha Project faces is the grinding poverty. How can we create a food street when there are families living off a garbage dump? Till we uplift the lives of the marginalised, no revival can truly be a success.“ – Rinkoo Bhowmik, Founder, The Cha Project

Food street management Management of the Chattawalla Gullee food street will be as inclusive as possible (we want the revival to be community-driven, after all) and will therefore include advisors from various stakeholder groups. There will be an executive committee, which will consist of full-time management as well as advisors and consultants from vendor associations, unions, and local government. The executive committee will liaise with The Cha Project to oversee the development of the food street, while the management will be in charge of day-to-day operations of the food street (including vendor registration, fee collection, utilities, waste management, and other administration). The management will also take charge of the consumer feedback system, and include one or two people who are in charge of facilitating a dialogue with the vendors and identifying best practices and problems. In order to create an inclusive business environment where many different kinds of vendors can thrive, The Cha Project will use a registration process for

vendors who want to operate there (as opposed to licensing). This will allow us to keep a record of who is operating their cart in which food street, without the kind of red-tape that granting operating licenses creates. After registration, vendors will need to go for training on proper hygiene and customer service. Training subjects may include food handling techniques, checklists for keeping equipment clean, advice for adhering to hygiene standards, and building a service-centric atmosphere. This training will be outsourced to an external training firm, and can be done on-the-job or on external premises. By doing this, The Cha Project assures customers that, although “street food” is being served, it is served at the highest standards of cleanliness and customer service. An important part of creating a communityled revival is collecting feedback from various stakeholders. In addition to building ties with organisations like the National Association of Street

Vendors of India (NASVI), the management will maintain a conversation both with consumers and vendors. The food street will include a customer feedback system (either in the form of a suggestion box or an electronic rating system), which will allow customers to rate their experience with various vendors from very good to very poor. This will give consumers a channel of communication to the management of the food street, and allow the management to identify which vendors are doing well and which can perform better. The management will also organize public service campaigns to promote practices like tray return and proper disposal of rubbish. In addition to consumers, the management must build ties with the vendor community and start a dialogue about key issues. Potential issues that vendors might have include ineffective management of queues and payment, crowding, disputes between vendors, and buildup of waste around food stall premises. The management can also use communication with the vendor community to raise awareness of key issues, like customer interaction or hygiene.



Second Action Area will be Toong-On and the surrounding area and the creation of the Heritage Trail.

Innovative design will also play a part in the use of public spaces. The entire community should be allowed to take pride in old buildings as heritage spaces. The Cha Project will devise multiple uses for available spaces. Can an under-utilized building be converted into a library for children? Can it be used as an adult education centre at night? Can an office space be reconfigured to turn into a music school over the weekend? How can the needs of the community be better served by redesigning existing spaces? Our guiding principle is to find simple, workable solutions that will exponentially improve lives of people in the neighbourhood.


he restoration of Toong-On temple (or Church, as it was referred to under the British) is an important part of the revival of Tiretta Bazaar. It is directly owned by members of the community thus allowing direct access for any works required, from survey to design and the actual restoration. The



restoration of this building may be a catalyst and a showcase that can set the stage for the regeneration of the rest of Old Chinatown. It can also spawn a positive impact on the sustainable planning for the larger area around Damzen and Blackburn Lanes. Thus, it is imperative that adequate resources be allocated to ensure that the building is brought

back to its former glory to highlight its beauty and rich cultural heritage. Toong-On can act as a focal point that the larger community of different races and cultures can relate to and are familiar with, giving them a sense of place.

The Toong-On Church was constructed with a mix of different architectural and construction practices. The task at hand is to restore the building without tampering with its original features. WONG CHUNG WANG



d b


1. The external fluted columns with Ionic order column capitals, typical of Greek architecture, give the building a sense of grandeur. 2. The distinctive re-tooled fair-faced red brick façade has been used which was a common local construction practice.

5. The roof is elegantly ornate, lined with bottle balustrades, an architectural feature from early Renaissance Italy. Such balustrades were used in the grand palaces of Venice and Verona.

3. Internally, there are circular columns finished with terrazzo made up likely of marble chips and brown pigmented cement, and also Ionic order capitals.

6. Above the altar on the second storey, is an ornately-carved wooden arch, decorated with birds, flowers, fruits etc, found typically in Chinese arts since several thousands of years ago. These symbolic motifs and rebus are derived from ancient texts and works of various sages of China. Individually and when combined, the motifs form words and phrases depicting prosperity, longevity, happiness and auspicious messages and wishes for the occupier – which can be highlighted.

4. Stained coloured glass decorates the windows around the building rendering the façade with a mesmerizing glow when viewed from both internally and externally.



They used to have violinists playing outside, to welcome people in.” – Dominic Lee of Pouchong Foods reminiscing about Nanking Restaurant in an interview with Caravan Magazine.

Resurrecting Nanking

Din Tai Fung


The beautiful Toong-On Church was built in the 1920s. At the peak of its glory it had, as one of its tenants, the very popular Nanking Restaurant. But a bitter legal battle closed its doors for almost a decade. Converting the temple into a Heritage Centre will give the building the restoration it rightfully deserves. The project will not only empower the trustees to raise appropriate funds to launch a thorough building conservation exercise but also ensure a regular source of funding for the future upkeep of the building.


Xin Hwa

In order to resurrect Toong-On, it needs to house something truly amazing, and that’s what The Cha Project will aim to create – something that will elevate the dining scene in Kolkata by several notches. We will be looking at a contemporary chic concept in design, cuisine, presentation and branding. Coming to the new Nanking should be an unforgettable experience for all.

[re-imagining blackburn lane] This is not an actual rendering of what Chinatown will look like. These are some of many possibilities being suggested. The actual are drawings are being mapped out while these provide a glimpse of what Chinatown should have.

Food stalls that will turn Blackburn Lane into a bustling food street

Beautification of Lu Shun Avenue around Toong-On with attractive lighting, seating, art on the walls, greenery and interactive displays.

