Kopitiam operator Wang Teng Kok, who specialises in Siamese chicken rice, is not a happy man. He has until 30 November 2016 to vacate his well patronised coffee-shop premises fronting Penang Road.

World Class Land evictint tenants in Lorong Bertam area.

Teng Kok, who employs 10 workers, is currently paying RM3,500 in monthly rental for the shoplot. His two-year tenancy agreement expired on 31 August 2016.

The shop he operates from, along with 25 others at Penang Road and Bertam Lane, has been sold by the landlord to companies affiliated to World Class Land, in his case WCL (Bertam L) Sdn Bhd.

World Class Land evictint tenants in Lorong Bertam area.

World Class Land is the property arm of Singapore’s Aspial Corporation Ltd, which started out as a traditional jeweller in 1970. The firm now has property development projects and investments in Singapore, Australia and Malaysia. Aspial is headed by CEO Koh Wee Seng, the son of the family jewellers who is now ranked 43rd among Singapore’s 50 Richest by Forbes.

“We are deeply concerned that ONE company (regardless of foreign or local) is uprooting a great number of families and gutting a number of heritage buildings in George Town,” says George Town Heritage Action founder Mark Lay.

World Class Land evictint tenants in Lorong Bertam area.

“The WCL model is to buy, evict tenants, renovate, build and drastically increase rentals which local Penangites are mostly unable to afford.”

Over at Noordin Street/Gurdwara Road nearby, 37 houses have been targeted in one spot alone. All tenants have been evicted.

The firm’s overall plan appears to be to increase floor space by building high-rise blocks. In Melbourne, WCL is building the southern hemisphere’s tallest residential tower, the 101-storey Australia 108.

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In George Town, WCL has submitted an application to build a 46-storey tower block that would rival nearby 65-storey Komtar in height. The application involves the demolition of 11 houses to be replaced by 115 condos and office space.

The application has not yet been approved. What this means is that such plans can still be stopped by the authorities without having to pay any compensation.

Noordin Street/Gurdwara Road lies in the Seven Streets Precinct, which was included by the city council in a dossier to Unesco in 2008 as worthy of conservation. But because the precinct lies outside the protected Unesco heritage buffer zone, conservation guidelines are lax and it has become the latest playground for developers. This may explain why WCL has snapped up 128 properties in the entire precinct, according to Mark (see below):

WCL snaps up 128 houses in 7 Streets Precinct

The George Town Heritage Action founder is at pains to stress that WCL is doing nothing illegal. If anything, it is going by the book.

“But there is a moral issue at stake here,” he says, that is the loss of diversity both in the built and intangible cultural heritage of George Town.

That’s not to mention the displacement of the established local community.

Mark suggests five steps that could be taken to stop or slow down WCL’s bulk purchases of heritage properties:

  • Limit the change of use for heritage buildings.
  • Zone out certain activities – ie high-end businesses which do not benefit the local community.
  • Make use of provisions of the Penang Heritage Enactment/Penang Heritage Regulations 2016 (which comes into forces today). The enactment provides for the position of an all-powerful state heritage commissioner, who can “declare any cultural heritage and natural heritage as state heritage”.
  • Involve the National Heritage Department (JWN) – should the buffer zone be extended to cover Seven Streets Precinct?
  • Involve Unesco – seek advice/comments when Unesco officials come to assess Sia Boey.
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As things stand, the state appears to be leaving the Seven Streets Precinct as a free-for-all area to be gobbled up by property developers who want to turn it into an ‘international city’ – and all that it implies.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Mark suggests that the new state heritage commissioner could declare the precinct as part of state heritage, worthy of conservation.

Otherwise, what we are faced with now, he warns, is a Unesco world heritage site in inner city George Town while next to it, another world is emerging: a playground for the rich – similar to the superficial heritage trappings, fancy eateries and glitzy lights of Nagore Road – that is well beyond the reach of ordinary Penangites. Indeed, gentrification is fast swallowing up the cultural and natural heritage of the area.

What is gentrification? According to Benjamin Grant in pbs.org:

Gentrification is a general term for the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture. The term is often used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders. But the effects of gentrification are complex and contradictory, and its real impact varies.

