The developers of the RM25 billion Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project have been telling us how green and carbon-free their project is going to be.
But what they didn’t tell us is they actually wanted to cram in as much as they could into the Turf Club land to maximise profits. In fact, they wanted a density that would have made it twice the density of Hong Kong!
Somehow, the PGCC’s Teheran-born architect, Nasrine Seraji, managed to convince the developers that no one would want to live there if they went ahead with their original plan.
Even so, it looks like the PGCC could end up with 33 tower blocks of over 40 storeys each. That is still massive.
And isn’t there going to be any social housing – low and low-medium cost housing – in the Turf Club site itself?
Here is an excerpt from Canada.com’s interview with Nasrine.
Canada.com: What projects are you working on?
Nasrine: The redevelopment of the Penang Turf Club in Malaysia into a mixed-use development. It’s huge — 100 hectares and 2.5 million square metres of housing. Also, an urban planning project in Vichy, housing in Grasse, student housing in Bordeaux …
Canada.com: What are your ideas for the Malaysia project?
Nasrine: The client wanted a density that was twice the density of Hong Kong. We convinced him that he needed to come down in density, that nobody would ever want to live there.
The environment is a big issue. You’re talking about huge amounts of car exhaust. Everyone has cars. Petrol is cheap. Do you have a concrete jungle? Or five parks around your building, which can increase the oxygen intake of your building?
The developer only wants luxury housing. We say you can’t just have luxury housing because then it becomes a gated community. You need to also have social housing. These are the negotiations that take place in order to allow integration of different income levels of society.
So the developer only wants luxury housing, presumably because such housing has fatter proft margins. No place for the lower income group in this “Global City” project, huh?
But then, there is a quota requirement for developers to build low and low-medium cost housing in such upmarket projects. In this case, apart from the 7,000 upmarket homes at the Turf Club site, the developers would be required to build a couple of thousand homes for the lower-income group. So where are these going to be built? Don’t tell me they are going to be built near the Rifle Range flats or some other congested, run-down place.
Anyway, I just heard that Patrick Lim’s briefing today at The Mansion was poorly attended. Apart from the Fox Communication folk in tow, Lim had brought along a traffic expert, Dr Tai Tuck Leong, the managing director of Perunding Trafik Klasik, to allay concerns over traffic congestion.
But only four or five people turned up for the briefing and a couple of these raised some hard questions – like how would this project look like in say 15-20 years? (Perhaps they were thinking about how Komtar, that other concrete-jungle mega project of the 1970s, looks like today – drab, worn out, and looking very sorry – and to think that all its phases have not yet been completed.)
The main Penang-based civil society groups effectively boycotted the PGCC briefing. Why did they boycott? From what I hear, they were not impressed with the thought of being “consulted” or briefed two days before the official launch on 12 Sept – bear in mind that the project has been on the drawing board for several years now – just so that the developers could say they had briefed the NGOs.
I must try and find out what happened at the Jesselton Residents Association meeting with the developers held at the Penang Sports Club today.