Chic restaurant and heritage centre inside.

The unused Metro building can be turned into a centre for Chinese studies, arts and cultural centre and also to provide backend services for the food streets.

The water tank in the adjacent building can be converted into a performance area

A plaza-like area in front of Toong-on for dragon dances, regular performing bands etc.

Renderings: JIA STUDIOS


[heritage centre] The history of Chinatown will unfold through a series of architectural reconstructions, dioramas and layered photographic backdrops, all enhanced by audio-visuals using photographs from different periods in the diaspora’s history. – Arundhati Mitter, Interpretive Planner ROLE OF THE HERITAGE CENTRE


istory and culture play an important role in Kolkata’s identity. The story of a cosmopolitan Calcutta and the story of the Chinese diaspora need to be told and The Cha Project has plans of a Heritage Centre, preferably housed in the ToongOn Church, or any other suitable building. The Heritage Centre will seek to bring alive the story of the Kolkata Chinese – from the earliest settlers to the community as it is today.


The Cha Project will help the Indian Chinese community in heritage management, conservation and a sustainable development of its heritage resources The narrative will unfold through a series of architectural reconstructions, dioramas and layered photographic backdrops, all enhanced by audio-visuals using photographs from different periods in the diaspora’s history. Displays of personal everyday objects and old documents and records, contributed by members of the community, will serve as artefacts in themselves..

n To inculcate pride among the Kolkata Chinese of their vibrant history and culture n To inculcate pride in the heritage of Kolkata n To motivate preservation of Kolkata’s heritage – owners of other heritage buildings will see monetary rewards in restoration and preservation as opposed to demolition n To source and preserve exhibits of historical value n To provide a platform for cultural exchange by developing a range of innovative educational and cultural programmes that will add a new dimension to Kolkata’s cultural portfolio n To archive past activities of the community, like preserving the local Chinese newspaper n To ensure a positive visitor experience through a cafe, museum shop and event space which will also contribute to the centre’s revenue plan n To provide information and advice on the correct approach to conservation through a conservation lab n To provide reference materials and maintain a resource library for publications, video recordings etc

The Heritage Centre will create awareness among the people of Kolkata to appreciate their own heritage – both tangible assets like buildings and intangibles like art and culture.

Scenographic renditions like this one will depict various facets of the life of Chinese immigrants in Kolkata. The period setting of the exhibits will simulate a sense of walking through various zones of a city environment that offer glimpses of the narrative within them.



[heritage trail] HERITAGE TEMPLES/ CHURCHES A. Toong-On B. Sea-Ip C. Gee Hing

E. Thien Hau F. Nam Soon

D. Sea Voi Yune Leong Futh

Drawing ONG & ONG


This is possibly the most important ethnic settlement left in Calcutta, from where the Jews, Armenians and Greeks have long disappeared, thus enhancing its significance and strengthening the case for its preservation.

Maps, guidebooks, trail signs...

visualization by RINKOO BHOWMIK

A walk through the past Exteriors of old buildings will be left largely untouched except for repairs, cleaning and touch up. Some buildings might get commissioned art on the walls that enhances its look rather than making it seem imposed.



Using meticulous research The Cha Project will create appropriate literature and signages to bring the history of Chinatown alive. We hope this will lead to a plethora of activities like street theatre, buskers, food festivals, dragon dance contests etc.

Themed cafes that will bring out aspects of history and culture, exhibits in buildings and streets will document the past in a rich and varied preservation of heritage.


[proposed enhancements]

Most of the properties are not utilised to their full potential, either abandoned or obstructed by makeshift shops and shanties on the street. Moreover, the state of infrastructure (sanitation, water and power access) among these units is low. The buildings need to be brought to a basic standard of infrastructure if they are to be opened for commercialization. PROPOSED



Drawings ONG & ONG

Simple enhancements to the bylanes of Chinatown can make a huge difference injecting energy and life into now lacklustre environment.

Trendy cafes and restaurants can bring in a lot of buzz attracting artists, intellectuals etc. The exteriors of most old buildings will be left untouched, to bring out the beauty of age. However interiors will be retrofitted with all amenities to support boutiques and cafes.


[design motifs]

Instead of using touristy cliches, The Cha Project will encourage the use of traditional arts and crafts as visual motifs

One of the many design ideas that The Cha Project plans to use as a visual motif is the is the traditional art of paper cutting or Jianzhi. Although paper cutting as an art form is used around the globe, the Chinese tradition has been listed under UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. It goes back 1,500 years. Jianzhi is not an elite art form but a folk art tradition and has similarities with linocut designs in Bengal folk art. There are also commonalities in subject matter – fish, tigers, birds etc. Jianzhi workshops will be conducted for the community to give them a sense of ownership. Seeing one’s work on a public wall will give residents an added incentive to keep the area clean.

Jianzhi workshops will help bring the community together.

Idea for an interactive wall showing Chinese symbols and their meaning.

The garbage dump on Lu Shun Sarani can be replaced by a Tree of Life installation symbolising regeneration.

Chinese Tree of Life: Taoist mythology tells of a magical peach tree that produces fruit once every 3,000 years and whoever eats it becomes immortal. The Tree of Life usually has dragons and a phoenix protecting it. The tree sybolises the connection between earth and heaven, the roots go deep down into the earth and the branches reach out to the heavens.