Many aspects of the gentrification process are desirable. Who wouldn’t want to see reduced crime, new investment in buildings and infrastructure, and increased economic activity in their neighborhoods? Unfortunately, the benefits of these changes are often enjoyed disproportionately by the new arrivals, while the established residents find themselves economically and socially marginalised.

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144 COMMENTS

  1. Pak Phai Hang Cheng or spoil the market scene Singapore irritates some but bring pleasure of many 2nd/3rd generations owners of pre war heritage shophouses.

    Imagine how to physically divide up the house among the inheritance? So Spore is the saviour. Lets say RM1.6 million for a dilapidated old unit, then if divide between let’s say 2 then each get RM800k.

    RM800k can get a decent new condo of RM600k, and balance RM200k for a old couple to daily shake legs drinking kopi where ever in Penang and log into Anilnetto.com reading heritage dongeng from the likes of tunglang!

    • For decades these owners have derived little rental yield during the era of Rent Control.
      It is logical that they cash in now for the windfall to improve their livelihood in their twilight years.
      No guilt since their units are not defined within the heritage zone.

    • Rich Malaysians also buy up Singapore properties to spoil their market. Genting boss is from Malaysia taking up prime estate in Sentosa for Resort World.

      • Singaporeans will argue that the influx of Malaysian talents escaping NEP in Malaysia also deprive the locals their jobs.

  2. Stop selling state land to foreigners, PKR man tells Penang government
    https://sg.news.yahoo.com/stop-selling-state-land-foreigners-045953756.html

    GEORGE TOWN: A PKR leader today has urged the DAP-led state government to stop selling anymore state land, especially to foreigners.

    PKR Tanjung division chief Ng Chek Siang said since there was only limited amount of state land left, the state government must decide wisely on ways to develop Penang in line with the needs of its people.

    Ng said housing has always been a point of contention for many Penangites and problems associated with housing included affordability and location.

    He said as land is a scarce commodity, prices kept on increasing especially on the island state.

    “As such, I strongly urged the state government not to sell anymore state land, especially to foreigners.

    “Save whatever land we have left for our future generations – make them into green lungs, build public housing or just anything that will be beneficial to the public except selling them for a profit.

    “Helping Penangites improve their livelihood and environment should be a duty and first priority of the state government!” he said in a statement.

    The DAP-led administration has constantly come under fire from various quarters, accusing it of selling land to foreigners, which could be developed to help the locals.

    There were also reports that foreigners, mostly from Singapore, purchasing pre-war shophouses in George Town and renting them out many times the previous rate, sparking complaints by locals.

    © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

    • China now focus on Melaka prperties eg Gateway Melaka.

      Its a matter of time begore the shift focus to majority chinese Penang island.

      The Singapore investment consortium is smart as they can possibly sell those refurbished shoplots at even higher prices to the communist mainland China.

      So lets just wait and see the second wave of foreign buyings of heritage Penang.

      Wonder why local rich tychoons like Vincent/Robin Tan of Berjaya willing to buy up Korea Jeju property and Cardiff football lub but no confidence in Penang?

  3. This morning, I went to Komtar Pos Office to pay bills, then walked to Lorong Bertam passing by Hock Seong Choon Kopitiam.
    I chanced upon the “Siam Ke” (Siamese) Chicken Rice Ori-Maestro. I asked about his affected business & he told me he will
    relocate to Kek Seng Kopitiam further down the Penang Road. He told me more house tenants in the vicinity will face the same predicament.
    His parting shot: “Ha-mih lang e-kam soe? Chi-le Singapore Lang cho phai hang-cheng!”
    ( Who can truly afford to rent? These Singaporeans really spoil the market! )
    Some months ago, I got the same response from my friend who is still a business tenant in the same shop in Lebuh Armenian.
    Retiring his auto car aircon business of more than 30 yrs, he is now renting out tricycles to tourists.
    His parting shot: “Chi-le Singapore Lang cho phai hang-cheng!”

    • Have you tasted the Siam Ke?
      What is your verdict?
      Value for money?
      Recommend to Anil readers?
      Got picture to showcase?

