Another deserted mall: A sign of ‘development’ gone wrong

Shuttered shoplots - The property market is slowing down

This is yet another deserted mall in Penang. This place in Bayan Baru used to be bustling with eateries. No longer.

Fewer people can afford to eat out? A glut in property?

Blog visitor Michael writes:

It is because ‘development’ in Malaysia is not driven by a social consensus about what works well for people living their lives. Rather ‘development’ is mostly driven by private businessmen only intent on one thing; how to enrich themselves by acquiring land at lower cost, and employing shoddy building methods that result in shabby rundown looking buildings after a few years.

Money is then spent on advertising their newer better project down the road (these days they put somes plants at the top and have some hanging down the walls, which seems to give them licence to call the building green) which sadly entices consumer-minded people to go there and abandon something built a few years back. Hence a cycle of waste is perpetuated.

Buildings are being torn down after 20-30 years or totally renovated because the materials used means that they have leaked, and we all know what leaking water can do to a building.

It seems to me that new is always better here in Malaysia, thus generating a frenzy of always abandoning the old… unless the old can be proven to attract tourists, and even then developers want to build high rises on heritage sites. All they have to do it seems is use the heritage building as the front door step … how ugly.

I would advocate for the strict introduction (and enforcement) of federal and state laws whereby the government uses the democratic process to ensure that development in Malaysia is appropriate to and enhances the social and economic wellbeing of all. It is well past the time when the laissez-faire attitude that private interest knows best is put to death.

There is a very important role for government to have at all levels of society, from the local resident committee to local council, to state and federal levels. They provide the the voice of the people, a necessary restraint to the freewheeling private investor who is often divorced from the area within which the ‘development’ takes place.

In fact, give some leverage to the ordinary person on the street and I think we would all be amazed at the innovative and constructive thinking that is forthcoming. There is a role for the businessman; however, they must accept that money should not drive all decision-making and recognise the right of people to have a major influence on how their most immediate environment are constructed.

It is indeed sad to note here that the Penang state government effort to reintroduce local government elections into Penang has been rejected by the Federal Court. An essential element of any democratic government system has been missing in Malaysia for 49 years.

The current crop of buildings being erected in Malaysia don’t meet the standards of what a sustainable building should be. Huge concrete towers destroy trees, create heat islands, require air conditioning, and is increasingly seen, creating scars on the landscape somewhere else.

Malaysians need to go back to the drawing board, and I suggest they rediscover the elements of their older towns and cities. What type of buildings are sustainable for a tropical environment? How can we re-integrate the forest back into our lives and thus benefit from the clean air, the natural cooling shade, the natural accumulation of the humus forest layer for our gardens. A building should last for more than a 100 years and will do so if built appropriate to the environment to start with, and then regularly maintained.

Why are the shop houses of Georgetown still strong while modern homes seem to deteriorate so quickly?

Please help to support this blog if you can.

Read the commenting guidlelines for this blog.
Notify of

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This is not just a Malaysian problem. Big real estate projects are popular with those who have come by wealth too quickly. They are assisted by the finance industry which is equally reckless, as the global Recession showed. Grandiose projects suck up capital that could be deployed elsewhere until they precipitate the next ineviable economic crash. Then, as ordinary people suffer enforced, pseudo-scientific “austerity”, the “too big to fail” fat cats are rescued. If only a few years have passed, some of the abandoned white elephants are then revived.


D’Piazza is basically rows of shop houses disguised as a shopping mall. The positioning as a shopping centre is all wrong as Penangites prefer the comfort of air-cond malls with great publicity. GenY prefers to be seen in hip places to suit their identity. The name itself seems to relate to Pizza Parlour and is misplaced in the demography of Bayan Baru.

tokidoki s/o rilakkuma

wrong Feng Sui for D’Piazza.

Why ? Becoz Italian sounding names won’t gel with local spirits.

Hence PISA (originally intended to sound Italian) now called sPICE (at least Ah Soon can tell you the ‘brothers’ can associate it with spicy nasi kandar !).