We need to draw lines in the ground and say, ‘The concrete stops here.’ That forces people to build in and up, rather than out – and there’s nothing wrong with high, dense urban environments as long as they’re planned correctly. They can be extremely livable. They tend to require less transportation, fewer sewer lines, fewer power lines, fewer roads, and more tightly packed structures, which in and of themselves are more energy efficient.” – Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace






[introduction] What Tangra needs is holistic development and a single vision of the big picture. Piecemeal, incongruous constructions are destroying whatever identity Tangra could have created for itself. By bringing together the community, the government, policy makers, stakeholders and developers and creating a blueprint for Chinatown as a whole, The Cha Project can help turn Tangra into India’s most vibrant and happening area.



sk a Kolkata resident about “Chinatown” and he/she will point you to Tangra. Tangra used to be a marshy, swampy land on the outer fringes of the city where the Chinese tanneries were re-located in the early 1900s due to environmental concerns. Once the tanneries moved there, the community set up restaurants and other businesses and Tangra became the “new” Chinatown. As the city expanded, Tangra went from being on the fringes to being in the heart of the city and part of major development corridors coming up in Salt Lake and Rajarhat. So the polluting tanneries had to be moved once again – to brand new facilities in Bantala, 20 km from the city. What this means is that the large spaces occupied by the tanneries have now opened up for redevelopment. But due to lack of planning and a larger vision for the area, indiscriminate development is taking place that is eroding any Chinese identity that the place could have had. Today Tangra is a non-descript area with an uninviting atmosphere, tacky restaurants and a complete lack of character.The Cha Project provides a design vision for Tangra turning it into India’s most vibrant, happening precinct. While the revival of Old Chinatown in Tiretta Bazaar will be more restoration-based, the Tangra revival will involve re-development and requires far more co-operation between the community, the government, policy makers, stakeholders and developers. The Cha Project will bring all stakeholders to the table and devise a strategy that is best for all. The idea is that everyone should benefit from a revived Tangra. .

[location] For this section on Tangra, The Cha Project has been assisted in part by the Indian Institute of Technology’s study on Tangra conducted by Banasree Mandal and supervised by Sanghamitra Basu.


ocated on the South Eastern part of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Chinatown is included in the large area of Tangra, Topsia and Tiljala Tannery Relocation Programme. The tanneries were ordered by the Supreme Court to be shifted from this area due to environmental reasons. Shifting of tanneries has resulted in the creation of abundant vacant space that is likely to come under new uses. Its crucial location in close proximity of the E. M. Bypass and Park Circus Connector, which are the most rapidly changing development corridors in or near Kolkata, demands development of high end commercial activities to take place over the area of Chinatown in the near future. Currently Tangra is very strategically positioned right next to the trade fair centre at Milan Mela, Science City, ITC’s Sonar Bangla and many important sites. If properly envisioned, it could become a vibrant cultural and commercial area. As things are going right now, Chinatown is developing in a piecemeal manner and cannot sustain itself for long unless planning intervention can take place which fulfills the city’s expectation from this place in terms of economic profit and at the same time create a sustainable habitat for the Chinese. (Courtesy Banasree Mandal)


[planning area]

Delineation of the planning area: There are several slums, vacant lands, water bodies and marshlands adjacent to the Chinese inhabited areas in Tangra which, due to their close proximity to the rapid growing development corridor of E. M. Bypass, are being sought after for profit-making development. Instead of piecemeal development, if these areas can come under a holistic planning intervention and entire area can be altered to be part of a future arts and entertainment district.



WARD BOUNDARY (Courtesy Banasree Mandal)

Available open space and water bodies in the study area

Slums in the study area

Tanneries in the study area

(Courtesy Banasree Mandal)



Zone 1 • Demands high-end commercial development with full utilization of FAR • Slum rehabilitation package is required for any kind of development Zone 2 • Good accessibility • Adjacent to Milan Mela fair ground • Suitable for new recreational activities Zone 3 • Commercial heartline of Chinatown • Has potential linear, mixed-use development along the street. Zone 4 • Suitable for high-end commercial use Zone 5 • Semi-private zone • Proximity to water body • Suitable for pdestrian recreational area/ institutional use (Courtesy Banasree Mandal)

Zone 7 • Good accessibility • Free from noise pollution • Suitable for activities requiring easy access and a quiet environment Zone 8 • Surrounded by slums • Can be utilized for specialized housing project


Zone 6 • Pollution-prone zone • Can be utilized for non-polluting industries

Zone 9&10 • Internal zone with dense development • Can be allocated for mixed-use residential and cottage industry area.

[proposed model]

LEGEND 1&2 Residential - mixed low-cost and high-end living (see housing solutions) 3. Artist’s studios/ Vocational training centres 4. Chinese hairdressers, beauty parlours, wellness centres, guest houses 5. Chinese theme garden 6. Waterfront recreational area 7. Water body 8. Pedestrian plaza 9. Chinese cultural centre 10. Chinese temple 11. Interactive Chinese museum 12. Industry, carpentry workshops 13. Community centre 14. Mixed-use residential industrial area 15. Public parking 16. Mixed use residential and commercial area 17. Chinese trade centre

(Courtesy Banasree Mandal)


[festival city] Taking a cue from Singapore and how it hosts mega events, Tangra can position itself as India’s most soughtafter destination for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions). Being close to the trade fair grounds and hotels, it can provide the support system for round-the-year events and international festivals.


Mirania Lake holds a lot of potential in giving Chinatown its character. It can have a tranqil Chinese garden on one side while on another there can be a musical water fountain as well as a performance space in the lake. They will be designed in such a way that they convey a sense of tradition and modernity, rooted in the past and the future, and showcasing the old and the new.


[housing solutions and better community life] Singapore’s public housing system is arguably the best in the world and one which has taken community living to a whole different level. Singapore’s Housing Development Board (HDB) could provide expertise and answers to all of Tangra’s housing and space problems. If all of Tangra’s residential space can be compacted into one large complex (see facing page), it will open up large areas of land for public and commercial use. Areas currently occupied by slums can be converted into a single complex with low-cost, mid-range, high-end and luxury apartments with the following facilities: • Childcare centre • Eldercare centre • Clinics, Medical centre • Kindergarten • Market • Shopping centre • Recreation facilities • Playground • Exercise area • Football court • Parks • Community farm • Library • Car & Bicycle parking • Community plaza • Food court


A future rapid transit system could connect Tangra with Bantala the new tannery district thereby making it easier for tannery workers and owners to commute.

