The Old Napier Mole Bridge - commonly known as the Native/Netty Jetty Pull - would have forever been associated with heaps of garbage and the drug mafia, had it not been used to create a majestic entertainment complex - Port Grand.
The harbour-based entertainment hub stretches along the 1,000-feet bridge, encompassing an area of 200,000 square feet.
If you have ever visited the San Francisco Bay Area, you would certainly know what the Grand Leisure Corporation had in mind when initiating the project in 2005.
“Port Grand has been inspired by Pier 39 in San Francisco’s Bay area, while the food street resembles Quincy Market in Boston, and the night light it aims to offer is similar to Clarky Quay’s in Singapore,” says Shahid Firoz, Chief Executive of Port Grand Limited which is a part of Grand Leisure Corporation.
“US-based architects, who work for Nework in New Jersey, designed this complex based on our local culture. Although it was an intense and exhaustive phase, it all paid off as the result is a hundred times better than what we had perceived on day one.”
Firoz adds, “Every civilised city has a hub for food and entertainment. People in Karachi know what its like to have fun at the beach, but they had been deprived of an entertainment project on the port.”
What it offers, what it promises
The project — initiated in 2005 and finally inaugurated in May - consists of two phases. The first phase includes a food street, a cathedral-like Old Napier Tavern (a hall to accommodate people for corporate meetings), a mosque which is under renovation, and The Temple Point which is basically a separate entrance designed especially for people visiting the neighbouring Hindu temple.
Firoz asserts that the proximity of the Port Grand to the Hindu temple will help promote interfaith harmony among people due to increased interaction. “The project will go a long way in promoting peace and tolerance for different religions as we have a mosque, a temple and a cathedral-resembling Tavern Hall in one place, under one roof.”
Meanwhile, the second phase, which is still in the works, will include a car park to accommodate 800 cars, another food street having sajji or kat-a-kut, an alfresco seating area for theatre or concerts, and three world class restaurants namely Fusion Food, Mediterranean Food and Asian Food. “If all goes well, the second phase will open around the time of Jinnah’s birth anniversary,” adds Firoz
The customer’s side of the picture
For a better analysis of this mega entertainment complex, The Express Tribune talked to those who were paying their maiden visit to the city’s grand port.
“It’s a new concept and if you observe the architecture closely, you’ll notice that it’s very unique,” said Sidra Adil, mother who had come with her family.
Meanwhile, 18-year-olds Anum Arshad and Sania Farooqui who are friends said, “The place was great and I think it has an aura of Dubai to it!”
However, when asked why there is a restriction on young boys or even lone men entering the place, Firoz admits that he is not a fan of that rule either but it is just a step towards ensuring security. “Frankly, I hate this condition myself but citizens feel far more secure when they have families around them, rather than philandering men gawking at them.”
With the birth of Port Grand, Firoz hopes to instill a sense of pride in not only the citizens of Karachi but also in the nation since this concept is unprecedented in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2011.