Spicing up the scene in city centre

Food trucks with a variety of food and drinks drawing in visitors during the carnival to revive Komtar Walk and its surrounding areas in the heart of George Town. – Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star

THE once dilapidated Komtar Walk in Penang has been transformed into a centre of attraction with the launch of the George Town City Centre (GTCC) initiative.

The initiative launched by Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow is a collaboration between six business centres namely 1st Avenue, Prangin Mall, Komtar, ICT Mall, Tech Dome Penang and The Top Komtar.

He said the city was gearing up for a revival of the business sector in the heart of George Town after the reopening of Malaysia’s borders from April 1.

“The Komtar Walk site has changed with a major upgrade costing RM2.8mil as part of a plan to add value and potential to the iconic Komtar building.

“The first phase involves the demolition of the existing food and beverage (F&B) outlets, while the second phase is the carpark area which has been redesigned as pick-up and drop-off points, a bus lay-by, parking space for 58 cars and 43 motorcycles, landscaping, building of F&B outlets and upgrading of existing toilets,” Chow said at the launch of the initiative together with the opening of a mini carnival at Komtar Walk.

He said the initiative was part of a George Town revival plan to create a business sector involving several business entities.

“The GTCC is an extension of the Business Improvement District Scheme (BIDS) to improve the overall look of Komtar and its surrounding areas.

“BIDS was initiated in 2011 to optimise public spaces around Komtar and improve its connectivity with buildings such as hotels, as well as to improve safety, security and cleanliness.

“It was a public-private partnership where businesses work together with the local council to enhance existing local council services.

“BIDS was nothing new as countries in Europe used this approach to rejuvenate the inner cities.

“And while it was part of infrastructure upgrading and development, GTCC is the business development of the area.

“The state government will invite more tenants to the area to participate in the collaboration for us to increase activities that can attract more visitors as well as spur the economy,” said Chow.

Komtar Walk was launched in 2009 and it once had a performance stage, water features and soft landscaping.

The area’s structures were torn down last year after the legal issues between Komtar Walk’s operator and Penang Development Corporation (PDC) were resolved.

It had been abandoned for almost two years prior to that.

Among the demolished structures were seven units of double- storey retail outlets, nine units of single-storey eateries, a single- storey food court and a tourist information counter.

The site has since been rebuilt as part of a rejuvenation project.

Komtar is Malaysia’s first building of over 200m tall when it was completed in 1985. It had 65 storeys.

It also held the distinction of being Asia’s second tallest tower then, second only to Sunshine 60 in Tokyo.

The cylindrical Komtar tower standing 232m-tall once held the title of Malaysia’s tallest tower for three years.

But it remains Penang’s tallest skyscraper until today.

Komtar, an acronym for Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak, was named after Malaysia’s second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein who launched the piling works in 1974.

The mega project was conceptualised as a city within a city. It was a vision of then Penang chief minister Dr Lim Chong Eu to revitalise the urban centre of George Town.

The present rejuvenation plan is to bring back the golden days of the iconic landmark as a leading public and business centre, which began with the setting up of Penang’s first Urban Transformation Centre (UTC).

The RM20mil centre occupies 42,000sq ft of space on levels two and three of Komtar and is seen as a catalyst to inject new life back into the historic tower.

The centre that houses various government agencies was opened in August 2020.

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