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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Development needs people

In any renewal programme, the question to ask is the carrying capacity of the city because ultimately structures do not make a city, people do.

Very often, in the enthusiam of having new structures to bring glory to a city, the carrying capacity is forgotten, says PJ councillor Mak Khuin Weng.

In the case of PJ, Mak says the proliferation of residential areas and the doing away of parks and open spaces have resulted in PJ being one of the most densely populated cities in Malaysia, with a density ratio of 6,185 people per sq km, about 500 less than the density ratio of the country's capital of 6,694 people per sq km.

Lee: Sections 51 and 51A formed the economic base of PJ when it started in 1953. PJ was not a residential area then.

“Whatever renewal programme the council wants to do, it will have to consider the carrying capacity of the township. Issues like density limits and traffic congestion have to be taken into consideration. When a particular area is being redeveloped, that area cannot be viewed as a stand alone development. It cannot be done on an ad hoc basis. How that new project will affect the surrounding areas and their liveability has to be studied,” he says.

On Aug 6, PJ city council will be calling a meeting to update property owners in neighbouring Sections 51, 51A, and 52 and also Sections 7, 8, 13 and 14 on the local council's urban renewal plans. Its mayor Datuk Mohamad Roslan Sakiman says under this broad renewal exercise, three categories of work have been identified redevelopment, rehabilitation and regeneration.

The objective of the coming meeting is to inform and garner feedback, where possible, from property owners and to let them know about the renewal exercise under the PJ Master Plan.

“We like urban renewal because it helps to increase revenue for the local authority. It will also make PJ more dynamic and sustainable. But we will not use the Land Acquisition Act because we do not have the allocation for this.

“Our role is mainly as a facilitator. We tell them the vision we have under the PJ Master Plan and it is up to the property owners what they want to do. We will facilitate with the rezoning of the area as we did in Section 13, where we helped with the conversion of land from industrial to commercial.

“In Section 13, the factory and industrial lots were mainly single owners, but where there are multiple owners, there will be a problem, as in the case of Kampung Baru in the heart of the city, which has been slated for redevelopment,” says Roslan.

Facilitator role: Roslan says the city council will advise property owners and explain to them the vision under the PJ Master Plan.

Referring to the Singapore en bloc sales several years ago, Roslan says when the majority of owners of a block of apartments agree to sell, the rest have to follow.

“But we do not have such a scheme here,” says Roslan, referring to the en bloc sales in Singapore where owners were paid off and the building demolished to make way for the city state's renewal and redevelopment under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

“Unlike Singapore, we cannot afford to buy the land. We do not have the allocation to buy the land. So our focus is on the social level, as a facilitator.”

Using Section 52 as an example, the commercial centre of what is today known as PJ New Town, Roslan says the council would like to rejuvenate the place.

“We will tell them our plans, but the thing is, the shops and the houses around PJ New Town are privately owned. It is up to the property owners whether they want to develop or not. We cannot force them if they don't want to do anything.

Roslan defines redevelopment as when existing structures are demolished and new structures put up. These new structures may serve the same function as the previous ones, or they may change. This is happening in Section 13 today where factories have been demolished to be replaced with commercial office blocks, and in time to come, serviced apartments.

The council's One-Stop Centre director Lee Lih Shyan says the change in land use is something inevitable. “Sections 51 and 51A formed the economic base of PJ when it started in 1953. PJ was not a residential area then. The residential areas were eventually built close to these industrial areas as these factories provided employment opportunities for the people while Section 52 was established as the commercial base to serve these industrial zones.

“Today, many of these factories have moved out to Shah Alam. So we will demolish these industrial areas and convert them into commercial development. This is currently being studied. The land in these areas offer great potential for other uses. Because the houses are privately owned and have multiple owners, our goal then is to improve the general liveability of the area.

Mak: Whatever renewal programme the council wants to do, it will have to consider the carrying capacity of the township.

“The industrial function of these areas has come to an end. Commercial development will give these sites a new lease of life. The nearby residential areas will also benefit from this transformation,” says Lee

He cited Jaya33 and Jaya One as two success stories of Section 13. They were the former factory sites of Malaysian Feedmill and Aluminum Company of Malaysia respectively. Also in Section 13 is office block Plaza 33, currently under construction, which is sitting on what used to be the former Scissons Paint factory. Not far from Plaza 33, a serviced apartment project will be coming up.

The revenue to be derived from the change in land use is massive.

If it is any indication, a factory in Section 13 is planning to put up a nine-storey office building next to its building. The enhancement value is RM2.4mil and it will pay PJ City Council a one-time development charge of RM800,000. The yearly assessment rates will be worked out when the building is evaluated upon completion.

In time to come, PJ will also have four of the 31 my rapid transport (MRT) stations and due to municipal boundaries a station may be located in KL, while its car-park facilities will be in PJ, as with the Section 17 MRT station.

Cities grow and expand, and PJ is no exception. PJ councilor Mak says: “When it comes to urban renewal, it is not economic versus social benefits. Do not look at development from the viewpoint of commercial viability. Look at it from the viewpoint of liveablity.”

By The Star

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