Mumbai, Nov 8 : The Maharashtra government will soon become the new landlord of the landmark Air India building at Nariman Point on the shores of the Arabian Sea, months before its Golden Jubilee next year.
A Cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Wednesday cleared the proposal to buy the Air India building for Rs 1,601 crore — 10 years after the erstwhile Air India vacated it and moved its headquarters to New Delhi in November 2013.
“The government is taking all steps to secure early possession of the building, and a decision has been taken to waive all the lost incomes and other penalties of AI due to the state government to expedite the process,” said an official, declining to comment on a specific timeline.
Located strategically at the western entry via Marine Drive to Nariman Point and flanked by prestigious addresses, the building is barely 100 metres away from the Mantralaya and the Maharashtra Legislature building.
A unique aspect of the building is a one-floor private lift leading to the grand top-floor office of the then AI Chairman, when the airline was previously owned by the government.
The doyen of Indian aviation, the late J.R.D. Tata was among the last of the occupants who would sit in that exclusive well-appointed office in the building that will celebrate its golden jubilee in 2024.
After it becomes the new owner, the state government is likely to get around 46,500 sq mt build-up space for its offices in the building.
A major fire in the Mantralaya had destroyed several departments in 2012 and later they were functioning from different locations, entailing rentals of more than Rs 200 crore per annum, which will be saved now.
The departments like rural development, water supply & sanitation, public health, and medical education, which are operating from an alternate location now, are planned to be shifted to the Air India building, along with some other departments.
Owned by Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), the 23-storey white building has some nine vacant floors, where the state government departments shall be housed.
Besides, the Income Tax Department sits on eight floors, GST Department on three floors, two lowest floors are still with AI, but the AIAHL is expected to hand over the building without any encumbrances.
Incidentally, in the past five years since 2018, when it was put up for sale, the prime property was coveted by the Life Insurance Corporation of India which has its headquarters opposite the building, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority, located around 2 km away, but the state government bid was the highest.
Earlier, AI was eyeing to retain the two top floors but the state government refused to play ball, and now it will be the master of the entire building which has a two-level underground parking, a tunnel drive-way, a commanding view of Marine Drive up to Malabar Hill and beyond, and other striking features.
Constructed in 1949, the Air India building was built on a state government plot when the entire Nariman Point complex was developed as a commercial hub on the lines of Manhattan in New York.
The Nariman Point has two five-star hotels, headquarters of several national and international banks, multinational companies, foreign consulates, many Indian corporates, a couple of media houses, a few diamond companies, brokerage firms, etc.
Incidentally, the building was one of the prime targets of the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai. A car bomb had exploded in the building’s basement garage, killing 20 people and destroying the offices of the Bank of Oman located above.