A little known eight-lane highway has been planned inside the 131 acres of land to be reclaimed along the Gurney Drive coastline for the Gurney Wharf project.
From what I gather, the 131 acres for Gurney Wharf comprises:
60 acres – ‘Park’ ie green strips running parallel to the highway
18 acres – Eight-lane highway
20 acres – ‘Government reserve’ land (for Wellness City of Dreams project?)
4 acres – ‘Government reserve’ land
8 acres – (Next to government reserve) ‘Future use’ including underground car park
21 acres – Others (not sure what this is for – for Wellness City of Dreams project?)
This 131 acres is in addition to the 760 acres being reclaimed by E & O for an artificial island under Phase 2 of its Seri Tanjung Pinang project. (This new island will be about 300m opposite the reclaimed land in Phase 1, which includes Straits Quay, and will end in front of the present Gurney Drive roundabout. It is expected to be be connected to Penang Island by two bridges. Phase 1 of STP, comprising 240 acres, including 20 acres for road reserve, has already been reclaimed.)
It is expected that 110 acres of this total of 891 acres to be reclaimed will be surrendered to the state government – to be handed over to the developer of the tunnel and three highways as part of a swap deal. I understand the tunnel and three highways were the state government’s idea which they wanted transport consultant Halcrow to include in the RM3m Penang transport masterplan. (I was present when the Halcrow consultant asked a state exco member whether these should be included.)
The eight-lane highway will separate Gurney Drive from the reclaimed coastline for Gurney Wharf with the only access to the reclaimed coastline probably through a couple of underpasses.
Seen another way, the 60-acre ‘park’ out of the 131 acres reclaimed along Gurney Drive comprises parallel strips of land on either side of the planned 18-acre eight-lane highway.
The eight-lane highway is not easily visible in the artist’s impression as it is almost hidden by trees! It seems to end rather abruptly near the Gurney Drive roundabout.
But this end of the highway (near the present Gurney Drive roundabout) will probably connect to a highway to be built in Phase 1 of Seri Tanjung Pinang on the 20 acres of land originally reserved for the Penang Outer Ring Road project. If you remember, Porr was aborted after a loud public outcry (that reportedly included several politicians now in the state government). But it could now morph into a partial ‘Porr 2.0’.
At a time when more visionary cities are trying to move towards sustainable transport/mobility, discouraging cars and even narrowing existing roads, the state government seems to be doing the exact opposite.
Another road will extend from the Gurney Drive roundabout heading towards the sea over the reclaimed land and then over a short bridge linking the new coastline to the Phase 2 artificial island. But this was not shown in the Gurney Wharf public display.
Instead, this image is from the detailed EIA for the 760-acre island:
The pink areas are for government reserve land.
This road to the island will probably slice through three plots covering 50-acres of the Wellness City of Dreams. The developer is tunnel developer Zenith and Ewein.
Work has started on 3.67 acres for the City of Dreams: two slim 38-storey towers supposedly with ‘sea view’. Another 4.43 acres will be for City of Dreams II.
Here’s the location for City of Dreams I:
And here’s the promo for the project.
The public chatter on one property website is that this is a high-density project and so far the views are not entirely encouraging. Check out the worried if sometimes hilarious readers’ comments in Penang Property Talk. Concern was also expressed about the early collection of so-called ‘booking deposits’.
One of the supposed selling points is that a Rolls Royce limousine would be made available for hire by residents who feel the urge to show off. Another selling point is the ‘sea view’ – but some are wondering if this will end up as mangrove view and eventually reclaimed land view. Who knows, if residents are lucky, they might even get an eight-lane highway view?
What about the rest of the 50-acres for Wellness City of Dreams? Well, one side could end up right smack in front of Gurney Plaza extending up to G Hotel. Someone passed me this graphic, which wasn’t put up at the Gurney Wharf public display. So I am unable to verify its authenticity. But it seems plausible that this is the crucial missing link:
You can see the two slim towers of the City of Dreams I on the left perimeter of the project site.
Anyway, is the 20-plus four acres of government reserve in front of Gurney Plaza for the Wellness City of Dreams? The following is the area in front of G Hotel and Gurney Plaza:
The top left hand corner of the graphic is probably where a highway interchange will lead to the large artificial island and the Gurney Drive roundabout.
So the Wellness City of Dreams project could be near an eight-lane highway?
Remember, the state government is supposed to hand over 110 acres of land to Zenith, the developer of the tunnel and three highways. Zenith in turn has entered into a joint venture with Ewein to build the Wellness/City of Dreams project.
This land is supposed to finance the infrastructure that Zenith is supposed to build (in addition to a 30-year concession for tunnel tolls). (But is the tunnel project really going ahead?)
The eastern side of the eight-lane highway leads to the proposed undersea tunnel, which will be somewhere offshore from No. 1 Gurney Drive (and near another controversial tower), where Gurney Drive bends to connect to Northam Road.
The display at Gurney Drive does not address the question of how this 131-acre reclamation for Gurney Wharf, alongside the 760 acres for the STP Phase 2 artificial island, will affect tidal flows and sedimentation along the rest of the northeastern coast including Penang port and the mainland.
Meanwhile, the MBPP has also put up a request for proposals for existing land next to the Gurney Drive roundabout, outside the 131-acre land reclamation.
What kind of project is going to sprout there?
I understand many people have raised concerns about traffic dispersal. Others were simply taken up by the fancy artist’s impressions, one of which masked the eight-lane highway with trees (though in the layout graphics, a fat grey line did indicate a highway). Still others were excited to see what looked like so much green space in congested Penang, without realising there is going to be a major highway next to it.
But the 24 acres of government reserve and eight acres for future use were also shaded in pale green, even though it was not clear what this would be used for and if property development is allowed here, what kind of density would be allowed.
Do the people of Penang really want an eight-lane highway at Gurney Drive? It says a lot that I don’t think many are even aware of the plan for an eight-lane highway.
To sum up, the Gurney Wharf project is just one leg of a three-legged ‘elephant’ stuck in the mud off Tanjung Tokong and Gurney Drive. The three legs:
- the large artificial island probably connected by two bridges to the mainland (one of the bridges connecting to the Gurney Drive roundabout.
- the 50-acre City of Dreams/Wellness City of Dreams project in Bandar Tanjung Pinang, which will probably be on either side of the road extending out to the sea from the Gurney Drive roundabout.
- and the eight-lane highway with green strips or ‘park’ next to it (Gurney Wharf)
So you are only seeing one leg of the ‘elephant’ wallowing in the mud at the Gurney Wharf public display. Perhaps this limited glimpse was what was required for this particular project. It should be noted that any “encouraging” public feedback is based on this partial glimpse of what the entire 891-acre land reclamation really entails.
What is really needed is for the state government to display the whole elephant including:
- a breakdown of the 760 acres (of which 60 acres is for the state government) + 131 acres = 891 acres to be reclaimed (and a further breakdown of the 131 acres)
- a clear indication of the route of the eight-lane highway on either end of Gurney Drive;
- the precise location of the 50-acre Wellness City of Dreams project (not to forget the affordable housing component) in relation to Gurney Plaza;
- the precise location of the remaining 60 acres of the 110-acres to be handed over to the tunnel developer, Zenith;
- the monster island off-shore from the Gurney Drive roundabout; and oh yes,
- the traffic dispersal for this mammoth undertaking and its impact on nearby roads.
Only then would the public be able to provide meaningful feedback.