Wednesday August 1, 2012
High price of development
By NIGEL EDGAR
KUCHING: Not all traders along India Street and Gambier Street are enthusiastic about the development that is being carried out nearby.
A recent street poll by The Star revealed that most traders opined that the demolition of the Gambier Street wet market, which was one of the city’s iconic landmarks, had somehow affected businesses there.
Sikai Liew, a fruit seller at India Street, said his business seemed to have plummeted by as much as 50%.
“I used to sell fruits at the wet market. Now it has been demolished to make way for the Kuching Waterfront extension, many traders like myself have to find alternative spots around this area because we still have customers here,” he said.
Coupled with the construction of the Plaza Merdeka Mall nearby, he said that losses incurred by traders there could reach more than 50%, particularly during the fasting month.
“In my opinion, the authorities should set up a new spot here (site of the old Main Bazaar) in addition to the Kuching Waterfront extension because there are still many customers who come from across the Sarawak River using perahu tambang (boats) to get their supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Before the development when the wet market was still there, it was often packed with customers all the way to India Street, from 6pm till midnight.
“Now, it is almost empty after 6pm. Not many people come here at night, let alone customers,” said Liew.
He also pointed out that due to the construction of Plaza Merdeka, the nearby Lorong Khai Joo had to be closed to motor vehicles; thus resulting in fewer customers coming to the area.
“Also, the closing of the lane affects the traffic as there is only one way to Gambier Street. As such, vehicles are concentrated on this road. Indeed, the traffic here during the day is always a nightmare, especially on weekends,” he said.
A shopkeeper of a fabric store in India Street lamented that the closing of Lorong Khai Joo not only affected business at her store, which is located nearest to the Plaza Merdeka, but the construction and piling work had also caused some cracks on the concrete sections of her premises.
“Now that the lane has been closed, customers who prefer to drive here have shied away from this area.
“They dread the idea of parking too far from here, not just because of the risk of being slapped with illegal parking summonses but also the issue of safety. They worry about the risk of being victims of snatch thieves while walking here,” she said, requesting anonymity.
In 2010, Plaza Merdeka Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Steven Ng said the company would work closely with the Merchants Association of Kuching and India Street to ensure a win-win situation for both parties.
“Once Plaza Merdeka becomes fully operational, it is expected to make the surrounding areas vibrant once again and draw more people back to the city centre,” Ng was quoted as saying.
Located in the heart of the city’s central business and tourism district, Plaza Merdeka is being developed into a shopping mall complete with boutique business premises and a hotel grouped within a classical building structure, designed by renowned architect Yolanda David Reyes from the Philippines.
The site proper is bound by Pearl Street to the south, Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg to the east, Lorong Kai Joo to the west and the historic Old Courthouse Complex to the north.
Ng said the project would have five-and-a-half levels of modern shopping outlets and 290 hotel rooms. The estimated gross develop- ment value of the project is RM350mil.