What’s the story?
The eyesore that is the abandoned Plaza Rakyat site Kuala Lumpur is set to to be given new life after nearly two decades. The site is located along Jalan Pudu, next to Pudu Sentral had become derelict, with pools of stagnant water and rubbish strewn about, making it a paradise for mosquitoes to breed and an eyesore to motorists and LRT commuters alike.
The original plan for Plaza Rakyat was a mixed development with a multi-storey office tower, condominium, hotel and a seven-storey shopping centre. The RM1.4 billion project was halted at 30% completion about 15 years ago, when the joint-venture project by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and Plaza Rakyat Sdn Bhd (PRSB) was abandoned in 1997 due to the financial crises, leaving lot buyers in the lurch. Last year, DBKL took vacant possession of the abandoned project site after repaying a RM150 million loan taken by PRSB from banks.
After months of negotiations, DBKL is expected to ink the deal with the new developer, Profit Consortium Sdn Bhd, on Friday for a sum of RM700 million as an outright sale of site and another RM40 million for compensation to lot buyers.
What will happen to the project now?
The concrete and steel reinforcement roads were left exposed to the elements for almost two decades, and as the original plan was for a 79-storey office tower, a 46-storey condominium, and a 24-storey hotel, the foundation of the structure is piled deep into the ground.
The biggest challenge is the task of draining water from the seven-storey basement, which has retained rainwater accumulated over the years. The basement, dubbed the ‘swimming pool’ by DBKL officers, is now home to snakes and fish such as tilapia and haruan, making it the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process. People sometimes come to the site to fish in the ‘swimming pool’, as evidenced by the empty noodles cups, mineral water bottles, plastic bags and chocolate and biscuit wrappers littered on the floor.
It will take a while for the new developer to start rehabilitation works on the project, as a full structural report must be carried out on the site. DBKL Mechanical & Engineering Department officer Abd Jamil Abd Rahman said it would take engineers several months to assess the corroding steel structures such as rebars and scaffolding left behind after the project was abandoned two decades ago, to determine if it could be retained or incorporated in the new development.
When DBKL took over the site last year, it took them three months to drain the water out of only three levels of the seven-storey waterlogged basement. The site is located in a valley, and rainwater will flow right into the basement. DBKL had to use four different pumps to drain out the water, which was at the same level of Jalan Pudu and the LRT pole. After signing the deal over to Profit Consortium, their engineers will be responsible for draining the water from the remaining four storeys, which will not be an easy thing to do. Vibrations from the LRT running above will also add to the complications and factors to be considered when carrying out drainage and construction works.
What about those who have bought units in Plaza Rakyat?
The new developer, Profit Consortium Sdn Bhd, will carry newspaper advertisements calling for buyers of Plaza Rakyat units to come forward with their documentation to validate their claims for compensation. A total of 221 business lots were sold 20 years ago when the project was launched. There are about 211 buyers, many of them elderly senior citizens who had invested their life savings in the Plaza Rakyat project.
Those who have heard the news about Plaza Rakyat’s rehabilitation plans are delighted over the long-awaited news. A 78-year-old buyer who had bought two commercial units was happy that finally some action was being taken, saying that he had been waiting for 18 years as it was supposed to be completed in 2007. He also remarked that some of the buyers had already passed on, with most of them bring senior citizens. Most of the buyers bought units as investments to supplement their income in later years, but instead ended up paying up to RM300,000 in interest alone for two decades. Another buyer said that it was too good to be true, and hoped that the new developers would not drag their feet and speed up the long-overdue compensation process.
It is reported that RM40 million will be allocated to settle compensation issues with the 211 buyers.