MANY people refer to it as the “rich man’s area'' but I balk every time I hear that term. To me, Bangsar has always been and will always be “a city within a city”.
After all, you can find almost everything here. At one point, Bangsar had two shopping centres, a bowling alley, cinemas and millions (ok, I exaggerate) of restaurants. Today, the cinemas aren’t here anymore, but there’s a performing theatre instead and traffic permitting, Mid Valley Megamall isn’t that far away and everything else is still in place.
I’ve lived in Bangsar all my life, and I can say with a certain amount of confidence that Bangsar really is not the same place it was. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I actually love what Bangsar has turned into over time.
When I was much younger, it used to be very empty, believe it or not. Besides the houses and few rows of shop lots, it was mostly empty plots of land - some parks and lots of trees. Slowly but surely, shopping centres appeared - the current Bangsar Village itself was previously Hankyu Jaya, Mun Loong and a fortunate exhibition building - whereas Bangsar Shopping Centre has not only expanded, but is going to continue its expansion, not unlike the current building phase two of Bangsar Village.
Over the years, people have flocked into Bangsar for different reasons - the Telawi Streets were a hit for those looking for a vibrant nightlife, and in the early ‘90s and now again, it was the haven for expatriates although it now shares the podium with other places like Mont Kiara.
Unfortunately, many people from outside the area, and from within, appear to be less than enthusiastic about its progress. For the past few years, often one would hear the community ''elders'' making comments about the blatant commercialisation of the area, and how it has invited the less than desirables.
I personally find it funny because some of these people are now millionaires thanks to this ''blatant commercialisation'' having increased the value of their homes. Take the one I live in, for example. Over the past 25 years, the value of home has gone up more than seven times. Sure, it’s not yet reached the million mark, but then again, mine isn’t anywhere close to being the biggest house in the area.
The fact is, the suburb in itself isn’t very big - you can probably walk from the Damansara entrance all the way out to Jalan Bangsar on the other side in less than half an hour. So, of course, progress in such a small area will be more obvious. But that is not to say that it’s all bad. It’s only natural that to reap the good, sometimes one has to accept the bad as well.
The sad truth however is that these people are winning the battle because the young, who are so used to allowing the older generation speak for them, are keeping quiet.
The pubs are now closing way earlier than they used to, causing many to shut down. With that, there is also less new stores opening because the area is attracting less people. This is not a sweeping statement, the fact that the developers of Bangsar Village and One Bangsar, the exciting new strip of restaurants, talked about bringing people back to Bangsar when they first introduced their concept, says a lot.
But the question that begs to be asked is who is it exactly that we want to attract back?
Bangsar has so much potential, even after years of development, that any effort to stifle its growth should be spoken against. After all, despite everything, it is still a residential area and this means living within a community. A community only grows if everyone plays a part.
I say bring back the Bangsar from five years back, the old Bangsar.