The Cha Project finds inspiration in this vision by Singapore’s Housing Development Board for a compact ‘All-in-One Village’. Here’s how it can be adapted for Tangra. VISION FOR TANGRA’S RESIDENTIAL SPACE INSPIRED BY SINGAPORE’S HDB

APARTMENTS All long-term residents of Tangra will be eligible for subsidized housing in a cluster of apartments that will include low-cost, mid-range and highend apartments. The subsidies will be offset through the sale of luxury apartments to the general public.

WASTE MANAGEMENT Pneumatic waste conveyance system will send household trash into underground sealed containers collected by trucks. RAINWATER Rainwater will filter through sloping stretches of plants.

COMMUNITY PARK Garden, playground, exercise park for both young and old. Football/bastketball facilities for the youth.

COMMUNITY FARM Residents get together to grow herbs and plants. SOLAR PANELS ELDER AND CHILD CARE CENTRES Common areas will be lit through solar panels. Locating these facilities side by side will promote bonding between generations. This facility will allow women to take up jobs. The best in early education teaching methods will be introduced.

MEDICAL CENTRE State-of-the-art clinics for day surgery, diagnosis and rehab

FOOD COURT Affordable, hygienic stalls for cooked food that will give families more free time for self improvement, leisure, sports etc

COMMUNITY PLAZA Airy space for community activities, youth club performances, shops etc.

SUPERMARKET 24-hour supermarket will cover all everyday needs of residents. BICYCLE & CAR PARK A mechanical bicycle parking system will be able to store 500 cycles and promote green transport


[retaining character]

Adaptive re-use of tanneries will help Tangra retain its identity. Not all tanneries should be redeveloped. The facade of some should be left as it is to retain Tangra’s character. Tangra can be turned into a hub for artists with studios and galleries in the old tanneries, along with trendy cafes, craft boutiques etc.


Existing tannery buildings like this one can be converted into trendy establishments without being torn down.

Outdoor cafes Exclusive shoe/leather boutique

Trendy offices

Restaurant that preserves the atmosphere of an old tannery Chinese fine dining

Artist’s studio/ art gallery


social impact

[the social enterprise model] We, at The Cha Project, are a social enterprise. We are not real estate speculators, we are not developers of huge, glass-and-steel malls. We’re idealists, who are also realists – we want to give the community a better life, but also know that a solid economic foundation is key to the success of a revival like this.

Social enterprises are businesses whose primary purpose is the common good. They use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas.” – Social Enterprise Alliance


he Cha Project is a social enterprise. Although it is involved in business revival alongside social revitalisation, it is not motivated by profit. Doing good is at the centre of our model – whether it is in pulling families out of the poverty trap or preserving the history of a community. Within that context, our operations can be regarded as a mixed model of social enterprise, combining different approaches to the unique problems that the project presents. Primarily, we will be a market intermediary. We will connect and build relationships between property owners and businesses, ploughing back commissions to provide social services to marginalized communities. As an intermediary, we will also introduce our partners to new opportunities within the community and outside, and help identify and develop synergies between partner organisations. For example, we can link small local businesses with investors or consultants that fit their needs. We will

also build symbiotic relationships between private firms and the community, allowing their services to perform a necessary social good (for example, a firm can be in charge of the management and maintenance of a public performance area, and in return work with the community to secure a steady stream of users). Being at the centre of Chinatown’s network of stakeholders also allows us to influence employment. Therefore, we can ensure preferential employment for the marginalised communities within Chinatown (namely the families living on the streets) and an employment structure that takes advantage of the social capital of the community. As a market intermediary, we will also be the primary providers of place management. We will work with the Indian Chinese Association (ICA) and the newly-formed Chinese Indian Association (CIA) to create a partnership with both public and private stakeholders to manage Chinatown’s changing environment and making it function efficiently. (See our section on 5-Year Plan)


[social capital credits] The Cha Project has tied up with Asia Initiatives in New York to implement SoCCs or Social Capital Credits, a transformative system of exchange that could potentially eradicate poverty in Kolkata Chinatown and later to other parts of the city.


e always think of revival in terms of financial capital – how much money will this cost, how will it be recovered, how can the community earn enough to improve their quality of life, and so on. But money isn’t the only way to lift a community out of a persistent funk. A community can also be revitalised by using social capital, the inherent value of the relationships and cooperation of a group of people. An economically disenfranchised community, like a group of families living in a slum, may not have a large amount of financial capital but is brimming with social capital. By leveraging this social capital, not only can we improve a community’s quality of life, but we can do it while bringing people closer. One of the challenges that a revival of Chinatown will have to contend with is its dense population. This also makes it unique -- by being so full of people, it is full of social capital just waiting to be leveraged.


That is why The Cha Project has partnered with SoCCs, a revolutionary new way to use social capital for poverty alleviation. SoCCs, or Social Capital Credits, are an alternative system of exchange which uses social capital instead of financial capital. It is a scheme which allows residents of an area to trade actions and processes which have a positive social benefit for goods and services that they may not necessarily have had access to through the traditional financial economy.

which are too expensive (and therefore underconsumed) by using social capital to “pay” for them. This frees up financial capital for the family to pay for basic necessities like food and shelter. SoCCs can also be used to incentivize products and services by being earned, for example, for going for a medical checkup, or for attending a women’s empowerment workshop. They could also be used for items provided by The Cha Project, like solar lighting or vending carts.

Residents can earn SoCCs points by participating in community activities or helping in community initiatives, like picking up garbage, painting public spaces, or building a green wall. These credits can then be used for goods and services within the community, say, for basic household items at the local market or to subsidize education.SoCCs therefore subsidise certain, socially-beneficial items

We can implement SoCCs through an SMS-based system for non-smartphones. We will be working with Asia Initiatives in New York to develop a methodology and a set of standards to apply SoCCs in Chhattawallah Gullee, combining the successes of pilot projects from Mumbai to Ghana. If successful it can be implemented in other areas of the city and the country as well.

The biggest challenge that The Cha Project faces is the heart-wrenching poverty. How can we create a food street when there are families living off a garbage dump? SoCCs is like a beacon of light, so simple yet so powerful! “ – Rinkoo Bhowmik




SoCCs lets the poor meet their needs without relying on money. They can improve their own lives – with dignity – not by relying on aid.


