Once upon a time, it used to throb with life. People from the city and nearby towns would wear their party best and descend on the Sector 17 plaza in the evenings. Many would sit around on the benches and even stairs as the musical fountain swished back and forth.
THE UNIQUE PLAZA
Everyone agrees that Sector 17 has lost its sheen, and this is upsetting. After all, it isn’t just any other sector of the city. The diminishing crowd translates into financial losses. But more than that, there are sentiments attached to this place. Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier designed the sprawling piazza on the European pattern and intended it to be a pedestrian’s paradise. “The proportion of this square and the way it’s separated from the shops around it makes it unique,” says architect Namita Singh, who’s been involved in many projects with the UT administration.
APATHY TO BLAME
It’s a combination of market forces and administrative apathy that has brought the sector to this sorry state. No one could have done much about the factors like economic slowdown. But being a public property, the onus was on the administration to take initiatives to make it vibrant and keep the sector’s pulse going. There was a total failure on that count. The sector kept losing its vibe, and other places, especially the Elante mall, were quick to fill up that void. Locals and outsiders flock to the mall, like they used to religiously congregate in this sector. Elante is the new Sector 17.
MARKET FORCES AT WORK
There are various factors that led to a decline in the footfall here. For one, the city’s only Inter-State Bus Stand was just a five-minute walk from the plaza. So, a trip to plaza was a must-do on the itinerary of all those travelling to the city. The bus stand has now been divided with a major chunk shifted to Sector 43.
The shifting of district courts to Sector 43 and many other government offices to Panchkula, Mohali and other places has also contributed to a drastic drop in the number of visitors.
Who can forget the cinema halls that used to attract massive crowds once upon a time. In days of state-ofthe-art multiplexes, the Neelam theatre wears a forsaken look. Jagat has converted into a multiplex but in absence of any shops it remains a renovated cinema hall. The KC Theatre with its unique dome shape was once a rage, but it’s been a work in progress for ages.
THE LONG ROUTE TO REJUVENATION
On paper, a lot is happening. The Smart City project envisages rejuvenation of the sector. “We will install energy-efficient lights, lay tiled pedestrian walkways, introduce underground smart parking, smart advertising panels, and cycle tracks besides landscaping the open spaces,” says an official. But does that sound attractive enough? Much more needs to be done.
“Two things are extremely vital for this sector to survive—get rid of vendors and chaos at the parking spaces so that people feel like coming back here,” says Jagdish Kalra, general secretary of Sector 17 Traders’ Association