Sri Lanka: “Open Spaces. Open Minds”–Town Hall Square Model Development Zone

October 22, 2013


The Town Hall square in Colombo is a significant land mark in the heart of the city. Located in close proximity to the Central Business District and National Hospital where over 60,000 people pass by daily. 15 bus routes intersect in close proximity to the square making it a point of connectivity. The Town Hall building is one of the many architecturally significant buildings inherited from Sri Lanka’s colonial past. Adjacent to this majestic building is the Viharamahadevi Park which is one of the few parks found in the city. From a historical perspective, the Town Hall Square has remnants of the old Garden City concept introduced during the colonial period, with many architecturally significant buildings located in the vicinity.

The expanse of land belonging to this square was unfortunately fenced and gated for many years, due to the lack of lighting that would make the park an unsafe environment, particularly for women, after nightfall, de-facto denying the city dwellers from experiencing the joy of open spaces, which in turn would open their minds to a world of opportunities.

It is with this concept of Open Spaces-Open Minds that Metro Colombo Urban Development Project (MCUDP) will open up the spaces within the Town Hall Square, upgrading a total of 50.8 hectares surrounding this site. While improving the functionality of the Square, it will also retain the existing architectural and environmental character of this landmark area, improving access to all public spaces located within the Square. This ease of commute and enhanced environment would benefit the general public including both the visitors to the city and the residential population.

The MCUDP aims at providing pedestrians with safe, clean, and convenient walkways along primary, secondary, and tertiary road networks. This aims to improve access to commercial and recreational spaces such as Town Hall Square. Activities that the project undertakes:

  1. Upgrading of road network around the Town Hall Square, namely the area bounded by Dharmapala Mawatha, Marcus Fernando Mawatha and C.W.W. Kanangara Mawatha,
  2. Upgrading of the pedestrian sidewalks with improved street lighting and soft landscaping to improve the functionality and the overall visual impact of the area,
  3. Upgrading of the Town Hall premises to improve pedestrian access and linkages between the surrounding road network,
  4. Upgrading and landscaping of center isles and roundabouts, and
  5. Upgrading of the Vihara Maha Devi Park located opposite the Town Hall Square to enhance functionality and recreational use whilst creating pedestrian footpaths through the park that improve connectivity.

In addition to improving the access to and public use of these important recreational spaces, most of the upgrading investments are actually aimed to rehabilitate the road network, which is expected to ease congestion and improve both pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow through the area. They also upgraded most of the underground utilities and enhanced the drainage system of the area to reduce the future impact of floods.

This project demonstrates the enhanced capacity of The Colombo Municipal Council to work collaboratively and seamlessly with the different utility service providers such as electricity, water and telecommunications companies. This collaborative effort of providing underground cabling will help the Town Hall Square Model Development Zone to function without any damages to the roads for the next five years as a part of an integrated planning approach. The lessons from this pilot project will be leveraged into future urban regeneration projects.