Independence Square and its surroundings considered to be one of the most prestigious locations in Colombo are to be converted into an exclusive haven for cultural activities, recreation and academic and research excellence. `This would be like an academic zone` said the Director General of Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Dr. Saman Kelagama. IPS earlier this week laid the foundation stone for its new head quarters opposite the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute building (SLFI).
Walkways, limited parking and a green environment is in the blueprint undertaken by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) for this area. The Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) which is constrained by the new guidelines on buildings is shifting many of its functions to the Malabe IT Park.
The ITI building near Independence Square is to be converted into a science museum which would compatible with the nature of the zone that is being developed in the area. `We want to preserve the prestige of the area and make this area more accessible to the public than it is now. At present not many people access the facilities like the public library or the national archives unless there is a specific research need. Our plan is to make it more public oriented so that ordinary people will be able to go in and do a bit of reading and research at places like Rupavahini and SLBC (Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation),` said UDA Additional Director General Prassana Silva.
The Auditor Generals` Department will also be shifted to Battaramulla and this building is to be converted into a cultural museum. Construction and commercial activities of the Independence square zone is going to be streamlined and no further construction will be allowed in the immediate surrounding area of the Independence building. Many of the existing government offices in the site are to be relocated while the Bank of Ceylon building would be demolished as it does not compliment the architecture of the zone.
The UDA has issued a set of guide lines which would limit any new construction or refurbishment of existing buildings to a maximum of three floors. Further the requirements specify that all buildings should follow the uniform features that have been listed out and that no building should have masonry walls along the road frontages but only wrought iron fences. However any residential activities that have been in existence prior to the gazetting of the new regulations would be allowed to continue with minor alterations only to ensure the existing functioning of the building.
The development plan aims to make the area more pedestrian friendly with minimum motor traffic. A proposal to limit the motor traffic in the immediate surrounding area of the independence zone is now under discussion. `This involves a lot of parties such as the CMC, the Traffic Police and is very complicated so we are still in discussion as to how exactly this should be done keeping in mind that there are many sports clubs in the area as well,` said Prasanna Wijetunge, UDA Deputy Director.
The UDA also plans to develop a number of access roads that lead to the Independence Square. A new road linking SLBC, Rupavahini and SLFI which would fall onto Reid Avenue has been completed.
There would be two more new roads that would link Bauddhaloka Mawatha to the Independence hall which would fall on either side of the current Auditor Generals` office. The UDA is now carrying out rehabilitation work of the immediate surrounding of the Independence square hall, which would be mainly an open space which is a green area.