LAHORE: The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) plans to establish a Central Business District focusing on MM Alam Road to encourage businesses and create jobs in the city.
The mooted Central Business District will cover parts of Gulberg roughly bounded by Jail Road to the north, MM Alam Road to the east, Shahrah-e-Noor Jehan to the south and Hali Road to the west. It will include all of Main Boulevard up to the Liberty roundabout.
LDA officials said that the focus of the CBD would be MM Alam Road. The road hosts many of Lahore’s most upscale restaurants and shopping centres, but is also in poor condition and usually jammed with traffic. The officials said two options were being considered for MM Alam Road. The first was to repair the road and make it one-way only. This would ease congestion and encourage more businesses to open there.
The other, more radical, option was to close the road to all vehicular traffic and make it a “posh food street” with pedestrian traffic only, the officials said. This would require setting up several parking plazas to ensure that connecting roads are not paralysed with traffic and parked vehicles. The Park-and-Ride Plaza at Liberty Market is to open soon.
Residents near MM Alam Road expressed concern over the plans, particularly the second option. “If MM Alam Road is made into a food street, I will move to another area,” said Gulberg II resident Abdul Ghafoor.
“When I moved here in 1992 it was considered one of the best places to live in town,” said Ahmad Raza Khan, who lives on a street off MM Alam Road. “Now we face many difficulties due to the rapid commercialisation around here.”
But he conceded that commercialisation had greatly increased the value of his property. Businesses in the area were sceptical about the LDA plans. “We have been hearing about these sorts of LDA plans for many years but none have been implemented,” said Sheikh Saleem, chairman of the MM Alam Road Traders Association. “The business community would welcome the rehabilitation of MM Alam Road, but we don’t think that the LDA has the funds for it.”
He complained that the LDA didn’t consult businessmen when drawing up its commercialisation policies. “The LDA makes a decision overnight and imposes it on us.”
One of Lahore’s foremost town planning experts said it was surprising that the LDA was thinking of declaring a central business district without consulting businesses and shoppers. “It could be a good plan, but only if the proper ground work is done in consultation with the business community,” he said.
He said the LDA always made short term plans and lacked long-term planning. He said that the Park-and-Ride Plaza would probably not ease the congestion much, as most of the parking spaces would be taken by the owners and employees of shops and restaurants, leaving members of the public to park on the roads.
Under the newly introduced Land Use (Classification, Re-classification and Redevelopment) Rules 2009, the LDA has fully commercialised some roads besides permitting business ventures on specified segments of other roads, an LDA official said.
He added that the LDA intended to conduct comprehensive urban studies throughout the areas it controls over the next 12 to 24 months, following which it may reclassify certain roads.
The LDA official identified the fully commercialised roads as Jail Road (Ghaus Al Azam Road), Main Boulevard, Gulberg; MM Alam Road; Noor Jehan Road; Tariq Road; a road off MM Alam Road; the road behind Liberty Market; Firdous Market Road (Ali Zeb Road); a link road to Main Market from the Shezan side; the road from Main Market to the post office; Chen One Road (a segment of Ghalib Road); Civic Centre Road in Garden Town; Model Town Link Road; Al-Madina Road, Township; Bagrian Road; and Main Boulevard, Samanabad.
The roads where commercial activity has been allowed on some segments are Maulana Shaukat Ali Road; Main Boulevard, Shadman; Main Boulevard, Garden Town; College Road, Gulberg; Abul Hasan Isfahani Road, Faisal Town; Zafar Ali Road, Gulberg V; a road leading to MM Alam Road; the Shadman segment of Race Course Road; a road leading to Main Boulevard, Garden Town; Wahdat Road; Ferozepur Road; and the road from the UBD Canal to the railway crossing near Mughalpura.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2010.