Update (2 August): What is this huge (five-storey?) building in this plan? (It reminds me of the aborted ‘airport terminal’ building for the Penang Hill Railway.) Something to keep the developers/contractors happy? Do we need yet another ‘iconic’ building when we already have sore thumb Komtar, 1st Avenue and Prangin Mall nearby, with lots of unutilised space in them? Please, not more concrete structures when the space for a green lung is so limited. Thanks to QuercusBen on twitter for raising this concern.
Also, do we need even more boutique hotels etc? Be careful that this place doesn’t become a another gentrified heritage area, devoid of authentic living cultural heritage.
Original entry (31 July 2012):
The proposed Penang Heritage Square has the potential to be a landmark if done properly, with ample public consultation, plenty of green and public spaces, and a showcase of heritage street food.
Hopefully, it will compensate for the Komtar sore thumb sticking out of George Town. Perhaps, the hawker food zone can also double up as an open-air living street food museum, showcasing Penang’s street food heritage using a retro-setting reminiscent of the early post-war years of the 1940s to the 1960s.
Guan Eng outlines the plan for Komtar Phase 5:
Penang’s Heritage Square – Reclaiming Public Space For Penangites
The Penang State Government and Penang Development Corporation (PDC) are planning to develop Komtar Phase 5, comprising 4.5 acres, into Penang’s new heritage enclave, named Heritage Square. This is in line with George Town’s World Heritage Listing as well as to complement PDC’s revitalisation efforts for Komtar as the socio-civic centre and business hub of the State. This prime 4.5 acres of land in the heart of George Town will predominantly be public space, as part of giving back to city dwellers.
Heritage Square will comprise 5 major elements:
i. restoration and expansion of “Sia Boey” (Prangin Market);
ii. creation of urban spaces;
iii. creation of a Heritage Celebration Square and an iconic George Town Heritage Centre (GHC);
iv. reinstatement and adaptive reuse of heritage and old shophouses; and
v. restoration of Prangin Canal.
The Heritage Square and Centre will dedicate, consecrate and restore the cultural vibrancy of George Town by promoting the living heritage and street life in the inner city, as well as greening the city, thus ensuring a balanced development for the area.
The project which is at the planning stage, is also aimed at revitalising the Komtar Phase 5 area, and to enhance the heritage value and significance of the site by creating urban spaces and landscapes for healthy urban living.
The components of Penang’s Heritage Square comprise the following:
i) To restore and refurbish the existing “Sia Boey” (Prangin Market) structure. This will revitalise the “Sia Boey” into a retail and tourist site, comprising among others a visitors’ centre, crafts and souvenir retail areas, flowers and food hubs. To expand the “Sia Boey”, market, PDC will build an additional adjacent market to complement the existing one for the same intended use.
The restoration and revitalisation of the “Sia Boey” is significant to Georgetown, as it marked the core zone boundary of the Georgetown UNESCO Heritage Site;
ii) As George Town requires more public space for recreation, public congregation, celebrations and cultural performances, the urban public space which include same green areas will be to promote the first of its kind in Penang healthy living. The heritage celebration square will also provide a venue for the establishment of culture, arts and traditions in George Town, thus promoting cultural vibrancy and the concept of melting pot of cultures in the inner city;
iii) To refurbish and reinstate the urban setting of the area whereby existing traditional shophouses along Maxwell Road will undergo adaptive reuse into cafes, kopitiams, tea houses, crafts and handicraft centres, mini-museums, boutiques and B&B hotels which are in line with the heritage ambience and theme of the area. To also reinstate urban setting of the area whereby Maxwell Road will now be for limited vehicles usage with emphasis on pedestrianisation;
iv) A 5-storey GHC will be created which will further add to the vibrancy of the Heritage Square. This iconic building will serve as a venue for arts, cultural, heritage, community, youth and performing activities. The GHC will be raised above street level to provide street plazas for the public; and
v) To restore the Prangin Canal with plans for hawkers street food zone and street furniture amidst well-landscaped areas.
The Heritage Square Project will complement the adjacent Komtar building which is presently undergoing a revitalization process initiated by the Penang State Government and PDC which is aimed at bringing back the glory of Komtar, as the nerve centre of Penang.
The Heritage Square is a project not just for the urban community of Penang, but for Penangites and visitors to experience the old-world charm of George Town and its cultural melting pot, is all poised for success. The Penang State Government and PDC which has been the prime mover of urban redevelopment will undertake to work closely with stakeholders and heritage organisations like George Town World Heritage and other NGOs.
In achieving maximum public participation, I have requested that an exhibition be set up in Komtar next week to allow the public to give their views on the proposed Heritage Square so that we can have public input.
The project will also enhance George Town’s position as Malaysia’s most livable city and 8th most livable city in Asia, as well as to reinforce Penang’s position as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a tourism hub of the East.