      • Why should I show & tell to satisfy your Angry-Bird questioning?
        Just go there & call for “Siam Ke” lah! Aren’t you a man?
        Or is it your Venerable taught you how to angry-question after a life’s experience of Am-A-See-See Questioning?

      • Next time whoever at Kek Seng kopitiam (could be a heritage icon since in operation for many decades) when order Siam Or chicken rice, do get side order of its famous icekacang topped up with icecream.
        However, Anil may not get free WiFi there to do work.

      • Komtar just opposite, yet no Penang Wifi?
        What a shame of great promises ala 308!!!

      • Anil should be able to get telco sponsor for Free Wifi access 24/7 anywhere in Penang.
        Perhaps this is one of the perks in Penang Forum?

      • Janji Free Wifi di seluruh Penang, tapi tak boleh pakai!
        Jangan lah shiok-shiok orang (hanya untuk memancing Undi) jika tak mampu buat apa yang menyilai seperti Pontianak!

      • Wang must be very disappointed that tunglang has refused to promote his stall when given the opportunity. Refusal to comment could give impression to readers that the food is not good. Maybe Wang did not give discount to please tunglang?

    • In order to appeal to young customers, Mr Wang may consider switching from Thai chicken to Korean Fried chicken, which is very popular among the K-Pop generation watching the Korean dramas. Korean Fried Chicken with cold beer will be a hit in the evening. Just a suggestion for him when he restart his business at Keng Seng kopitiam (once famous for its Law Bak?). Mr tunglang can relay my suggestion to him.

      • Are you proposing that “Siam Ke” be rebranded + repackaged as shortie-skirtie “Han Kok Ke”?
        How can Mr Wang afford to employ 3-some or 4-some “Han Kok Ke” K-poping + dancing along ‘go kaki’ (5-foot way) to entice customers to taste “Han Kok Ke”???
        “건배 여자” (geonbae yeoja! = Cheers Girls!) will most likely reverberate every evening to reach the top floor of Komtar Tower!

      • Psy at Han Chiang proves Korean wave popularity. Selling chicken with beer extra revenue no harm try out. Can encourage Kek Seng boss plays K-pop to attract younger customers as most retirees at nearby SiaBoey have ‘migrated’ to Relau kopitiams serving more affordable street foods.

      • Kotler 4P marketing to sustain MrWang business.

        Selling chicken rice with fried ones plus beer is one form of product (P) extension.

        Playing thai music sabai sabai as trademark promotion (another P).

        Place (another P) at Kek Seng kopitiam can leverage on its long legacy but parking (5th P) a problem there.

        Price (final P) can set multi tier pricing, badics at RM3 plus add ons.

      • Aren’t you aware you missed one pertinent (P) of “Siam Ke”?
        May I teach you to whisper “Ah Hia, Ah Hia”
        Tis sure to convert sceptics to loyal customers! More so with a Tiger Beer in hand!

        You may try this in time to help revitalise Mr Wang’s “Siam Ke” Chicken Rice business at Kek Seng Kopitiam.
        Remember to let me know when!

  4. Walked along RopeWalk Piazza last Saturday after visiting Thye Huat (hardware shop).
    RopeWalk Piazza is a row of prewar houses recently refurbished by developers for rental to upmarket businesses.
    My observation:
    The 5-foot way is indeed obstruction free & clean & sometimes slippery due to the afternoon rain.
    There are house numbers & letter boxes with symbols etched onto black horizontal plaques ‘build into’ the exterior walls for clear identification & consistency of design.
    Businesses of tenants: A tattoo shop, cafes, waffle shop, restaurants. The image is of course up-market & more for the yuppies.
    Peering in & just for a moment deletes the heritage ambience on the outside, one may mistaken the outlets from Gurney Paragon.

    Walking across the road towards Jalan Cheong Fatt Tze, I came to Kun Kee’s Salute Brand (Chap Tabik) Kopi-O factory & office.
    It is a generations-old family business well known among the older Penangites who love affordable Penang style Kopi-O.
    The office now has a modern setting to keep up with the times (might be the business is now run by the younger generation?).
    I am not sure whether the 2 facing buildings are owned by Kun Kee Food Industries or otherwise. Comes gentrification, I believe this famous brand will just relocate sap sap soi.

