UDA calls for RFPs to restore and develop two iconic properties in city

Monday, 11 September 2023 02:59 –      – 1159

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  • Two-storey building at Sir Baron Jayatillake Mawatha as Mixed Commercial Development with Tea Museum
  • Boutique hotel proposed at 80 Club premises

UDA Chairman Nimesh Herath


Urban Development Authority (UDA) Chairman Nimesh Herath last week announced calls for Request for Proposals (RFPs) to restore and develop two unique and iconic properties in the city of Colombo.

He said the UDA has commenced the renovation of the dilapidated and historical buildings island-wide that are designated under the Department of Archaeology as economically viable adaptive uses such as shopping malls and tourism-related activities by preserving their original architectural features whilst adding modern features and amenities. These complexes are functioning as public spaces for shopping, hospitality, leisure and sports activities.

Herath emphasised UDA receives numerous requests from world-renowned hospitality sector operators for amenities, particularly for foreign visitors, and they want to establish specific amenities without compromising the location’s character. Historical structures are popular among tourists due to their historical significance and unique identities.

Several buildings with historical value which were constructed in the colonial period in Colombo and other main cities of the country such as Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Galle, Matara etc., are vested with the UDA. These historical buildings often have unique and charming architectural features that have adaptive reuse market value and can be converted into high-end hospitality and leisure developments with conservation for future generations. Over time, this can lead to property appreciation, potentially increasing the value of the property. Further, investing in historical properties can diversify an investment portfolio. Real estate investments, especially in unique and historic locations, can provide a hedge against the economic crisis of the country. Therefore, UDA expects to explore these investment opportunities in the renovation of old dilapidated colonial buildings with the collaboration of the private sector investors while facilitating those investors for the said activities without Government financial support.

Accordingly, the UDA has issued Requests for Proposals (RFP) for the following properties, starting from 14 September, until 2 November. Potential bidders, including investors and developers, can obtain the RFP documents from the Real Estate Management and Development Division at the Urban Development Authority, 8th Floor, Sethsiripaya Stage I, Battaramulla. Additional information is available on the UDA website (

Renovation of building at No. 11, Sir Baron Jayatillake Mawatha as mixed commercial development with Tea Museum

One notable project underway is the renovation of a building situated at No. 11, Sir Baron Jayatillake Mawatha, Colombo 01. UDA wishes to call for Request for Proposals (RFP) from potential investors/developers either local or international to undertake the establishment of mixed commercial development with the Tea Museum by renovating this colonial building which is located within the commercial hub of the Central Business District of Colombo City where the area was designated as the historical town of the city by the UDA.

This two-storied building is a typical English structure from the middle of the 19th century and is located on Prince Street (Sir Baron Jayatillake Mawatha) Fort in the centre of Colombo – complete with elaborate plaster mouldings, elaborate cast-iron detailing and arches during the British era. Though considering its size, it is one of the structures that is graceful and proportionate, which enhances the historic streetscape’s character. The UDA owns the structure, which has been preserved in part without undergoing significant changes to its original architectural design. This historic structure needs urgent but careful conservation work because its current state is not very conducive to its survival.

On the Colombo Fort map of 1840, this land parcel is bare land and in the 1867 map, it was marked as a post office and telegraph office. In 1906 it functioned as a DPI office and library. It was built for the public library in 1914 and used as a Government office since 1948. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was the Department of Information. Before being vested with the UDA, the building was occupied by Home Guard Headquarters under the Ministry of Defence.

He expands on the importance of the property; the structure has decorative features and well-proportioned decorative mouldings that are typical of Victorian architecture. Plaster mouldings that are simple yet elegant give the structure its personality. This structure is separate from neighbouring buildings within the Fort of Colombo, in contrast to the majority of buildings there, which are adjacent to one another. There is a road on one side, which was likely the entrance to the later-developed open space behind it. Even though the street facade is not very wide, its presence among the other buildings along the street is very noticeable and adds to the vintage charm. A collonaded open arcade that was a fundamental component of public structures along roads during the British colonial era makes up the front facade. The arcade that surrounds three of the building’s sides is also a distinguishing feature.