D’Piazza like Italian colisseum where the gladiators fought with the beasts, So Lillian Too now would say it’s not auspicious at all

Super K

You are wrong. Totally misguided. Your “Penangites prefer the comfort of air-cond malls” statement totally missed the fact. Penangites prefer sweating under hot sun cycling and that will be the way to go. Penang cycling projects will be successful. All Penang state projects will be successful under the best CM LGE leadership.


tokidoki s/o rilakkuma

Gerkhins went for reverse psychology course (wawasan U ?) and came back rebranded as super kay-poh ?

K Power

@tokidoki s/o rilakkuma

I changed my nickname to “K Power”. BTW who is @Gerkhins?


K = Karut?

Ong Eu Soon

i don’t pay for service fees, sewage fees, water bill, parking fees. I only pay for electricity. I have plenty of car park available no need to fight, plenty of open space for my activities. But you need to learn a skill from me to in a mall. how to send all the spirits away. if you ask me why there is abandonment it is because you have encroached into the space of the death. so it is their turns to chase you away and takeover the place. i just make an abandoned mall slowly back to life at Farlim.… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

smart way to live in malaysia; live in a mall with dirt cheap rental with all the abandoned space to do what you please.


Onestop, midlands @ pulau tikus used to be bubbling, but now???

Shop owners rugi banyak ???

Super K

Please have faith in our taint-less, honest, hard working, handsome and transparent CM LGE. Whatever projects delivered by him are for the people and economy of Penang.

More shopping are good for the economy and the indicator of economical progress.


I have invested in malls for nearly 3 decades all over the world, looked at tens of thousands of malls including many many failed malls. I have never heard anyone say private sector wasteful investment is the reason for a failed mall and worst that more govt planning could avoid it.. Malls failed for many reasons, some of them quite subtle. If this mall was successful before and failed now, the reasons will take some sophistication to understand. But as I understand it, this mall was never really successful. The developer really did not know what he was doing –… Read more »

Super K

I dont know why we should question the smart strategies formulated by honest, hardworking, clean and transparent CM in LGE. We need more shopping mall, high end condos to cater the needs of high end elites and immigrants. Penang will be the global city surpassing Singapore, Tokyo, and NY.

Penang City, the pride of Malaysians.


Super K, there is no such thing as Penang City, only Georgetown City which was gazetted as such since colonial times but Alliance and then BN then refused to recognise after Merdeka just to spite Georgetown residents. Makes me wonder if you are even a Penagite! Under BN rule, town planning gradually became a shambles as bigjoe99 also pointed out below. Many of the seaside condo developments were approved pre-2008 and I have seen approvals dating as far back as 1992(!) and later revived before LGE took office. LGE took a lot of unnecessary flak for projects approved before he… Read more »

Super K

You completely misunderstood my post. CM LGE is so great that had turned the entire Penang into city level, regardless of official recognition of city status. Such achievement only attainable by our maverick CM LGE. He is clean, smart, hard working and is our best ever CM. And handsome too.


loo sen

How could you pass your Sejarah when no part of Penang has been accorded city status by Regim BN?

Super K

Who needs BN? BN is history now in Penang. We got our Sejarah that is all the goodness generated by our hero, the cleanest, bestest CM LGE. I shocked that you still refer to BN Sejarah. We write our Sejarah, the PR Sejarah just started in Penang. The Legend of Cleanest CM in LGE.



Incidentally Anil, D’Piazza Mall was built pre-2008 and approved by the BN-administered municipal council. What was the basis for the approval given?

Super K

In case you just confuse about what is Penang, let me tell you:

Penang does not need local plan but in fact Penang only needs the clean, hard working, and exceedingly smart LGE as CM. That is good enough for us in next 20 years as LGE is so young now.


This is not an unsurprising problem, even in Europe! I recall when I used to live in Germany in the 1990s that the Oberhausen shopping mall (touted as the largest in Europe then) had a relatively low footfall despite all the fantastic facilities and retail outlets provided. You even had an indoor running track to test your sports shoes before buying and the food court was twice the size of the biggest shopping centre food court in Malaysia today! They had built this high quality behemoth in a small town with lots of open spaces and had hoped to draw… Read more »


The pic looks like D’Piazza Mall near sPICE (across the road). The shophouses on the front was designated to be dining (food) purpose BUT sadly many outlets have since moved out or u know what lah. It has a big conference floors but also sadly fails o take off. With 1World shoplots across the road doing better in terms of food business, D’Piazza is truly in sorry state except for the shoplots facing the main road. Inner shoplaots I would say 80% unoccupied yet after OC granted nearly 3 years ago ! With Promenade commercial lot on the way; and… Read more »


2pm on Friday – possibly shops close for Sembahyang Jumaat?


