THE 97-year-old Birch House at Jalan Datuk Keramat in Penang is being given a new lease of life with a RM2.5mil conservation project.
Restoration work on the former tin smelting office, which has been converted into the headquarters of the Ivory Properties Group, began in August last year and is about 90% completed.
“We are still waiting for the Penang Municipal Council's approval to restore the facade of the building,” the group's general manager Chok Keng Vui said.
He said restoration of the facade and landscaping work would take about three months to complete after approval was granted.
Ivory Properties, which is developing the surrounding site for the prestigious Penang Times Square project, moved into the two-storey building in March this year.
Chok said the original building structure was in “pretty good shape” although one of the corners was tilting slightly.
He said the electrical wires inside the building were replaced and concealed.
“We also removed the old air-conditioning system and replaced it with a modern centralised one,” he said in a recent interview.
Chok said the solid wood used for the door and window frames and staircases, as well as the wooden flooring of the upper level were maintained.
The ceiling height for the ground floor, however, has been reduced from the original 4.6m to 3.7m.
“We placed another ceiling to conceal the wiring and piping for the air-conditioning system. But we recreated the original cornice design at the sides of the new ceiling,” Chok explained.
He added that there was a long-term plan to relocate their office to another premises and turn the historical building into a tourist destination.
“In the mean time, we are dedicating a corner on the ground floor to showcase the history of Birch House and the tin-mining industry for the benefit of those who visit our office,” he said.
On the Penang Times Square project, Chok said construction work on Phase One was scheduled to start in November and completed in about three years.
Phase One comprises a 0.8ha open space and the 18-storey Birch The Plaza service suites and commercial units.
Penang Times Square will sit on the 5.3ha site of what was once the country’s second-largest tin smelting plant in Jalan Datuk Keramat – Escoy Smelting – which produced the world-famous Straits Refined Tin from 1898 until its closure in 1998.