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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Boon to property market

Malacca's old quarter, which include 17th Century Dutch-era buildings such as the Christ Church (right), has finally been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

MALACCA: Heritage building owners in George Town and here will see a boom now that both the historical cities have been listed as Unesco’s World Heritage Sites.

Despite the strict building code regulations governing renovations to heritage buildings, over 1,000 property owners here are expected to see their property prices increasing.

19th Century Chinese Baroque style embellishments on older buildings along Jalan Hang Jebat (formerly Jonker Street) in Malacca add to the charm of the city's old quarter.

According to Foo Gee Jen, a director of a property evaluation company, property prices for homes along Jonker and Heeren streets have risen steadily over the past 15 years.

“Depending on its size and condition, a unit used to fetch up to RM200,000 fifteen years ago.

“In 2005, property was valued at RM120 per sq ft but shot up to RM200 per sq ft recently,” he said, adding that a unit could now fetch up to RM800,000 to a RM1mil.

He said that the inscription as a World Heritage Site would push prices of the buildings up almost immediately by at least 20% to 30%.

Malacca Heritage Trust president Debbie Lee said there already existed building regulations and guidelines that were adopted by the city council in line with Unesco’s charter on World Heritage Site.

Although there were strict conservation laws, she noted that there is no total ban against owners who wished to renovate their buildings for re-adaptive use.

“What is needed now is for the city council and state to employ more trained conservation architects and officers to carry out implementation and enforcement work,” she said.

The Malacca site comprises 214.6ha and covers two protected areas within the conservation zone of the city and is demarcated by the Melaka River.

The first area is the St Paul's Hill Civic Zone comprising government buildings, museums, churches, the original fortress town from the 16th century Portuguese and Dutch period and Bukit Cina.

The second area is the Historic Residential and Commercial Zone comprising 600 shophouses, commercial and residential buildings, religious buildings and tombs on four main streets.

George Town in Penang has one of the largest concentration of pre-World War Two (1939-45) buildings in Asia.

In GEORGE TOWN, the prices of pre-war houses in the inner city are expected to soar with foreign and local developers looking to capitalise on the recent Unesco listing.

“Pre-war houses are quite cheap now.

“Depending on the location and the state of the building concerned, it could cost between RM800,000 and RM1mil each,” said Datuk Jerry Chan, chairman of the Penang Real Estate Housing and Developers Association (Rehda).

“With potential business opportunities that come with being a Unesco site, local and foreign developers will be snapping up the pre-war buildings, so I think we can expect a 50% to 100% jump in prices.”

He said the association was not against foreign developers coming in but stressed that the Government must regulate business activities in the area.

“In some instances, it actually costs more to restore an old building than to build a new one so perhaps the Government can offer some incentives to those up for the task,” he said.

Penang Municipal Council president Datuk Zainal Rahim Seman said the council would make sure developers and property owners complied with the council’s heritage guidelines when restoring or renovating their premises.

By The Star

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