Yearning for new look for old food courts

Bazar Melawati food court is located in a busy commercial area but fails to attract customers because of its neglected condition. — Photos: LOW LAY PHON/The Star

FADED paint, rubbish-filled drains and cracked floor tiles greet the eye when walking into Bazar Melawati food court in Taman Melawati, Ampang, Selangor.

The 20-year-old food court has not undergone any major renovation nor upgrades and visitors comprise mainly those going to the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) branch office on the premises.

The first floor of the two-storey building comprises food stalls while several tailors, handicraft stores and other assorted businesses are found on the upper floor.

However, StarMetro found most of the shops closed during a recent visit.

ALSO READ: RM4mil facelift for food court

Gombak MP Datuk Seri Azmin Ali had announced that upgrading works were to start in December last year.

Operators were hopeful that this would help attract customers.

But it has been six months since the announcement was made and work has yet to start.

At the time, Azmin who is also International Trade and Industry Minister said RM4mil would be allocated to MPAJ for upgrading works at the food court in Jalan Negara.

A stall operator who wanted to be known only as Munasarah, 42, blamed the building’s poor state for driving people away.

“Only those wanting a cheap and quick meal will visit this place.

The broken pavement outside Medan Selera Lama Taman Melawati is a safety hazard. This food court is in dire need of an upgrade as well.The broken pavement outside Medan Selera Lama Taman Melawati is a safety hazard. This food court is in dire need of an upgrade as well.

“Drains overflow when it rains, flooding the centre court and we have to quickly move our belongings,” she said, adding that she had been operating there for two decades.

She said the low RM300 rental was the only reason businesses were able to survive.

Munasarah hoped that MPAJ would make improvements to the stalls’ interior so it would be more conducive for operators.

It is obvious that the food court is in need of a fresh coat of paint and repairs.

Stall operators have taken to cooking outside their premises near the drains, most of which are filled with grease and rubbish.

Tailor Abdul Hamid, who has a shop on the second floor of the building, said many operators had either moved or closed shop because of low foot traffic.

“They could not sustain their businesses, especially during the past two years with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is a great location as it is in the centre of the Taman Melawati commercial area, but people do not like to come here because it is not in good condition,” the 56-year-old said, adding that the toilets were in a particularly sorry state.

Seamstress RB Hashim, 69, said the food court’s ageing infrastructure and poor stall occupancy were factors keeping people away.

She said she relied on regular customers to keep her business alive.

Several other operators said while they were glad upgrading works were in the pipeline, they expressed concern if this meant an increase in rental was also imminent.

Abdul Hamid says many operators have either moved or closed their businesses at Bazar Melawati.Abdul Hamid says many operators have either moved or closed their businesses at Bazar Melawati.

They also hoped that they would not be required to move out when upgrading work starts.

Long-time Taman Melawati resident Mohd Ismadi Mohd Nordin, 43, said it was difficult for the food court traders to compete with restaurants nearby.

“There are also many hawker stalls nearby which are more accessible.

“People would rather buy from other restaurants nearby for the variety,” he added.

A regular visitor to Taman Melawati, K Gunaseelan, 33, said fixing this place up would be beneficial for both traders and visitors.

“Sometimes I pass by the area, so I will have a bite to eat at the Bazar Melawati.

“The food is generally tasty, but the cleanliness is lacking,” he said.

Not far away from Bazar Melawati is Medan Selera Lama Taman Melawati, which is also in urgent need of repairs.

While this spot along Jalan Bandar is popular with locals for its affordability and variety, many have complained of its run-down condition.

Stalls here are haphazardly laid out, with cracked drainage and pavement around the property.

Resident K.C. Tan, 32, said he was tempted to try out the stalls but was put off by the lack of hygiene and poor food practices at the place.

RB Hashim says Bazar Melawati is no longer drawing the crowds.RB Hashim says Bazar Melawati is no longer drawing the crowds.

“I have seen many rats running around the place, even in the daytime. And most of the stalls leave food on the counters, so I am hesitant to eat here,” he said.

Regular customer Muhammad Aiman, 22, said he was willing to overlook the negatives as the food was tasty and cheap.

“I try not to look too closely at the surroundings but customers would definitely feel more comfortable if improvements are made,” he added.

He also acknowledged that many of the facilities and fixtures, including the fans and lighting, needed to be cleaned and fixed.

When contacted, MPAJ said upgrading work at Bazar Melawati was expected to start next month, once the tender process was completed.

Its press relations officer Norhayati Ahmad said works would involve repainting the premises, repairing the roof as well as upgrading the clean water supply system and surrounding drainage.

The food stalls will also be redone with grease traps installed, while electrical works will be carried out.

“We are not demolishing and rebuilding the property, but carrying out improvements to the 88 lots.

“As such, we will try to ensure there is minimal disruption to operators and they will not have to move out during the works,” she said, adding that preliminary discussions had been carried out with operators.

The upgrading project is expected to take 16 weeks and MPAJ is in the final stages of engaging contractors.

For Medan Selera Lama Taman Melawati, Norhayati said the council currently did not have plans to upgrade the place but would look into the possibility of improving it once the work at Bazar Melawati was completed.

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