An article in theSun today discusses loopholes that could allow four high-rise condo towers to be built on a site in Pykett Avenue, Penang, where one stood a mansion that was demolished without local council approval. Are we heading for a Metropole Hotel-style ‘solution’?
Read this report in today’s Sun:
Remember Metropole Hotel?
The hotel was surreptitiously torn down on Christmas Day in 1993. The developer was later ordered to incorporate the facade of the hotel into the new high-rise structure. It turned out to be a farcical facade.
Read this report in 2001 from Malaysiakini about what happened to the Metropole Hotel:
In 1993 it was designated a heritage building by the Penang Municipal Council. Among the listed owners of the Metropole was the president of the Council who was also the chairman of the Penang Gerakan.
A series of shady deals unfolded: Metropole was allegedly declassified from category I to II, meaning it could be torn down as long as the facade was kept. It was then sold to a RM2 or 20-Baht (paid-up capital) company called Dolphin Square Private Limited for RM9.5 million.
On Christmas day (1993) it was obliterated in a lightning operation and the debris carted away. People smelled something fishy and a storm ensued. The hue and cry and the wrath of the people filled the papers, and provided live ammunition to the political opposition.
“How can a RM2 (20 baht) company buy a RM9.5 million house in a designated heritage area, if it is not assured that it could be knocked down for development?” asked opposition leader Lim Kit Siang. “Which bank is going to finance the deal if it is not assured of a quick return?”
The state government’s damage control went into full swing. On Jan 3, 1993, the city council ordered the owner to rebuild the house to its original form in six months. Failing to comply would result in a maximum fine of RM10,000 and an additional fine of RM500 for each day’s delay. The Chief Minister lauded the council for it’s swift action.
On Feb 14, the company was charged in court for demolishing a heritage house without permission and subsequently fined RM50,000. Today, seven years later, the storm has abated but nothing has been done to restore the house. What has happened to the fine accumulated – RM500 a day for each day of non compliance?