Kongsi To Let Out Houses To Investors
Thursday July 17, 2008-The Star / By ANDREA FILMER
PENANG heritage property owners are stepping up efforts to bring life and vitality back into the inner city in view of George Town’s successful listing as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The trustees of Penang’s famous Khoo Kongsi are doing the same and have taken the opportunity to hunt for investors for tourism-related projects.
Khoo Kongsi secretary Khoo Boo Hong said there were plans to restore and revitalise double-storey pre-war houses around Cannon Square located in the Khoo Kongsi complex.
“Nowadays, this area becomes a dead place after 5pm, but our recent listing as a World Heritage site has given everyone the impetus to start bringing back life and activity into George Town,” he said.
“Khoo Kongsi trustees have been thinking about restoration and heritage works around the Leong San Tong (Khoo Kongsi) clanhouse for a few years.
“In fact, restoration on eight shop houses in Cannon Square was completed last month after two and a half years of work,” he said.
He added that the space had already been rented out and would soon be converted into the branch campus of Georgetown College’s School of Heritage and Tourism Studies.
“The college took over the premises on July 15 and after some alterations and renova-tions to the place to fit their purposes, they will train students in tourism-related businesses like local cuisine and heritage hotelling.
“Negotiations had been going on for the last six months, and I think this fits in very nicely with the recent development of our World Heritage listing,” Khoo said.
He added that 80-year-old shop houses that lined the main entrance to Khoo Kongsi courtyard were next on the list of development.
“We’re currently looking for interested investors from Singa-pore and Hong Kong to rent these 14 houses for heritage purposes. “There is potential for the area to be turned into budget hotels, Asian food outlets or art and craft centres,” he said.
“Khoo Kongsi has decided to hand over the job of restoring these houses to the investors as they would be the best ones to know how to adapt the space to their requirements,” Khoo said, adding that investors would have to adhere to strict heritage guidelines from the Penang Municipal Council when renovating and restoring the houses.
He added that Khoo Kongi hoped to settle on the appropriate investor and start work at the end of next year. “We hope to make Khoo Kongsi the nucleus of heritage development in inner George Town.
After the projects start to get off the ground, I believe other Chinese clans in the surrounding area will follow suit,” he said.
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