PENANG: The Buddhist institution-cum-columbarium project will generate economic and business activities in the area, said the developer of the multi-million-ringgit project.
Stamford Raffles By The Sea Sdn Bhd sales director Gary Lau Seng Khiang, in defending the controversial project, said it would draw more regular visitors and tourists to the area as well as stimulate development.
He added that the contemporary design of the columbarium and the restoration of the former Shih Chung School into a Buddhist institution would also add to the aesthetic value and architectural contribution to the heritage area.
“We believe in the project which offers affordable and convenient memorial facilities to all races and we have adhered strictly to guidelines stipulated by the authorities,” he told a press conference yesterday.
Also present were the company’s managing director Soh Chee Leong, the property management company BHL Property Consultants, registered valuer Lim Beng Hai and the project’s legal adviser Jacqueline Tan.
The developer broke its silence for the first time yesterday after several landowners and business operators in the area had voiced their objections over the past one year.
The controversial project has raised the ire of neighbouring landowners and business operators who claimed that the columbarium would not fit into the environment because Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah was being promoted as a tourist district.
Lau also dismissed rumours that the three blocks of the nine-storey columbarium, to be known as the House of Remembrance, could accommodate 300,000 urns, saying that they had yet to come up with the concept on the niche arrangement.
“We have, in the pipeline, the layout of the interior concept but we will still revise the designs according to market needs, so we are not able to set a figure to the columbarium’s capacity,” he said.
Lau added that the cost of the project was estimated at between RM40mil and RM42mil, not including the interior furnishings.
Construction work would begin this year and the project was scheduled for completion in 24 months, he added.
On the Buddhist institution, Lau said they had given a perpetual licence for a token RM1 to the non-profit organisation, Heart of Dharma Bhd, to use and manage the place.
Organisation chairman Hor Kwei Loon said part of the institution would be turned into a gallery and museum.