Shah Alam turning into a ghost city?

The iconic ‘Blue Mosque’ of Shah Alam seen in the foreground of one part of the city.

SHAH ALAM: Until about five years ago, Plaza Perangsang was among the busiest places in Shah Alam. It bustled with shoppers patronising its many stores as well as workers going in and out of the offices located there. But now it is almost empty.

Indeed, the business district of Section 14, Shah Alam’s city centre where Plaza Perangsang stands, is virtually a ghost town. Many of the high rise office buildings and malls in the area are nearly abandoned.

Tucked in a small corner of Plaza Perangsang is a clothier’s stall run by a woman who referred to herself as Kak Habibullah. She’s been there for 10 years.

She said business was booming at first but her clientele had since been reduced by about half. She was making just about enough to pay the rent for her lot, she added.

A clerk at the building’s maintenance and operations office said many who rented the office lots were asked to vacate a few years ago to allow for renovations. “But the renovations never happened,” he said.

Plaza Perangsang is a major landmark in Shah Alam and one of its oldest high-rise commercial buildings. It was opened in 1988.

A board showing the remaining tenants at the Bank Rakyat building in Shah Alam.

The building was designed and constructed by GLC Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Berhad (KDEB) and its subsidiary, Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor Berhad.

In its heyday, it used to house Quality Hotel, the earliest hotel of note in Shah Alam.

Some of the office lots in the higher floors are still occupied, most of them by the Selangor bureau of the Inland Revenue Board.

At Menara Bank Rakyat, a few kilometres away, most of the 23 floors appeared unoccupied. A policeman guarding the building confirmed that many office lots were empty.

Plaza Perangsang and the Umno Selangor tower in Shah Alam, among near-empty high rise buildings in the state capital.

A few hundred metres away, the building for Bank Negara’s Selangor office has been abandoned. “Everybody has moved to Kuala Lumpur,” said the security guard there.

Just around the corner, the Umno Selangor tower suffers a similar fate. There were less than 10 people working in the entire building.

Property expert Ernest Cheong blamed bad planning for the poor occupancy rates.

He said the problem was that the buildings in Section 14 were developed by the state government instead of commercial developers, who, he claimed, would have been better at city planning.

The lobby area at Plaza Perangsang, once bustling with shoppers, is now almost empty.

“There’s not even a pedestrian bridge linking Plaza Perangsang with the nearby PKNS mall,” he noted.

Commenting on the lack of variety in consumer goods at Plaza Perangsang, he said shoppers might not know where else to go if they couldn’t find items they were looking for and the situation was made worse by the absence of pedestrian links in the area.

Munirah Mohammad, a real estate agent specialising in office rentals in Section 14, said poor maintenance of the buildings was one of the reasons for the low occupancy rates.

“These buildings are pretty old, and the ceiling height is very low,” she said.

Munirah added that most tenants had moved to newer and better maintained office buildings such as Plaza Azalea, Vista Alam and the Naza Tower.