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Monday, March 22, 2010

Heritage boost for Penang

PENANG’S UNESCO world heritage site will soon boast of having the country’s first ‘cultural hotel’.

Property owner K.H. Seah said three pre-war houses along Jalan Pintal Tali would be restored and re-opened as a high-end hotel to be named ‘1881 Chong Tian Cultural Hotel’.

“These triple storey buildings, which have been around for over a century, is located in where I hope to develop as Penang’s Chinatown.

“We want to revive that area and make sure that it becomes a living heritage,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Seah, who owns a stretch of 13 other heritage houses in the area, said he would refurbish the other premises which he planned to rejuvenate and promote as Chinatown.

“We have Little India and the Malay Kapitan heritage enclaves here but no Chinatown.

“This cultural hotel will be a start for us to create a specific area where everyone can come and learn about Chinese culture,” he said.

Work on the cultural hotel will start at the end of the month and is expected to complete by the end of the year.

Seah said he was hoping to get the Unesco Conservation Award for his efforts, adding that the uniqueness of the cultural hotel was that it would have a library, mini cafe and museum featuring extensive antique collections dating back to the 18th century.

“I am an antique collector and have received many pledges from other collectors to help stock up the library and museum.

“The library resources and exhibition area will be free for everyone because one of our main objectives is to propagate the Chinese culture brought here by our ancestors,” he said.

Seah and his partners have invested RM2mil to purchase the three lots and will need another RM1.5mil to refurbish the place in accordance to heritage guidelines.

“The interior is termite-infested and there are trees growing within the building causing the structure to crack.

“Think City Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Khazanah Holdings (a federal investment arm), has agreed to assist with the funding,” he said.

“They will meet on Wednesday to decide on how much allocation the project will receive,” he said.

Cultural Heritage Advisory Group member and project consultant Tan Yeow Wooi said the 19th century buildings had many unique features including Venetian windows and intricate Chinese motifs of peonies, dragons and cockerels on the facade.

“There is also a very nice Cantonese-style sliding door with intricate carvings,” he said.

By The Star — Christina Chin

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