GEORGE TOWN: Without the interchange train station that the state government intends to build at Sia Boey, plans to revitalise the 40-year-old Komtar may be impeded.
The state government and private companies are investing more than RM60mil to create nearly 30 new attractions but it is learnt that the successful revitalisation of the commercial complex hinges on having the station across the road from it.
The plan to banner Komtar as Penang’s largest theme attraction centres on high-tech entertainment, such as a 7D motion theatre, Jurassic research centre, and 5D virtual reality ocean park; as well as a gallery showing the state’s history, giant children’s playhouse set in the dinosaur age, oceanarium, durian learning centre, tongkat ali museum and mirror maze.
“Komtar is the most valuable commercial asset of the state government. It will be a major income generator for the state if revitalised,” said a Penang property expert who declined to be named.
The expert stressed that roads around the complex were beyond upgrading or widening, so a train station within walking distance was vital to the revitalisation project.
“Driving to Komtar on a weekend and looking for parking is madness. Mass transit is a must for Komtar if it is to stay current.”
In 2012, Only World Group won a 45-year lease on five floors of Komtar and announced that it would invest RM50mil to create the theme attractions.
But building the train station in Sia Boey, which is just 20m across Lebuh McNair from Komtar’s Prangin Mall, may be complicated by the National Heritage Department’s move to include the site in the heritage enclave’s buffer zone.
The state has yet to approve the interim heritage protection order suggested by the Federal department on Tuesday.
“The suggestion to issue the order under Section 33 of the Heritage Act 2005 should be discussed with the state government and not publicised in the media,” Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said yesterday.
He clarified that the state was not rejecting the heritage department’s suggestion but “if anyone is to protect George Town World Heritage Site, it is the Penang government. No need for the Federal Government to issue the order.”
The possibility of Sia Boey being locked in as a heritage treasure began when local NGOs highlighted its historical value, and wrote an appeal to Unesco in June.
The state government has been silent on George Town Heritage Action Group co-founder Mark Lay’s suggestion that an alternative site for the train interchange station, 470m away at the corner of Macallum Street Ghaut and Weld Quay.
“This state-owned land is about 3.5ha and just further down the road. Sia Boey is only about 2ha if you include the open-air car park beside it.
“The 3.5ha parcel is on reclaimed land and the site is strong enough because tall apartment blocks were built next to the plot nearly two decades ago.
“We have frequently highlighted the potential to build a train transit hub there and connect it to Komtar by tram,” Lay said.
It is also learnt that the state, through Penang Development Corporation, has been buying up shops in Komtar’s original wing for between RM200 and RM350 per sq ft since June.
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