Like numerous old and dilapidated buildings of Calcutta, especially in and around the central and the northern part of the city, there are many Municipal markets in the city, like the Lansdowne market, Maniktala market, Park Circus market, Southern market and others, which are in urgent need of proper repairing and renovation. Recently, the battered building of Lake Market has become a part of history and a posh Lake Mall has come up to take its place, as a joint venture project with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
Built in 1917, the College Street Market, supposed to be the third oldest market in the city, has also become the victim of modrenisation, when ignoring the responsibility of saving a heritage building, it was demolished and erased from the face of the city. There is little doubt that the building was really in a very dilapidated condition. However, instead of trying to take any sincere and positive step to save the century old building, Kolkata Municipal Corporation took the drastic action to pull it down and started to construct a new four-storey mall ‘Varnaparichay’, which is a joint project of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and M/S Bengal Shelter, on a public-private joint partnership basis.
Designed by the world famous architect Hafeez Contractor, the Book Mall is supposed to be a unique blend of Indo-Saracenic and Colonial architecture, along with the touch of the modern times. It is supposed to be India’s first integrated Book-Mall, with the golden idea of bringing together the publishers and the buyers, the bookshop owners and the book lovers from different parts of the world, in an area of nearly a million square feet, under the same roof. In fact, College Street, regarded as the educational hub of Calcutta, is traditionally a unique place by itself and Varnaparichay was supposed to add an extra flavor as an extension of this uniqueness.
It was planned that the ground floor of the enormous mall would be used to relocate all the shops and establishments that were housed in the erstwhile College Street Market and temporarily shifted to the closely located Marquis Square. While the first and the second floors of the new building would be sold as premium retail space to the big branded bookstores, the top floor would rehabilitate all the second hand bookshops that are located in the sidewalks of College Street. Initially, it was also communicated to the media that a space would be allocated where book auctions could take place and the unique mall would also feature a grand auditorium where book release functions and other cultural programs could be held. Apart from that, the proposed Varnaparichay was supposed to be equipped with all the modern facilities, like any other mall, along with a spacious food court.
Unfortunately, the process of construction of the building remained suspended for a long time, as M/S Bengal Shelter failed to clear the dues of 1,570,000,000 Rupees to the consortium of banks, led by the State Bank of India.
Nevertheless, now it seems that the financial problem has since been solved, at least for the time being, and the shops shifted to the Marquis Square have come back and sheltered in the incomplete building. However, the proposed Book-Mall is devoid of any bookshop till today and though the city has lost the old heritage building of College Street Market forever, nobody is sure, as to when the project of Varnaparichay will be completed.