Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Datuk Ibrahim Ismail said reopening the centre would help to bring back the crowds to the city centre, especially after office hours and at night.
“We need to bring back life into the city centre and there is no better way to do it than through food as Malaysians love eating. This will also attract tourists,’’ he said.
Ismail said in big cities, half of the population would be gone in the evening and efforts should be made to attract them to spend time and enjoy activities in city centre.
The Ungku Puan outdoor hawker centre, which was the the biggest alfresco dining area in downtown Johor Baru, was popular with both locals and tourists too.
The centre offered a wide range of hawker-style local dishes.
Hawkers served their food from 6pm until about 4am from their pushcarts and the centre was dubbed the “Hard Rock Café” due to the vibrant night scene.
The place was closed in 2005 by Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) when Sungai Segget, which flows along Jalan Wong Ah Fook in the city centre, was covered and turned into a pedestrian walkway at a cost of RM6mil.
The river was covered as the stench and sight of rubbish and raw sewage being dumped into Sungai Segget were becoming unbearable.
It was identified as one of the dirtiest rivers in the country and some RM240mil was allocated for the river rehabilitation and rejuvenation project.
The allocation included a centralised sewerage treatment plant (CSTP). Opening up and cleaning of the river was completed in December 2016.
“The reopening of the food centre will have to include a proper waste disposal system and hawkers must practise a high standard of hygiene,” said Ismail.
He said apart from the reintroduction of the hawker centre, Irda also planned to introduce other activities along Jalan Wong Ah Fook.
Ismail said activities such as buskers and street cultural shows could take place upon the completion of the landscaping and beautification work on Sungai Segget.
Work is expected to start by the end of the year and be completed in 18 months.
“The landscaping work will mark the third phase of the rehabilitation and rejuvenation project of the river,’’ he said. – By ZAZALI MUSA
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