RESTORATION work on the heritage building in George Town that was formerly the St George’s Girls’ School (SGGS) will start next month.
The RM40mil project funded by the Ministry of Education, was scheduled to commence late last year but was delayed for about five months.
A spokesperson from the state Education Department said there were some technical conditions and regulations that had to be met before the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) could approve the building plans.
“For instance, we had to sort out certain things with the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) and Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), hence the slight delay.
“The contractor expects to receive the green light soon and work is expected to start latest by May,” he said.
He said the project on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah (formerly Northam Road) involved restoring the main heritage building and two other blocks.
Three additional structures will also be constructed.
SMK Agama (P) Al Mashoor on Burmah Road will eventually be relocated to this heritage site once the restoration is completed.
“The Al Mashoor school is bursting at its seams. We expect the entire project to be completed in two years so that the students can move in by 2014,” he said.
The spokesperson added that the only structure that would be demolished was a relatively new 30-year-old classroom block with no heritage value.
He said once the three heritage buildings were restored, they would probably be used as classrooms, a canteen, administrative office and function hall.
“That was what the buildings were previously used for.
“As far as possible, we will stay true to its history. It’s very interesting because these heritage buildings were the 205th to have been registered with the state Public Works Department in the northeast district, and imagine how many buildings there are here today,” he said in an interview.
He said the new structures would comprise a three, nine and eight- storey buildings of an academic block, teachers’ quarters and students hostel.
‘Giving Our Best: The Story of St George’s Girls’ School, Penang, 1885-2010’ states that SGGS was established in 1885 on Farquhar Street before moving to Northam Road from 1910 until 1954.
Among its students then were the two daughters of Republic of China founder Dr Sun Yat Sen.
Sun Yan and Sun Wan had stayed in Penang from September 1910 to February 1912 and attended SGGS in 1911.
The school moved several times before settling at its current location on Macalister Road. The building on Northam Road was then handed over to the Northam Road Girls’ School, which took in primary students, before closing down.
It last served as a training college for teachers.
Penang Heritage Trust president Khoo Salma Nasution and co-author of the book said she had handed over a copy of the publication to the architect involved in the project.
She said the book contained old photographs and information about the heritage structures.
“Whatever is done must not destroy the cultural integrity of the building.
“The book contains the historical background of the buildings but we need to study its physical and cultural aspects as well,” she said.
She said it was important to see what was still intact and what could be done to maintain it.
“It’s alright to adopt the place for new use but the outstanding heritage elements of the building must be restored.
“That’s why we need to do proper research so that we can identify the constraints and work within them. It’s important to get the opinion of a conservation architect,” she said.
Khoo, who was an ex-student of the school, said it was alright to add new buildings but the impact on the existing heritage structures must be considered.