How SoCCs works



Individuals earn SoCCs by - cleaning - painting - attending hygiene workshops etc

Individuals use SoCCs for - cellphone talk time - provisions - skills training - health checks etc






The Cha Project will - provide stalls for homeless - create street markets - create food streets - provide better public amenities/utilities - provide more public spaces, etc





The community spends SoCCs for - better toilets - paint for public walls - a reading room etc. Icons courtesy NOUN PROJECT


p The community improves the neighbourhood through - cleaning - waste management - beautification - ensuring 100% literacy - health & hygiene drives - community bonding - ensuring safety - better childcare


This is where Jakir Hussain lives, huddled with his family of six.

He earns SoCCs for community work to be eligible for a shop-cumvending cart

Additional income helps him repay his loan while SoCCs takes care of other needs like healthcare.

Thanks to SoCCs he does not get caught in the vicious cycle of debt and poverty.

He and his family now have access to education, skills training, better sanitation etc.


This is Ratan Bibi. She earns INR 45 a day – that’s 77cents a day. Yes, less than a dollar for hammering nails for seven hours! With SoCCs, she can dare to dream of a better future.

Can she ever get out of the debt and poverty trap?

The Cha Project will design home-cum-

shops for the shantydwellers which could radically alter her life. Under regular loan/aid situations, even if recipients have a higher income after getting a shop/kiosk, the extra money is spent repaying the micro finance loan and they continue to be stuck in the poverty trap. SoCCs will then empower Ratan Bibi with skills needed to maximise the additional resources and the positive environment that The Cha Project will create. With SoCCs she can actually dream of a


better life.



SoCCs stores will give discounts for community work.

Meet Maqsudan Shah.

His shop will accept SoCCs. Those who have done community work get to buy vegetables at discounted prices. It is his way of giving back. He attracts more customers because of SoCCs. It’s a win-win. 165

With SoCCs, Chhattawallah Gullee’s food stall owners can attend food presentation/ hygiene workshops to enhance their businesses. food streets Vendors of Chinese breakfast stalls in Chhattawallah Gullee sit near open drains without basic amenties like running water or comfortable seats for customers. The Cha Project will not only provide better stalls and a vastly improved food street, with SoCCs it will also offer training in food hygiene, business development skills etc to exponentially increase sales and thereby enhance the neighbourhood.



Heritage conservation cannot happen without social upliftment and a greater awareness among stakeholders of the importance of preserving the past. SoCCs is a great way to incentivize the community to take care of their built environment“ – G.M. Kapur

living heritage Besides a Heritage Centre, The Cha Project plans to bring alive the history of the neighbourhood and its people through everyday objects, customs and traditions.

SoCCs can be used to incentivise the community to protect heritage buildings

SoCCs is a great way to incentivise the community to share stories, memories, and objects that will help in developing an archive for future generations. Heritage awareness, protection and consciousness among the community can get a big boost through SoCCs.


The Cha Project hopes to turn the iconic Toong-On Church building into a heritage centre


It is just amazing to learn of your innovative work on SoCCs. This sounds absolutely wonderful, a real breakthrough.” – Jeffrey Sachs

They work to earn SOCCS that improve their own lives. It’s a win-win




The Cha Project provides shop-homes

Shantydwellers need SOCCS Points to be eligible for a shop-home


The multiplier effect of SoCCs The Cha Project is designing solar-powered home-cum-vending carts so that Kolkata Chinatown can be turned into a clean, vibrant, bustling street market. By adding SOCCS Chhattawallah Gullee’s homeless also get access to better healthcare, education, skills training, recreation etc. Strong sense of community, and of pride and ownership And much more...



Women are empowered through jobs and training, can avail of childcare


Access to education, skills training

They use SOCCS to supplement living expenses. They move from debt to savings


Their lives are further enriched by a cleaner environment, better living conditions

+ Access to health checks, vaccinations

[giving quotient]

GQ Like EQ or IQ, a person or a company’s GQ should also be an important measure of who the person is, or what the company stands for. Giving Quotient is a stamp of approval that lauds “giving” of all kinds – monetary or nonmonetary.

What’s your GQ? The Cha Project hopes to encourage the spirit of giving and contributing to society and to turn GQ into a buzzword, especially among the youth. We envision a day when GQ Points will be used as a badge of honour, an accreditation of being a valuable citizen/company.


he Cha Project will recognize the contributions of donors through GQ, a unique award system for both monetary and non-monetary giving. After all, we rely on the collective generosity of an entire eco-system of donors – corporates, government bodies, individuals and stakeolders – to take this initiative through.

SoCCs deals with transactions between small-

scale producers (for example, a market vendor) and individuals and families. What if the scheme could be expanded to include corporations which may donate large amounts of money or provide certain products for social good in Chinatown? How do we a) recognize their contribution in terms of social capital and b) promote schemes which provide direct social impacts on the community, instead of relying on trickle-down economics? Our significant social impact on the community also opens opportunities to raise funding through corporate CSR investment. This allows corporates to sponsor schemes that benefit the community, be it social revival or heritage preservation. But not every rupee is equal – money spent on a new adult education scheme has a different social impact from the donation of one thousand solar lamps for families living in makeshift homes in Chhattawalla Gullee. What if we devised a metric which shows

the social good of a contribution? Giving Quotient (GQ) solves both these problems. The Giving Quotient of a corporate contribution is a measure of the total social good that the contribution brings about. Be it a INR 50-lakh contribution for a food street, or the provision of basic necessities for low-income families, every CSR contribution will be associated with a level of social good. GQ will allow us to associate a certain amount of social currency to the provision of a good or service, while giving recognition to outstanding contributions by firms or individuals. GQ is then an enabler for SOCCS: while SOCCS provides the ability to control the circulation of social capital, GQ can provide a conversion scheme, allowing monetary contributions to be expressed as an amount of social good, and vice versa.