This two-story building has charming architectural features that make it a pleasing structure that adds a distinctive character to the streetscape. It exudes the elegance of a typical English edifice from the mid-19th century. The building’s restoration will serve as a crucial eye-opener regarding the significance of preserving historically and architecturally significant buildings from bygone eras and repurposing them. There aren’t many of these structures, particularly not in Colombo. Therefore, careful and effective conservation and restoration will highlight the importance of such efforts. The goal of this restoration is to keep the building’s historic features, either by preserving them or replacing them if necessary. As much as possible, materials from the original building will be used in the conservation process along with the same tools and techniques. Even after years of neglect and exposure to the elements, a sizable portion of the building is still structurally sound. The majority of the roofs and other building’s timber members are recyclable. From the investor’s perspective, the primary focus is on preserving the plasterwork, and we are committed to retaining all the original detailing to the best of our ability.

UDA invites private sector partners to not only preserve this building but also utilise it for commercial purposes on a long-term lease basis. The estimated investment required from the private sector is approximately Rs. 500 to 800 million for the conservation and renovation of this historic structure.

Development of high-end boutique hotel at No. 25, Independence Avenue, Colombo 07

Another exciting project on our horizon is the development of a high-end boutique hotel at No. 25, Independence Avenue, Colombo 07.

In line with a decision taken by the Cabinet of Ministers, the property was vested with UDA to open the premises to the general public. This property, nestled in the residential Cinnamon Gardens, stands as a testament to British colonial rule. Surrounded by lush lawns, it was once exclusively enjoyed by the British executive community in Sri Lanka, the clubhouse is still patronised mainly by the upper classes of society.

Elaborating on the previous condition of the property, UDA Chief Herath asserts that prior to being acquired by UDA, 80 Club premises operated under a legacy management system that promoted exclusivity among the nation’s so-called elite, with only its tenants changing from time to time. The condition of the property was in a deteriorated status and bad shape when it was taken over by the UDA. Therefore, under Phase 01 of the development plan, the property has been refurbished by the UDA at the total cost of Rs. 411.40 million by preserving its architectural design. After the comprehensive refurbishment and restoration, the property has got a luxurious and stunning finish as it is today.

Phase 01 was implemented as a priority project by the UDA, with the Sri Lanka Navy contributing with their labour force for the refurbishment and construction work, a total area of 14,200 sq. ft. was revamped. This included the ground floor area of 7,625 sq. ft. and a spread of 6,575 sq. ft. of the upper floor in conjunction with the front garden which was also a beautifully landscaped area where it is presently hired for public functions. The renovated building also comprises a mini theatre, a billiard room, a fully-fledged boardroom for meetings and dining facilities spread out over six different rooms. The total investment made by the UDA included the internationally slandered kitchen equipment and accessories worth around Rs. 125 million.

UDA Chairman invites potential investors and developers, both local and international, to participate in Phase 02 of this transformative project through RFP (Request for Proposals). This phase envisions the creation of a high-end boutique hotel, featuring 26 rooms, a pool, and advanced hospitality features. The clubhouse will continue to serve as a luxurious restaurant and bar, complete with ample landscaped garden space for evening functions.

A boutique hotel here can showcase the city’s heritage, offering guests a unique and immersive cultural experience. Many properties in Colombo 07 boast colonial-era architecture. UDA has refurbished the property by preserving that architectural structure. Therefore, developing a boutique hotel can contribute to the preservation and restoration of these historic buildings, enhancing the area’s visual character.

The development of this property as a high-end boutique hotel potential to elevate the city’s tourism industry, celebrate its heritage, and create opportunities for both residents and visitors, while also contributing to its cultural and economic vibrancy. Therefore, this is a valuable and rare investment opportunity for investors who are looking for an investment in the centre of Colombo 07.



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