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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Penang hotel expansion pending clarification on height

EASTERN & Oriental Bhd (E&O) is halting expansion work on its E&O Hotel in Penang.

According to the heritage guidelines submitted by the local authorities to Unesco, buildings in the heritage zones must not exceed 18m in height.

Group communications and investor relations director Lyn Chai says E&O has recently stopped work and will wait for clarification from the relevant authorities, which is expected in June.

“Presently, activities at the site is confined to the car park level where we are carrying out the necessary concrete works to protect the formworks and steel bars (which are already in place) from corrosion and to prevent material wastage,” Chai tells StarBizWeek.

The E&O Hotel expansion project, known as Annexe, is one of the four developments on the island that faced height restriction problems after Penang was awarded the World Heritage Site status by Unesco a year ago.

The other projects are the RM400mil Pier Hub, the RM130mil Royal Bintang, and the Low Yat Group’s proposed 23-storey hotel on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

While the first three projects were approved by the previous state administration, the proposed 23-storey hotel was given the go-ahead in June last year, less than two weeks before George Town won the Unesco status on July 7.

Chai says the group had originally in 1996 obtained building plan approval from the local authorities for a 28-storey building.

“But we scaled it down to 15 stories in 2008. When the Unesco height restrictions came to the forefront recently, we decided that it would be for the best interest of George Town, and consistent with E&O Hotel’s unique position as a heritage hotel, to review our plans and await formal notification from the authorities,” she adds.

Chai says when the group bought the hotel, the purchase consideration included the adjoining parcel of land (where the E&O Annexe now stands), which was already approved for high-rise development.

The expansion plan includes the construction of over 100 guest suites, an additional restaurant, boutique retail space, meeting and conference facilities as well as a branded spa.

By The Star (by David Tan)

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