Three-year wait finally over

  • Metro News
  • Thursday, 20 Aug 2020

The water fountain in front of Panggung Bandaraya building, restored. — Photos: NORAFIFI EHSAN/The Star

KUALA Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) most prized possession –- the 118-year-old Panggung Bandaraya building –- is reopening its doors and presenting its very first show in three years.

After months of hacking and drilling, repair and upgrading works are finally complete, and the building has been disinfected several times.

A special programme is being planned for this Saturday that will see music and light return to Kuala Lumpur’s oldest theatre which is located on Jalan Raja, opposite Dataran Merdeka.

Performers seen warming up for rehearsals at the lobby of Panggung Bandaraya.Performers seen warming up for rehearsals at the lobby of Panggung Bandaraya.

Completed in 1902, the building was the former headquarters of Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council and the office of the second mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Yaakob Latiff.

Panggung Bandaraya was left vacant since three years ago after the widely successful musical Mud — The Story of Kuala Lumpur ended its run on April 30,2017.

The building was handed back to DBKL and later returned to the National Heritage Department.

During the two years when Panggung Bandaraya was closed, and due to its proximity to the river, it began to fall apart from termite infestation and lack of maintenance.

The antique gates add special charm to the theatre’s overall appearance.The antique gates add special charm to the theatre’s overall appearance.

Following StarMetro’s exclusive report in 2017 highlighting the conditions of heritage buildings in the area, the government decided to surrender four buildings to DBKL under the custodianship of Federal Territories Ministry, except for the Sultan Abdul Samad building that is still directly under Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) and DBKL is only responsible for maintaining its facade.

All these buildings are gazetted as National Heritage under Category One of the National Heritage Act 2005.

Since January this year, DBKL’s Project Implementation and Building Maintenance Department had been working non-stop to get the Panggung Bandaraya building operational before National Day celebrations this month.

The theatre’s beautiful interior design is preserved.The theatre’s beautiful interior design is preserved.

“We were given four buildings to resuscitate.

“First is Lot 69 which comprises two blocks that make up Panggung Bandaraya.

“Next door to that is the former Sanitary Board building, ’’ said department director Norzaini Noordin.

“Beside the Sanitary Board building is the Federated Malay States Survey Department headquarters.

Norzaini says DBKL hopes to  monetise Panggung Bandaraya  to cover its upkeep.Norzaini says DBKL hopes to monetise Panggung Bandaraya to cover its upkeep.

“And in front of it is the old Supreme Court building.

“Panggung Bandaraya and the Supreme Court buildings were in much better shape than the other two (Sanitary Board and Survey Department), which were no longer safe to step into, ’’ she added.

Norzaini’s department was allocated RM6mil from last year’s budget to repair both the Panggung Bandaraya and the Sanitary Board buildings.

She felt that it was more practical and prudent to work on Panggung Bandaraya first, to monetise it.

In last year’s DBKL budget report, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan announced an allocation of RM120mil for the four buildings, but the money was to be used over several phases to carry out preservation, restoration and conservation work.

“Let’s be practical. RM120mil is not enough to conserve four heritage buildings.

“So we have to find ways to monetise the buildings so that they pay for themselves in the long run.

“Since Panggung Bandaraya was in much better shape than the rest, we worked on it first and now I am happy to say that it is ready for its first show, ’’ said Norzaini.

The courtyard area has been opened up and the ground tiled for better aesthetics.The courtyard area has been opened up and the ground tiled for better aesthetics.

She revealed that it took a little over RM3mil to repair Panggung Bandaraya, and most of the work went into replacing the air-conditioning and public-address systems.

The Turkish fountain at the entrance built as part of the River of Life project was also repaired.

Apart from termite infestation, the furniture was still in pretty good condition and was retained.

The interior design of Panggung Bandaraya has been retained.The interior design of Panggung Bandaraya has been retained.

“We wanted Panggung Bandaraya to be the catalyst for growth in the area.

“It has all the right ingredients, the courtyard, fountain, old antique gates and French style windows, so we worked on that aspect, ’’ said Norzaini.

Now that Panggung Bandaraya is ready, her next project is the old Supreme Court building which she says has a lot of potential.

The VIP room  only needed cleaning and minor upgrades.The VIP room only needed cleaning and minor upgrades.

“Once that is ready, we hope to attract investors to develop it further.

“We have to make sure that it is economically viable and the business can generate income for the city while covering future costs for upkeep.

“And then hopefully we have more funds to take on the Sanitary Board and Survey Department buildings, which require a lot more work and money to rehabilitate, ’’ she said.

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