IT HAS been four years since the plan to upgrade and beautify the Jalan Alor food street in Bukit Bintang was mooted by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).
Then mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Phesal Talib announced the project to turn Jalan Alor into a food paradise of international standards in August 2013.
Work on the project was initially set to begin in October 2013 and completed within a year.
However, issues ranging from underground wiring and piping to traffic management, led to a delay.
Many of the 103 stall traders and 86 hawkers are now eagerly awaiting the installation of streetlights by the end of this month.
The deadline marks the completion of the first phase of the project, which began on one side of Jalan Alor in February last year.
It comprised standardising the look of the stalls, tiling of floors, cementing the footpaths and carriage road, installing fire hydrants and signage brackets as well as upgrading the drainage, electrical wiring and water supply.
Jalan Alor Hawkers and Traders Association secretary Simon Ang Leong Yew said the first phase was done in stages so traders could continue to operate.
“There were partial closures to allow work to be carried out on four stall lots at a time on one side of the street.
“Each portion took about 10 to 12 weeks to complete,” he said.
The second phase of the project is set to begin after the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in August.
Hawkers operating along Jalan Alor expressed concerns about where they will be stationed during the second phase of the beautification and upgrades.
Chong Kah Pen, 60, who has been selling economy rice on Jalan Alor for 30 years, is worried where he will go.
“There is a lot of talk about what will happen and no one is giving us a definite answer,” he said.
Fellow hawker Phoon Koh Cheong, 47, who has been manning his father’s fruit stall at one end of Jalan Alor, is in the dark about future plans.
“I heard DBKL will put up a landmark at the site where I have four licensed stalls, which means I may have to move.
“It will not be a problem for me to move nearby but I know my business will be affected if I have to shift further down the road as my regular customers may not know where to find me.
“I have tried to get more information from DBKL about the relocation but they have not confirmed where we will go,” said Phoon.
One of the 10 shoplot owners along Jalan Alor, 72-year-old Chan Fatt Chung, fears his shop will be blocked by hawkers.
“Currently, there are already hawkers in front of the shops, some of which do not have licences.
“It worries us that we do not have any concrete plans on what DBKL has approved or how much space will be taken away from our frontage,” he said.
Other issues include traffic congestion and rubbish collection.
“There are not enough dustbins to cater to the number of visitors,” said hawker Lin Soo Wan, 48.
Bukit Bintang MCA Public Service Bureau head Patrick Leong added that traders are unhappy about traffic congestion in the Bukit Bintang area.
“This is mainly caused by illegal parking on the road shoulder which has affected their operations,” he added.
Ang, however, said traders should not worry unnecessarily.
“Everything is still in the design and planning stage for Phase Two and DBKL has been consulting us,” he said.
Ang noted that 27 of the 86 mobile hawkers did not have licence – only temporary ones – and this had contributed to the delay.
“Since they have been working in Jalan Alor for a long time, DBKL is helping them to obtain the licence,” he said.
Phase two and beyond
DBKL Project Management executive director Datuk Thomas Richards said the second and final phase of the project was scheduled to begin after the SEA Games and would take a year to complete.
He added that upgrades in Phase Two mirrored the first phase and would be done on the other side of Jalan Alor.
“We will continue upgrading the drainage and standardising the facade for a neater look and to provide a more conducive environment for tourists.
“We hope that the upgrade of the 60-year-old drainage will also overcome flood issues in the area,” said Richards, adding that they faced problems with underground utility cables during the first phase.
He said DBKL was working closely with Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor and Tenaga Nasional Bhd on the matter.
“One of the challenges we faced in the first phase was convincing the traders and hawkers on the need for the upgrade.
“Now that they have seen the improvements with Phase One almost completed, it should be easier.
“The Licensing and Petty Traders Development Department is also looking at where to relocate the hawkers temporarily so they can still continue to trade while the upgrading work is done,” he said.
The issue of illegal extension is also being sorted out and those operating on road reserves will have to vacate the space.
“We have explained the issue to them and served notices to them,” said Richards.
Addressing concerns over traffic problems in the area, he said the situation should improve once the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is completed.
“DBKL encourages the use of public transportation in the city centre,” he added.