Ageing buildings in Bukit Bintang in midst of redevelopment
Stories by BAVANI M
Photos by P.NATHAN
IT IS inevitable that Kuala Lumpur’s fortune is largely determined in the heart of the city.
As congested, polluted and noisy as it is, the capital will continue to attract people like a moth to light.
Therefore redevelopment of older areas in the city is imminent.
A good model that is ripe for “regeneration” is the Bukit Bintang district or famously known as the Golden Triangle.
Jalan Bukit Bintang in particular is bracing itself for a major transformation once the construction of its Bukit Bintang MRT station is under way.
It will be a catalyst for change that will see an influx of people and businesses to spur the economy to greater heights.
Once the MRT is completed, the urban landscape and its surroundings is poised to go through major make-over that will see many of its ageing buildings forced to take on a more modern look to remain in business.
It is no surprise to note that many of the commercial buildings located here are already in the midst of renovating and refurbishing to make themselves commercially viable.
A check with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) revealed 11 applications for renovation and refurbishing work had been received from commercial buildings in and around Jalan Bukit Bintang alone.
Commercial buildings such as the 36-year-old Sungei Wang Plaza, Yayasan Selangor building, Lot 10 shopping centre, BB Plaza and Plaza Low Yat have either started or in the midst of planning for major upgrades.
According to industry sources, Berjaya Times Square, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur and even the hotels in the vicinity are revamping their looks or planning new additions.
Malaysian Institute of Planners (MIP) president Prof Datuk Dr Alias Abdullah said it would be unwise for land and building owners not to leverage on the MRT project and to refurbish their ageing blocks now.
“Now is the time to do that (refurbishment), the potential benefits for the long term is tremendous and those who do not, are only going to lose out in the long run,’’ said Prof Alias.
Malaysia Shopping Malls Associa-tion president H.C. Chan said rejuvenation of older malls was critical for long-term investments if they wanted to remain competitive.
Real estate negotiator Shamini Stoere concurred with Prof Alias and Chan, saying that ageing properties were a big no-no to potential investors and tenants.
“Kuala Lumpur being the economic hub and Bukit Bintang as its nucleus not only contributes 40% to the nation’s growth, but is also a common address for multinational companies to set up shop.
“Most investors prefer new offices for their staff and are not willing to fork out money just to refurbish buildings.
“Most old offices require a whole lot more work than just replacing carpets and repainting. Wiring, piping and lighting are major headaches, which cost millions to repair,’’ she added.
A good example is Bukit Bintang’s first shopping centre, the iconic Sungei Wang Plaza is embarking on a RM30mil refurbishing exercise that is set to change its facade and interior.
Based on the mall’s newsletter, refurbishing plans include replacement of common area ceiling, tiles, signage and floor directory.
All toilets, concourse stage, mall atrium and lift lobby will be upgraded and covered pedestrian walkway will be built.
A local daily had reported that the ageing Yayasan Selangor building, which is currently vacant, will be transformed into a boutique hotel.
The daily quoted Yayasan Selangor general manager Ilham Marzuki, saying that Kenanga Wholesale City Sdn Bhd won the bid to refurbish and operate state education fund Yayasan Selangor’s Bangunan Bukit Bintang commercial property here.
Upon completion, the building will feature 144,000 sq ft of space while its basement level will be connected to the proposed Bukit Bintang Central MRT station.
Yayasan Selangor had earlier this year issued tenders for the redevelopment of their assets to maximise their value and income generation.
Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Kuala Lumpur branch secretary Tan Ching Meng said the capital city, and particularly the matured areas and tourist hotspots, must keep re-inventing itself to stay vibrant and relevant.
“They must be allowed to re-brand themselves every now and then to create a vibrant street steeped with character and style.
Tan, however, was quick to point out that any refurbishment must be tastefully done, and adhere to local authority bylaws to ensure that there was no haphazard development in terms of design and architecture.
A point that is echoed by Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) president Saifuddin Ahmad, who felt that City Hall should play a part in ensuring that building owners adhere to design criteria.
“Certain design criteria should be in place for structures that are located in prime tourist areas, otherwise it will be chaotic.
“Engaging with the retail representatives is important, better still if incentives are provided,’’ Saifuddin said.
About 12 areas spanning a total area of 90ha had been identified as a good model for regeneration projects in the heart of the city.
The areas listed in the Draft Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020 include areas such as Sang Peng, Loke Yew, the former Pudu Jail, old shophouses along Jalan Bukit Bintang and former government quarters in Jalan Davis had been marked for redevelopment.
Different sites have different rejuvenation plans.
For instance, areas with old, overcrowded PPR (public housing schemes) units will be upgraded to bigger units balanced with public amenities to provide residents a better quality lifestyle.
Meanwhile blighted housing, industrial areas and old shophouses in the city will be more commercially attractive while the open space in front of the 113-year-old Pudu Jail has been earmarked for mixed commercial use.