THINK City has launched its latest publication, Rejuvenating The City Together: The George Town Grants Programme (GTGP), in Penang.
The book documents various aspects of the community-led urban regeneration initiative, from the projects to the grantees and more.
It is stated that a total of RM16.3mil was disbursed through grants focused on public realm improvement, capacity building, building conservation and preserving intangible heritage.
The biggest portion of the grants was towards conserving built heritage, and by the end of the GTGP in 2014, more than 80 buildings had been restored — including the Cheah Kongsi, Masjid Kapitan Keling and Ren I Tang.
Besides helping create a more vibrant and liveable city, GTGP's impact assessment also roughly created 600 direct and indirect jobs.
The pilot project's success paved the way for similar grants programmes to be introduced and implemented in Butterworth, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru.
At the launching ceremony at Bangunan UAB in China Street Ghaut recently, Think City chairman Datuk Anwar Fazal described the process as a 'journey of physical transformation'.
“Heritage goes beyond physical buildings, but also includes the people and community. Because without their stories, buildings don't speak,” he highlighted.
Think City was set up by Khazanah Nasional Bhd in 2009 to empower and enable citizens to play an active role in positively impacting the city and make it a place that would nurture and attract talent.
Anwar feels they have certainly achieved that aim, adding, “We're now a capacity builder and knowledge bank. What we've accomplished in Penang shows that it can be done. The future is in our hands.”
Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif recalled a time when she walked the streets of George Town, and realised that existing guidelines had to be re-looked and revamped.
She was referring to the city's slow decline which took place over several decades earlier. It hollowed out and faced neglect and decay following the loss of its free port status in 1969.
“We've managed to turn crisis into opportunities. Today, one can feel the economic vibrancy of the world heritage site. Most importantly, it did not sacrifice the arts and culture but instead celebrated it.
“As mayor, I will continue to support Think City to carry on its good work in making not only George Town, but Penang as a whole, a more sustainable and liveable place,” she added in her speech.
Think City executive director Hamdan Abdul Majeed said the experiences and knowledge they gained through rejuvenating George Town, has allowed them to contribute towards similar initiatives elsewhere.
"Every project has been interesting and unique. It galvanised the community to come together to revive and celebrate our heritage spaces.
"We will continue to enhance the public realm and community spaces, whilst further protecting our intangible heritage, in the next phase of the project," he added.
The GTGP book launch also doubled up as an appreciation evening for recipients of the grant, to thank them for their contributions in reviving the city. It was accompanied by an exhibition of sketch artworks featuring the many buildings involved.
The book is not on general sale, but would be made available to interested parties at its office at Bangunan UAB. For inquiries, email email@example.com. For more about Think City and the grants programme, visit www.thinkcity.com.my.
Think City's efforts in George Town are continued through the George Town Corporation for Development and Conservation (GTCDC), a tripartite partnership with the Chief Minister Incorporated and Aga Khan Trust.
Initiatives to improve public spaces include the upgrading of backlanes in Armenian Park, conservation works at Fort Cornwallis and upgrading of the Esplanade field.