Mumbai to get a slice of Times Square

 India is set to create an open air cultural hub in Mumbai, taking cue from New York’s famous Times Square, which is the centre of Broadway theatre district and a global entertainment hub.

The tourism ministry on Friday approved a proposal of the Maharashtra government for creation of such a cultural hub. It also sanctioned Rs 5 crore as central financial assistance for the first phase of the implementation of the project with similar amounts for every subsequent phase.

This would be over and above what the government of Maharashtra would spend in creating the basic infrastructure to incentivise private sector parties to invest in the project,” the ministry said. “It will be a cultural hub in Mumbai, mostly open air, along the lines of Times Square in New York,” Tourism Minister Shripad Naik said.

Although the exact location is yet to be finalised, Kala Ghoda, a neighbourhood in South Mumbai, is being considered for the project.

Kala Ghoda, a crescent-shaped precinct is Mumbai’s premier art district has a large number of the city’s heritage buildings, art galleries and educational institutions. It has several museums including the Prince of Wales Museum.

Under the project, to be implemented by the state government, a 15-foot-high Tricolour, made of hard, transparent materials and lit from within, will be installed at the site which will provide a photo opportunity to visitors, just like the US flag in Times Square, a ministry official said.

“Large electronic billboards at the cultural hub will give corporates an opportunity to advertise their products while also providing income to the owners of buildings that host such electronic advertisements and entertainment to visitors,” the official added.

The entire pedestrian area at the project site will be paved with stone slabs and wide steps rising upwards would be created for visitors to sit on. “At Times Square such benches are made of high quality, hard, transparent and coloured plastic lit from below, as well as some sitting areas on steps made of steel,” the official said.

 At the proposed cultural hub, drinking water fountains with reverse osmosis-treated water will be developed. One or two high resolution web cams and close circuit televisions will be installed which will project the visitors on gigantic screens to be installed opposite the benches as well as provide a live “stream” on the Internet.

Humans dressed as cartoon and film characters will walk around the cultural hub to give visitors photo opportunities with them, as it happens at Times Square. “There will also be street performances,” a ministry official said.

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