Mixed reactions to redeveloping site of 1993 condo tragedy

Towers 2 and 3 of the Highland Towers in Ampang, still standing as a reminder of the 1993 collapse of Tower 1 which killed 48 people.

PETALING JAYA: The proposal to build a park over the site of the Highland Towers, the condominium abandoned some 25 years ago after one of its three blocks collapsed killing 48 people, got mixed reactions from nearby residents.

Dion Isham, a committee member of Taman Seri Ukay Hillview Residents’ Association, said although a public park as mooted by Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin was better than building residential flats, there is still the issue of connectivity as roads leading to the site were narrow.

He said the plan could also create security issues for the neighbourhood, which had only recently managed to stop break-ins after stationing security guards at the entrance.

“Ours is a gated and guarded neighbourhood. We would have to allow access to non-residents going to the public park,” he told FMT.

He said since employing guards around two years ago, the area had seen a drop in crime.

Zuraida had earlier said that the government planned to develop the Highland Towers site into a park as it wasn’t suitable for the construction of buildings or houses.

On Dec 11, 1993, one of the Highland Towers’ three 13-storey blocks collapsed, killing 48 people.

Residents in the remaining two blocks were subsequently evacuated due to safety concerns, but there had been complaints that the buildings were being frequented by drug addicts.

Another resident, Amit Guha, said a public park would compromise security in the neighbourhood.

Amit, who has been living in the area for nearly 50 years, welcomed any other development “so long as it is not a highrise building”.

“Water runs through the limestone hill cavities, that’s why a highrise building is not a good idea,” he said, adding that bungalows, a retention pond or a small park for the residents would be a better idea.

But Amit said the remaining Highland Towers should be demolished and the area cleared, with a memorial for the victims of the 1993 tragedy.

“It will also serve as a reminder against building on hillslopes with soft bedrock.”

Former Highland Towers Residents’ Association president Dr Benjamin George agreed that the remaining two condominium blocks should be brought down.

“It’s a wasteland, a reminder of a tragic event. It’s time to move on, in fact I hope to see it transformed within five years,” said George.

George welcomed the idea of having a park for people to enjoy.

“This will be a new chapter for Highland Towers.”

Checks with the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) showed that the land is privately owned, but little else is known about its status.