GQ helps measure how far CSR funds will go

With SoCCs, the actual contribution becomes much much more.



Consider a corporate that donates say $10,000 towards home-cumshops for shantydwellers

SoCCs ensures the recipients take up skills training, clean up the neighbourhood, attend environmental awareness workshops, send children to school, get vacconations etc.

Better living conditions

Stronger community

Environmental awareness

Better source of livelihood

Safer neighbourhood

Heritage protection

Health & Hygiene Clean neighbourhood

Education & Childcare

Enhanced built environment Increased investment

Women’s empowerment

GQ helps highlight and measure the larger impact. The Cha Project is looking for instututions/ corporates/ government bodies to help us in devising a metric to show the social good of a donation. GQ has been conceptualized in Singapore by Rama Kannan, Rinkoo Bhowmik, Madhu Verma, Ramya Nageswaran and Anjana Anand.


Better business, more jobs Social change

FiveYear Plan

[place management]


ld Chinatown (in Tiretta Bazaar) is a piece of Kolkata’s history that gave the city its identity as a cosmopolitan melting pot of cultures and so its preservation and vitality are crucial.

In order to preserve history and bring about a muchneeded vitality, there needs to be a cohesive, integrated effort that will bring all stakeholders under one umbrella with a common vision and goal. 172

In order to preserve history and bring about a much-needed vitality, there needs to be a cohesive, integrated effort that will bring all stakeholders under one umbrella with a common vision and goal. Coordinating the diverse and numerous private sector stakeholders and government agencies is a daunting task and The Cha Project (TCP) proposes to take on the responsibility of implementing its vision of a revitalized Chinatown. Once that vision is achieved, TCP will transfer operations to the Indian Chinese Association (ICA) which will then continue the good work. Place Management: A New Approach for Chinatown The implementation of this long-term vision for Kolkata Chinatown will take on a new approach – one where the maintenance, marketing and day-to-day management of the precinct will

be guided by private sector stakeholders and public sector officials working co-operatively. Place management is a collaborative approach to making places function more efficiently. It involves stakeholders, government agencies and other partners who manage the social, physical and economic environment. Highly successful around the globe, place management is now seen as the most effective way for running town centres, commercial areas, business districts, even hospitals and entire downtowns. This five-year plan proposes the successful implementation of a place management strategy for Chinatown bringing the public and private sectors together to guide the development of Chinatown, manage its changing environment and seek out and leverage opportunities to achieve The Cha Project’s vision. By introducing place management to Chinatown, private and public sector stakeholders will make a commitment to transform the neighbourhood – the government will benefit greatly from having a strong private sector partner to co-ordinate efforts; the private sector will benefit from a more vibrant

Utilized successfully in Singapore and also throughout the US and Europe, place management is an integrated, area-based, multi-stakeholder approach to create and sustain safe and vibrant, better organized and better maintained places.

precinct that preserves the neighbourhood’s rich heritage, creates awareness of heritage, increases property value, creates a more desirable public realm, promotes business, and creates jobs, while tackling day-to-day management issues that are otherwise often hard to address. There is a desire to create a higher quality environment in Kolkata Chinatown where greater social and economic vitality can be achieved through a more attractive public realm, a stronger mix of businesses and a more welcoming and better-managed precinct which The Cha Project envisions. Chinatown - Place Management Partnership Both public and private sector interests will be represented in the new place management partnership. The Cha Project will be the point of contact for all stakeholders, private and public, who will together form an effective action group for Chinatown.

CHINATOWN - PLACE MANAGEMENT PARTNERSHIP Both public and private sector interests will be represented in the new place management partnership. The Cha Project will be the point of contact for all stakeholders, private and public, who will together form an effective action group for Chinatown.

Public Sector

Government bodies (KMDA, Tourism, Urban Development etc) and NGOs

+g Private Sector

Residents, property owners, business owners, street vendors etc

Public/ Private Place Management Partnership for Chinatown


TCP Governance

A board of directors will provide governance for The Cha Project. The composition of the entire board will represent the diversity of interests in Chinatown.

TCP Chair TCP Board of Directors TCP Staff



Benefits of Place Management • A pool of resources, knowledge and skills of both the public and private sectors can be utilized to improve a precinct. • Accountability in maintenance of the public realm. • Uniform benefits to stakeholders and therefore less chances of disputes. • Direct involvement over day-to-day management of the precinct and therefore smoother functioning. • Better co-ordination in activities, projects and services designed to enhance the Chinatown experience. • Increased security. • The sense of being looked after will create an increased harmony within the community. • An overall increase in the happiness index in Kolkata Chinatown.



Every stakeholder – be it a heritage property owner or a shanty dweller – will be part of The Cha Project story and will directly benefit from the success of TCP in transforming Chinatown.

THE CHA PROJECT’S COMMITMENT There are a number of guiding principles that will underpin the work of The Cha Project (TCP) in implementing this 5-year plan. These principles will help shape TCP’s values and the way it undertakes work on behalf of the public and private sectors it represents:

Singular Focus on Chinatown The Cha Project will be an organization dedicated solely to the place management of Chinatown with dedicated staff to implement this 5-year plan and a board of directors comprising stakeholders with interests in the precinct - to guide the implementation.

economically vibrant; TCP will also provide business consultation to all stakeholders.

Consultation To become a Heritage destination, Chinatown needs to have a common and overall visual aesthetic to give it character and an identity, without becoming kitschy. The Cha Project will provide design direction to stakeholders to collectively achieve this vision. Part of the vision is also to make the precinct more

Sustainability Creating a sustainable organization that will carry out projects and programs in the short term and also remain active and effective well into the future is critically important to all stakeholders - public and private. This means having a good strategic plan, a strong company structure and governance, committed staff and revenue streams

Collaboration and consensus TCP will facilitate collaboration and consensus building among the diverse mix of stakeholders in Chinatown as well as with government agencies.

that can continue to grow over time is crucial. Funding TCP will work to leverage funding from a variety of public and private sector resources, as well as from sponsorships, grants, donations etc. All these revenues will be invested back into Chinatown to ensure its long term viability and success. Return on Investment The purpose of creating TCP is to add value to its stakeholders and investors, and to Chinatown. TCP will work to ensure all its activities demonstrate a return on investment and promote the wellbeing of the community.


