GEORGE TOWN: The coast along Gurney Drive will get a makeover from a massive recreational waterfront project.
To be known as “Gurney Wharf”, the proposed seafront public recreation area will be created on a 24.28ha plot of reclaimed land, using concepts inspired by internationally acclaimed parks.
It will have four distinct features – a seaside food and beverage area, water gardens, as well as beach and coastal groves spanning some 1.5km of shoreline.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the proposed project was still in its initial stage because the state government wanted public feedback before finalising it.
“We acknowledge the importance of Gurney Drive, and Gurney Wharf is a Penang government initiative.
“We aspire to create a spacious, multi-functional public park of international standard after drawing inspiration from some of the world’s best public spaces.
“We want to create a catalyst not only for tourism but also for economic prosperity, and to put Penang back on the global map,” Lim told a press conference yesterday.
He said Gurney Wharf would be a key development which would brand Penang as a tourist destination that was second to none.
Lim commended Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O) for the group’s initiative in engaging award-winning international consultants at its own cost to prepare the plan.
The consultants – GDP Architects for the overall masterplan, Grant Associates for landscaping and Jerde for retail F&B – were highly acclaimed and have impressive portfolios that include the Aga Khan-award-winning Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (by GDP), Gardens by the Bay in Singapore (Grant) and Roppongi Hills, Japan (Jerde).
According to the plan, the seaside facilities would comprise a public waterfront promenade, dining outlets that would also serve Penang’s famed hawker fare and a pier.
The Water Gardens area would be defined by lush greenery, ponds and wetlands, with its most distinctive feature being landscaped water gardens with their innovative storm water filtration systems.
The makeover includes creating a 400m sandy beach and a skate park while the existing casuarina trees – a signature of Gurney Drive – would be preserved.
To enable easy access to the waterfront areas, the plan calls for two pedestrian retail underpasses from Pulau Tikus town.
There will be elevators and escalators at the underpasses, separate from pedestrian walkways and cycling paths, as well as ramps for wheelchairs and strollers.
Lim said it was premature to talk about the cost of the project.
“We have to wait for land reclamation to be completed first before we come to the components of the project. The reclamation is given to us for free.
“When the project has come to fruition, only then will we look into payment, most probably in kind.
“It can be contra through other means, as we do not intend to pay them in cash ... perhaps through development,” Lim said.
The 18-month land reclamation work by Tanjung Pinang Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of E&O, was expected to go ahead at the end of March.
If everything goes according to plan, the first phase of the project – the park – would be completed by mid-2018.
The second phase – the seafront retail outlets – is scheduled for completion by 2020.