Recently, Mayor R Sampath Raj announced that the Karnataka government was considering building a 'Bangalore Square' at the junction of Brigade Road and Residency Road in the city, along the lines of Times Square in New York. While the plan to reclaim public spaces has been welcomed by many, the feasibility of such an ambitious idea remains suspect.
"I think it's a fantastic idea. However proposals are easy to come by, the complication is always in the execution," says Tara Krishnaswamy, co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru.
"Pedestrian plazas are something Bengaluru desperately needs because of the over-emphasis on cars and infrastructure for vehicles. This announcement is heart-warming because they are trying to finally build places for people."
"An open urban public space or a plaza has a variety of benefits. It calms the traffic, enables pedestrians to cross more easily, reduces accidents and gives a space for people to converge. Right now, the junction of Brigade Road and Residency Road is a fairly manic one. It would be great if it was turned into a multi-use area with plants and trees, seating options for people and space for street art and music," she adds.
There are obvious caveats though, the lack of space being the main one. "The authorities are welcome to make the entire Brigade Road a pedestrian-only place. If everything else is going to be the same and they are just building a plaza around the war memorial, it's going to be tiny," Tara notes.
Not everyone is enamoured with the idea. Badrinarayanan Seetharaman thinks the authorities should focus on retaining the authenticity and charm of the city rather than building showcase projects which are not suited here. "They need to build something that is appropriate and necessary to our context, rather than recreate a Times Square just because it's popular. Looking for inspiration is fine but copy pasting is not going to work," says the founder of Gathr, a venture which aims at orchestrating alternative social experiences.
"It will be nice to reclaim public spaces but they can do so by revamping parks, rejuvenating lakes - those are things that make Bengaluru what it is. Times Square is not Bengaluru," he adds.
Gowri Omanakuttan, marketing and communications manager at Campmonk, too says that a 'Bangalore Square' is not going to change anything for the common residents.
"We have a long way to go before we can look at reaching the benchmarks set by cities like New York. It is not enough to just develop the heart of the city, progress has to be spread across Bengaluru. Better roads, better transport, dedicated efforts on a city-wide basis to replenish ground water, improved air quality - these have to be ensured if the aim is to make Bengaluru an international city," she adds.