[guiding principles]

To become a Heritage destination, Chinatown needs to have a common and overall visual aesthetic to give it character and an identity without becoming kitschy.

THE ROLE OF THE CHA PROJECT (TCP) There is currently no platform for stakeholders to work together, nor effectively communicate with the public sector. The Cha Project will be the umbrella under which all stakeholders will be represented. It will be the voice for every stakeholder, every ethnic community, every economic strata residing, working or doing business in Chinatown.

Every stakeholder – be it a heritage property owner or a shanty dweller – will be part of The Cha Project story and will directly benefit from the success of TCP in transforming Chinatown. Whether individually or as groups, every resident/ property owner, business/ organisation will register with TCP and be an integral part of the implementation and decision making process. TCP will be guided by what the entire community needs rather than by the vested interests of selected groups/ individuals.


government bodies residents shanty-dwellers


businesses property owners street vendors NGOs

[role of the cha project] ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF TCP Vital to the success of Chinatown will be efforts to build on the Chinatown brand. Cities around the world leverage on their Chinatowns to attract visitors. As one of the oldest settlements of Chinese immigrants outside of China, and as the only surviving Chinatown in India, Kolkata Chinatown is a priceless cultural heritage that needs to be preserved. Over the next five years The Cha Project will focus its energies on building a strong Chinatown brand, on increasing vibrancy of the precinct, on branding and promoting the unique Indian Chinese culture, way of life and cuisine, on helping to grow the value of the area, and in generally strengthening Chinatown’s image. After all, image is everything. TCP will take on implementing the transformation of Kolkata Chinatown, including creation of food streets and markets, creation of a heritage trail, preservation of heritage buildings, enhancement and clean up of the built environment. Once the precinct has been revitalized, TCP will develop projects and programs to market Chinatown, to advocate new policies, to develop new approaches, and to positively affect the overall image of Kolkata Chinatown. The specific roles and responsibilities will include: l Influence public and private sector agendas to develop a shared strategic approach to the revival l Create a platform for all Chinatown stakeholders to collaborate on their specific needs l Facilitate access to funding to enhance Chinatown l Steer and guide decision-making to support strategic improvements to Chinatown

To be successful, TCP will have to fill many roles at once – leader, influencer and service delivery provider.

n Leadership - Champion Place

Management for Chinatown n Service Delivery - Provide services, projects, programs and ongoing management n Influence - Steer policy that will benefit Chinatown

l Facilitate synergies and coordination between existing organizations working in Chinatown to foster economies of scale l Provide services, activities and projects that serve the interests of the whole precinct, rather than just one group l Measure and monitor the success of projects and programs and ultimately Chinatown as a destination.


[operations] TCP STAFF TCP will be staffed by full-time individuals who will manage the daily operations of the partnership and support the TCP Board of Directors, committee and task groups and members. The roles and responsibilities of the staff include: Executive Director: Reports to the TCP Board of Directors • Provides leadership • Day-to-day management of TCP operations and staff • Responsible for management and timely implementation of key projects, programs and services as outlined in this business plan • Establishes contact and builds relationships with stakeholders and government agencies • Organizational capacity building • Fundraising

Providing a welcoming experience means offering an environment that is clean, safe and friendly. Chinatown can get friendlier for locals and visitors once stakeholders realize how important it is to create a hospitable environment for everyone. Residents and other locals will all serve as Chinatown’s ambassadors to enhance the experience for every visitor. They will be encouraged to readily provide directions and information; recommend food stops; provide heritage trail maps and generally be helpful to every visitor.

Place Manager: Reports to the Executive Director • Responsible for management and timely implementation of key projects, programs and services as outlined in this plan • Important representative of the partnership ‘on-the-ground’ • Communication with TCP members and stakeholders • Fundraising Place Mangement Executive • Assists the Exec Dir and the Place Manager in carrying out daily tasks and assisting with the regular operations of TCP


Getting locals to join the organized cleaning and security crew will not only provide them with dignified jobs but being a stakeholder means they will be extra vigilant. TCP will explore new investments in public trash receptacles and recycling programs, and also initiatives to incentivize locals to keep their environment clean. Training will be provided to vendors and food handlers on hygiene and health. Cleaning crew will be provided with proper cleaning equipment and gear and TCP will introduce advanced cleaning methods besides daily pan and broom cleaning, jet washing of walkways, removal of litter and debris.


Years One, Two and Three The target budget for the first three years of the total plan implementation is expected to be 81 crores (subject to availability of funding). It is anticipated that these funds will be generated from the following sources:

districts around the world. the following section outlines how TCP may increase its financial capacity over both the short and long term. Short term funding: Years 1 – 3 Membership, sponsorships, grants and other earned income as well as government support Long term funding: work towards self sufficiency

n CSR funds n Institutional grants n Government funding n Private donations n Corporate sponsorship and loans n Fundraising events and sale of merchandise

Funding for both the operations of Chinatown and the projects it will implement will come from a variety of sources - public and private. Creation of a consistent stream of funding will be challenging in the short term and therefore TCP must rely on voluntary contributions from the public sector grants and sponsorships and other earned income. In the later years of the business plan implementation, more sustainable sources of funding will be explored, similar to what has been utilized in place management

Management and Operations Funding

Years Four and Five The first three years of the operations of TCP will be focused on building capacity and implementing successful initiatives that demonstrate the value of the partnership. In years four and five, and beyond, TCP will aim to make Chinatown increasingly self-sufficient in its operational and programmatic work. It is anticipated that in years four and five, additional funding will come from the following sources:

In the first three years of management, TCP will generate development funding through grants, donations, and consultancy to help get the precinct up and running. Once it is up and running, TCP will transfer management to the Indian Chinese Association, which will raise management funds through levees, rentals, registration fees, maintenance charges, ticketing fees for events etc. TCP fund generation will keep decreasing as Chinatown gains capacity and becomes self sufficient.

