Penang CM: Restore heritage buildings, then consider their use

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says the restored buildings ‘give the inner city a new breath of life’. (Facebook pic)

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government is focusing on restoring heritage buildings within the Unesco heritage site before looking into their possible uses, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said today.

Chow said before George Town’s declaration as a World Heritage Site in 2008, there were some 500 dilapidated heritage buildings in the city.

“Investors and potential buyers have come in to improve and restore these dilapidated buildings.

“Our view is to save buildings, and look into uses for these buildings after they are restored,” Chow told reporters after opening the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site 10th anniversary exhibition here today.

Also present were state Tourism Development, Heritage, Culture and Arts Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin, Penang Island City Council mayor Yew Tung Seang, George Town World Heritage Incorporated general manager Ang Ming Chee and Think City executive director Hamdan Abdul Majeed.

Chow said while there was foreign ownership of such heritage buildings, it was “still under control”.

He said foreign ownership made up 3-4% of the 4,000 heritage buildings within the zone.

“The restored buildings give the inner city a new breath of life.

“While foreign ownership may be an issue, we must look at the interest in restoring these heritage buildings, because previously, the buildings deteriorated, as the owners were either unable to restore them or could not afford to do so.”

The Padang Kota assemblyman said another pertinent issue was the use of the buildings after restoration.

“For instance, if a building was previously a godown in the 1990s, can it still be used as a godown today, after it is restored? We also need to look into other possible uses for the building,” he said.