THE near-empty SStwo Mall in Section 19, Petaling Jaya, is headed for redevelopment and a rebranding exercise.
According to Andrew Neary, general manager of Pramerica AsiaRetail, an entity under AsiaMalls Sdn Bhd which owns the shopping centre, it will be significantly reduced in size and be much more community-based with emphasis on provision of local services and better food.
“Details have yet to be finalised but there will certainly still be a shopping centre here, it just will not be what it is like today,” he said.
The plans, however, have hit a hotbed of controversy as about half a dozen tenants currently occupying the neighbourhood mall have expressed anger after having been served notices in October last year to vacate by March 31 with no compensation forthcoming.
The tenants claimed they were initially given the impression that some form of compensation would be paid to help in the relocation of their businesses.
“During the meetings between tenants and the management, we were requested to submit our respective claims to them for consideration.
“They promised to make proper arrangements and pay reasonable compensation. There were also verbal promises to exempt tenants from paying up to six months of rent,” said one tenant, Naturelite director Dr Samuel Kurian Thomas.
The tenants were surprised when two months after the submission, they were notified via a written lawyer’s notice that no compensation would be paid. The rental exemption was also not fulfilled.
Neary refuted the claims, saying “We never promised to offer them any form of compensation, whether written or verbal,” he said.
In reiterating the management’s stand that all tenants would have to vacate the premises by the end of the month, Pramerica development manager Charles Tan said everything was done by the book.
“When they signed the contract for the lease, there is a clear clause stating the mall can terminate the tenancy in 3+1 months. In view of the Chinese New Year season, we gave them an extension of two months,” said Tan, referring to tenants’ protests that too short a time was given for the move.
Dynasty Dragon Seafood Restaurant director Stanley Yap relocating the business would put a dent in revenue.
He had invested up to RM5mil in the Chinese restaurant and banqueting hall, and has been operating at the current premises for the past three-and-a-half years.
“We had forecasted breaking even by the third year but then the mall announced its closure,” he said.
The restaurateur also felt ire over the bill of quantity.
“What I had submitted was just my cost of renovation. I have not even taken into account the cost of marketing, staff compensation and the many dinner bookings I had to cancel. Most of them were for weddings. Imagine, how my clients will look at us now,” bristled Yap.
By rough estimates, relocating will cost the current 10 tenants between RM20mil and RM25mil in losses, said Nagamas director Ong Kar Ghee, whose shop at SStwo Mall sells arowana.
Hometown director Eric Koh expressed dissatisfaction over the way the notice issue was handled.
“A notice was given last December announcing the relocation of my outlet within the shopping centre. In January, a second letter arrived informing that a suitable place could not be found.”
Contributing to the extra chaff is an instruction to reinstate the premises, meaning Koh would have to restore the rented lot to its original state before renovation.
“Who is going to bear the cost considering that we have to vacate the premises on such short notice?” he queried.
Tan said the reinstatement request to Hometown was in line with the tenancy agreement.
“If the tenant is not going to dismantle the renovation fixtures, the task and cost of removals will be ours to bear,” he said.
Meanwhile, Neary clarified that the documents submitted by tenants were not bills of quantity but written lists detailing their requests.
He said the request to vacate was for safety reasons.
“Looking at the extent of the redevelopment, there is no way any of the tenants can stay here and continue to trade.
“Once redevelopment is completed, we will go back to the retailers who have supported us and ask if they want to be part of the new centre,” he said.
Commenting on the ongoing dispute, Malaysian Shopping Malls Association advisor Chan Hoi Choy urged the tenants and landlord to meet and come to an amicable settlement.
“For both sides concerned, this is better than going to court, which should be seen only as a last resort,” said Chan.
Former Petaling Jaya City councillor Derek Fernandez reminded prospective tenants to read the fine print and engage independent legal counsel before signing on the dotted line.
“Generally, if the tenancy is non-fixed term (a clause that allows either party to terminate the tenancy early by giving the required notice as stated in the agreement), then no compensation will be payable. Most mall commercial tenancies are non-fixed term and often a clause is inserted allowing either party to terminate it without compensation, provided an agreed time frame for notice to terminate is complied with,” he added.
Petaling Jaya Utara Barisan Nasional chairman Tan Gim Tuan said that from the tenants’ point of view, they seemed to have been unfairly treated.
Tan questioned if the mall’s management had obtained the approval to redevelop the property.