• By years four and five, ICA should be generating substantial funding through memberships and sponsorships • Opportunities to generate revenue from other creative sources such as the management of public assets may be negotiated • As the public and private sectors work together to explore a formalized place management framework that allows for a mandatory funding model to support place management, it is anticipated that ICA will explore implementation of this model in the precinct to generate resources.

Year One: 100% TCP Year 2 80% TCP 20% ICA Year 3 50% TCP 50% ICA Year 4 20% TCP 80% ICA Year 5 100% ICA

Each year TCP staff and Board of Directors will develop an annual budget and work plan identifying sources and amounts of funding committed and how that generated revenue will be spent on operations as well as projects, programs, priorities.


[next five years] POLICY & ADVOCACY INITIATIVES The Partnership’s role in policy and advocacy initiatives for Kolkata Chinatown will create a better overall environment for businesses and residents while ensuring that the precinct is a welcoming place to visitors as well. In the next five years, the Partnership, through TCP, will explore activities and projects to grow investments in Chinatown, while addressing issues in the precinct today that challenge the overall vitality, business environment and friendliness of the place. Develop a Resource for Doing Business in Chinatown The Cha Project will liaise with government agencies in order to make investing and doing business in Chinatown easier. Becoming a resource for investors and creating an easy guide to doing business will be an important role for The Cha Project. This guide can help clarify the application processes for licenses, permits, opening procedures, government contacts, and any information a new investor may need to know. The Cha Project can also serve as an important resource, providing one-to-one guidance as needed. TCP will help identify available space for businesses and draw desired business types to the precincts to improve the overall business mix. Introduce poverty alleviation strategies The presence of shanties and garbage is a huge deterrent to business. The first five years will focus on creative approaches to manage and eliminate poverty in the precinct by providing better sources of livelihood, living conditions, and sanitation. It will also make provisions in the neighbourhood for free


clinics, childcare, education, recreation facilities for the disadvantaged all of which will help create a cleaner, safer, happier precinct. Promote consistent policy enforcement Many of the government agencies actively involved in Chinatown have policies and regulatory frameworks in place to help ensure the management of an orderly environment, but more prompt enforcement on irregularities could be taken. TCP will actively engage the government agencies to jointly develop solutions to effect prompt enforcement. Create harmony and build community Chinatown is home to a complex mix of uses residences, businesses, heritage buildings, temples, shanties. These uses might sometimes be in conflict with one another. Mixed-use urban environments around the world have found ways to deal with this complex challenge by creating strategies, regulations and programs to build a sense of community among the precinct’s diverse stakeholders and mitigate problems while encouraging the best environment for all users. Advancing some of these ideas for Chinatown will be a focus of TCP for the next five years.

The first five years will focus on creative approaches to manage and eliminate poverty in the precinct by providing better sources of livelihood, living conditions, and sanitation.

The Cha Project’s journey through Chinatown’s transformation will be documented in a coffeetable book. For donors it will be a wonderful validation of how how their contributions helped change lives.

e Th a Ch

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finances &

Financial Model and Cash Flow The Cha Project’s financial model is based on the principles of self-sustainability and efficiency. As with any ambitious revival project, it will need capital to fund a range of needs and services. This funding will be obtained from a variety of sources, namely: n CSR funds n Institutional grants n Government funding n Private donations n Corporate sponsorship and loans n Fundraising events and sale of merchandise

The kinds of funding we will be seeking can broadly be divided into two categories – lump sum and ongoing funding. Lump sums will come in the form of institutional grants, and will be used for sunk costs and infrastructure renewal. Ongoing funding, on the other hand, will be used to build sustainability into our model by being supplemented by operational revenue. The three arms of our model – • heritage restoration • social change • business development – will all require money to be implemented properly. Initially, most of our costs will be for design, research, architecture, poverty alleviation, and business consultancy, but as the revival progresses there will be more construction and operation costs. Our

operations can be a huge positive branding exercise for our partners and, since we are first and foremost a social enterprise, we will work with our partners to draft contracts which leverage these opportunities and are beneficial for all parties involved. As a social enterprise acting as a market intermediary, The Cha Project will link buildings and businesses in need of revitalisation with potential investors and firms with the relevant expertise (ie conservation architects). Therefore, costs will be mainly for outsourced services and materials. There will also be a certain operating cost associated with daily activities. Meanwhile, revenue will be earned through consultancy fees, commissions, and place management revenues (rental, etc). As with any project with significant sunk costs, cash flow will initially be negative as infrastructure is developed. However, once businesses start moving in and footfalls increase, the revenue model will kick in and costs will be recovered. Funding Model Economic sustainability is at the core of The Cha Project’s financial model, and therefore all operations will work to become financially self-sustaining as soon as possible. Initially, the project will require grant funding and impact investment to get off the ground. Once operations are underway, the project will start collecting revenues from consultancy, rentals, and the use of public services. These will be

used to pay back loans, and any profit will be ploughed back for the next stages of the revival effort. Where will the money go? There are few revival projects as far-reaching or ambitious as The Cha Project. Because of its varied aims, there is need for a system of checks and balances to make sure funds fulfill their intended purpose. Funds will be earmarked for either social change or business development Donations g Institutional grants g Govt funding g Private investment g

Social change Heritage restoration Infrastructure Business dev.

Governing Policies and Accountability The allocation and use of funds will be strictly governed by policies which state which types of funds can be used for what purposes, and a system of accountability will be securely in place. This compartmentalisation of funds will allow us to keep the social change aspects of the project distinct from the more profitable ones, and prevent any conflicts of interest. Costing Our estimate for the total cost for old Chinatown is INR 14 crores (SGD 2.8 m) only, and that of the Food Street (Phase I) is INR 1.9crores (SGD 400,000) only.


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