    Of the two businesses of different times, which one will last into the future?
    Your consumer support will to a large extent determine their fate.
    I will still buy 2 packets (of 30 sachets each) of Chap Tabik for my daily satisfaction of drinking Penang style Kopi-O without burning a hole in my pocket.

    • Baby Boomers can appreciate the classic nanyang flavored kopi but Gen Y would prefer to have their names written on the Sta.rbucks coffee cup.

      Nowadays the father may want a family dinner at Chu-char stall of kopitiam, but their children would insist on Dragon-i dinner. Sign of the time.

    • Of the two businesses of different times, which one will last into the future?

      Retailers/restaurants are targeting iPhone generation (usually not smart in financial management) who have higher propensity to spend on easy credit (from parents and banks). While Nokia generation has fond memories of old establishments, they seldom part with their money easily nowadays to keep their beloved business afloat.

      So more likely for Chap Tabik to make way for Old Town or Ah Huat, if not Starbucks, to feed the consumer behavior of the smartphone generation.

      • Old Town in Farlim opposite 1 Malaysia Clinic closed shop many moons ago.
        I was told the same in Perak Road.
        Ah Huat sells coffee with money prizes to entice customers. Ah Niu plays coffee boy to entertain potential coffee drinkers.
        At the end of the day, it’s the heavenly taste of Genuine Kopi that counts. Compared to Coffee Tree’s Penang White Coffee, Ah Huat ‘bi bo kopi-ien’.
        Let’s see which brands will last into the future.
        When the customer base is increasingly going to be bankrupt, the brand that feeds their bin-chui ego is most likely to slip on slippery market share!
        More so for bland or me-too slippery bling-bling brands that have no differentiation & unique brand values to grow with customer aspirations.

      • You have a point. Unfortunately the younger generation does not think like you.

      • Unfortunately for the brands that crave for a share of unstable consumer market, brand building is going to be a practice of nightmare & cyclical change of niche marketing strategies! Good luck to the marketing department.

      • Ah Niu at Sunshine Square last Sunday promoting Ah Huat kopi. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak much hokkien as most of his young fans prefer Mandarin. The goings don’t know what the actual meaning of Huat? May be Heng Ong Huat rally call when they reach voting age?

        Cap Tabik kopi o also getting more expensive. Tunglang should check out once in a while tabik offer at Pacific Komtar after regular haunt at new Rope Walk Little Spore!

      • Cap Tabik kopi o also getting more expensive?
        Pls go to Sui Hwa Supermarket to buy a packet (of 30 sachets) @ Rm9.90.
        The ubiquitous Red packet that beats many me-too-brands with fancy packaging or shouting prize money – “Huat ah, huat ah, huat ah!”

      • Young people likes Latte as they can have coffee art with the cream on top.
        Also they find it cool to be seen hanging out at Starbucks.

      • Savour every sip of your coffee.

        Coffee could become extinct if global warming continues on its current trajectory, according to a report by The Climate Institute. By 2050, researchers said, the amount of suitable coffee farmland is expected to have halved due to rising temperatures, pests and fungi. Wild coffee is expected to be wiped from the face of the planet by the year 2080.

        http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coffee-could-be-extinct-by-2080-due-to-climate-change-destroying-areas-suitable-for-growing-beans-a7222241.html

      • So, all the more for sustainable development without the wild cat development rampage of endangered Nature!

      • Ah Huat and Ali Cafe are both from the same company. Same product but different packaging to appeal to different market segments. They can further tap into Indian market share if they launch Kabali cafe, but the royalty will not come cheaply.

      • I thought Ali Cafe was no better than Ah Huat!
        What a brand extension exercise that brings no quantum leap of brand quality of the “Oomph”

  5. Can the heritage association put in place the regulation of development around the heritage area. Like maximum height of building. The do and don’t. Abd social responsibility that they must made. Development must go on, is good to have money in and grow Penang. And don’t always think singaporean is bad, there are a lot of good people in Singapore who can support charity. I only against cutting hill for building.

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