KUALA LUMPUR: It was billed as a “modern and comfortable” place for traders and hawkers to do business. However, after more than seven years, Keramat Mall is far from being the buzzing marketplace it was envisioned to be.
It is an expensive reminder that things can go wrong when the authorities make decisions without understanding the needs of the people.
Then Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) wanted to provide traders at the old Datuk Keramat market with a building that would house a wet market, a dry market, a food court, a multipurpose hall and parking bays. The cost of the project was RM70 million.
“We were not consulted,” said Shoid Chee, Chairman of the Datuk Keramat Malay Hawkers and Petty Traders Association. “In the end, the authorities ended up building a mall that was neither trader friendly or consumer friendly.”
This complaint was echoed by a trader at the old market who identified himself only as Latif.
“There aren’t enough parking bays,” he said. “The space allocated for us to sell meat was on the top floor and the drainage was bad. If we slaughtered chickens, it wouldn’t be long before the place would smell.”
He added that loading bays were not constructed properly, forcing traders to haul their goods up the stairs from the lorries.
There were 424 traders at the old market and only 91 made the move; so many customers continued to shop at the old market.
In 2013, Keramat Mall was given what had the potential to be a lifeline when a small office of the Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) moved in. But the impact of this was limited, said Shoid.
“It’s not everyday that a person needs to go to a UTC. People go there with very specific purposes. So how many stalls can benefit?
“That is why only the food stalls and and maybe stationary shops and insurance agencies have some business.”
A look around the mall reveals more closed shutters than open ones. On some shutters, there are warning notices about unpaid rental arrears.
A trader who declined to be named said only some shops were busy, and that many opted to open only on weekends when the mall would be slightly busier.
He also said there were many entrepreneurs who had applied to open shops at the place but could not get DBKL’s permission. Asked to comment on this claim, a DBKL spokesperson said the council was filtering these applications to ensure there were not too many businesses of the same type.
“If everyone opens the same shops, then it will not be sustainable,” he said.
For Shoid and the other traders who have refused to move to Keramat Mall, there may be a reward in staying at the old market, now that a plan to redevelop it into a three-storey market is close to being finalised.