When passing through the area, I would naturally compare D’Piazza and 1World. Just by looking at the outer shops at D’Piazza, you can see it does not have much visitors compared to 1World. One of the reason I feel is the setup and the location. 1World is more inviting, while D’Piazza seems to be fencing itself up. People seem to flock to 1World more probably because there are more choices and you don’t need to pay to park, though parking is limited sometimes. How long 1World could last depends on how good those restaurants do. I would recommend the porridge… Read more »


It is because ‘development’ in Malaysia is not driven by a social consensus about what works well for people living their lives. Rather ‘development’ is mostly driven by private businessmen only intent on one thing; how to enrich themselves by acquiring land at lower cost, and employing shoddy building methods that result in shabby rundown looking buildings after a few years. Money is then spent on advertising their newer better project down the road (these days they put somes plants at the top and have some hanging down the walls which seems to give them license to call the building… Read more »


Its ‘shophouse’ image can no longer attract customers who prefer air-cond shopping mall like Queensbay Mall that has better tenant mix with ample car-park, as well as cinemas to draw the crowd. Also do not forget Feng Shui factor. As eateries catering for lunch time office crowd, the business could not sustain the high rental, right?

At least Bukit Jambul Complex is still drawing crowds, mainly the Indons and Banglas workers as the locals have since switched to Queensbay Mall.


You mean the Indonesians and the people from Bangladesh are still using Bukit Jambul Complex.


You will now find malls after malls being built complete with Soho. Even if the apartment is not a Soho, the unit are built in together with the malls. Example are Perak Road, Perak Lane, Macalister Road, Sungai Pinang, Jalan Tunku Kudin, Triangle in Relau, Jelutong Road and many many more. All these apartment many do not have the recreation space and greenery allotted unlike like the normal apartment. Worse still their assessment rate are rated as commercial and not residential. Chose havoc you want at the next GE like Selangor which for them there is no consensus but lies… Read more »


I don’t like SOHO too because it allows developers to escape the requirement to build affordable housing. The state must put a stop to this. And Anil, if it is indeed true that there is an oversupply of shops why are the prices of shops and properties rising instead of stabilising or even reducing. A bubble usually bursts. Why is that not the case in Pg? Even prices of condos and shops in KL fluctuate and have recently stabilised, but in Pg, it keeps going up and up and up. Are the buyers in Pg so rich that they can… Read more »


Kevin, Gurney Plaza’s fortunes was only revived after CapitalMalls Malaysia Trust of Singapore took over its management. Initially it was also in danger of becoming a failed mall. On the whole many Malaysian shopping centre owners have not got a clue about mall management. In KL, KLCC Suria is only successful because of the imported Westfield consultants from Australia. Likewise, Mid Valley Megamall is only successful because of the Singaporean shopping mall consultants which ran it during the first 6 or 7 years of its existence. I doubt this would have been the case had the developers tried to run… Read more »


There is no oversupply of shops and commercial unit. This mall been built quite a long time ago pre 2005. In fact at that time, I did went to see the place and found it to be almost completed deserted with only 1 or 2 lot being operated. It was some what very eerie. If I am not mistaken this mall is built not by a private developer but by some govt agency or statutory board and it was supposed to be for bumiputra. The location is good but the design of the mall is not appropriate couple with the… Read more »


sapc1915, this brings us back to my point that if there was truly a glut in commercial properties, and lower spending power by the ppl, then all malls would be affected, particularly the ones serving the middle and upper middle class like Gney Plaza and Queensbay. The reason they can survive is because they appeal to ppl. Building good commercial units with a good management will ensure its survival. In the case of Pg, we have a glut of useless property with bad management. That also explains why the prices of shops do not go down, because these units are… Read more »


It isn’t peculiar to Penang as even properties or malls on the outskirts of KL are hardly occupy. Shoplots next to Cheras Sentral where Econsave Alam Damai located occupancy rate probably less than 20%.