GEORGE TOWN: Once the hottest retail spot in Penang, the 39-year-old Komtar here has lost much of its appeal to the extent that some pioneer shopowners have given up hope for better days.
Several owners have stopped paying the monthly service charge and are apparently waiting for the management to commence legal action and force-sell their units.
“We stopped paying six months ago. The management has sent us lawyer letters. Now we wait for them to sell our units,” shrugged retiree B.K. Lim who owns a 279sq m (3,000sq ft) unit on Level Four of the podium block with a few partners.
Lim, 72, claimed that there were other shopowners who had not paid their service charge to intentionally trigger legal action by PDC Setia Urus Sdn Bhd to foreclose their property.
He said he and his partners had stopped paying their RM2,400 monthly service charge since late last year.
Lim said they started their optical shop in 1976 by renting the shoplot and they subsequently bought the unit for RM630,000 in 1989.
He said they had tried to sell the unit since closing shop about 10 years ago but there were no buyers.
“Now, we will consider selling even if someone offers us just RM90,000,” Lim said, adding that they had once tried surrendering the unit to PDC Setia Urus but it declined the offer.
“We are not angry because we understand the business situation. But I think there’s no more hope for the original wing of Komtar and we can’t keep paying service fees anymore.” he said.
A check revealed that except for shops at the Level Three concourse area, many of the 300-odd shoplots in the four levels of Komtar’s podium block are shuttered.
Numerous ceiling panels along the corridors are also missing while several units have letters of demand for various unpaid charges pasted on their rolled down shutters.
Watch retailers Pang Kwong Fei and Chan Hun Kee, both 73, on Level Three said they have not paid the RM372 service charge for their unit for three months.
“At lunch time, government staff working in Komtar would come to get their watches fixed but beyond that, we hardly sell anything now,” said Chan.
Pang said that in the 70s and 80s, Komtar was the hottest retail centre on the island.
“We started in 1976. We bought this unit in 1992 for RM265,000. Now, we will sell if anyone offers us RM150,000,” said Pang.
A goldsmith on Level Two who declined to give his name said his business plunged drastically after the neighbouring Prangin Mall opened in 2001.
“My customers are now all Myanmar nationals and Vietnamese. Komtar is now the island’s shopping centre for foreign workers,” he added.
Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng said shopowners in Komtar owed PDC Setia Urus RM15.5mil as of last August.
“I frequently suggested to PDC and the state government that they work out a plan to buy back the units. But the matter is always pending.
“There is still hope for Komtar. We need to find a corporation that will buy up the individually owned units and do a major renovation and rebranding exercise,” he said.
The state government had, in 2013, awarded a lease of 45+15 years for five levels to Only World Group Holdings Bhd to revitalise the 65-storey Komtar but Teh said the project would not have a direct effect on the overall business vitality of the building.
“There will be a banquet hall on Level Five and international-class restaurants and cafes on Levels 59. 60, 64 and 65. But the entrance will only be via Komtar Walk so any people-flow the project can generate will not go directly to the podium,” he added.
When contacted, PDC general manager Datuk Rosli Jaafar said he would comment via email but had not replied at press time.