KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 ― After years of speculation, one of KL's favourite breakfast haunts for Hainan tea, kaya toast, egg tarts and crispy popiah will be relocating as traders of Imbi market finally received notice to move to their new premises by April 1.
The notice dated March 16 from the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) requests that the traders vacate the premises from March 24 to March 31 and shift to the Integrated Commercial Complex (ICC) by April 1.
The much talked about relocation of the market is due to the ongoing Tun Razak Exchange development by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Delayed for a few years, more than 250 traders will be affected by this relocation exercise.
Ng Yoke Kew, a trader who sells kuih and snacks at the market, says that they already wanted to move when they first heard about the market's relocation about four years ago. He worries that if they miss the deadline to relocate to ICC, they may be blocked from entering and trading at the Imbi market.
Historically, the wet market which is also known as Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang has moved several times to make way for the rapid development around the area. About 60 years ago, the market was at Bukit Bintang where Fahrenheit 88 (the old KL Plaza) is currently located. When that plot of land was developed into KL Plaza, it moved to where Lot 10 is now located. Later about 30 years ago, it shifted to the current premises at Jalan Melati, Imbi. The market is also popular with tourists who get to see and experience a wet market in the city.
The new premises at ICC is located along Jalan Kijang and next to Pudu Plaza. According to The Star, the project is a joint development between DBKL and TRX City (formerly known as 1MDB Real Estate) that has a development cost of RM57 million. It's more than one kilometre away from Imbi market's present location.
The complex is designed to span seven floors and a basement. The first floor and basement will house the market and the commercial traders while the second floor is allocated for a food court that will have 83 stalls. The Star report states that the upper levels will house a banquet hall that can fit up to 1,000 people.
In addition, there will also be a multi-purpose hall equipped with badminton, volleyball and basketball courts that can accommodate around 240 people. There will also be three levels of the complex allocated for 576 parking bays for cars and 92 for motorcycles. When Malay Mail Online visited ICC yesterday, the seven-storey building was only partially completed. Building works is still continuing for the higher levels.
Some of the traders like Ngew Koo Tian, 71, who runs Kien Sang (Pin Kee) Medical Hall, questions how they can move into the building since the Certificate of Fitness has not been issued. Ngew has been allocated a lot measuring 9 feet x 15 feet in the basement. He is also worried whether his furniture can fit inside the lot.
On Wednesday, Ngew tried to enter ICC to measure his allocated lot to plan for his renovations but was turned away from entering the premises. As the deadline is near, Ngew is worried there will be delays since he is not able to access the place to start his preparations.
Ngew is also not keen to sink in extra costs to put in new furniture since he is uncertain about how well the business will do at the new place. Most of his furniture including a special cupboard with many drawers for his herbs was custom-made in Taiping to fit his present premises.
He plans to get a carpenter to try to cut the furniture to fit the smaller lot. As the ceiling for the new lot is higher, it will also be hard for him to make floor-to-ceiling cupboards since the authorities do not allow them to nail anything to the walls.
Similarly, Wong Kwai Cheng who runs a 30-year-old fruit stall business at the market laments that furniture from her place will not be able to fit the three lots she has been allocated. This includes trays she uses to display her fruits and refrigerators to store them. Due to these uncertainties, Wong and a few traders have put in a request for an extension till April 15.
One of the most popular stalls in Imbi market is Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea which draws in the crowds with its aromatic Hainan tea, kaya toast and half-boiled eggs. The second generation stall boasts a history of about 60 years as their father Chek Kor used to run a drinks stall at the original location in Bukit Bintang. In 1990, when he retired, the second generation took over and introduced Hainan Tea, an aromatic mixture of coffee and tea.
Tan Yu Wai, one of the sons who runs the place with his family members, explains to us that there is a secret to brewing the aromatic Hainan tea. Even their fluffy kaya toast requires them to personally choose and select the bread since the supplier can cheat them by giving stale bread. Here's a tip for customers... ask for their Hainan Tea Special that is only brewed by Tan and his sister. Unlike the normal Hainan tea, the special drink uses coffee beans roasted to their specification, so the coffee is smoother with a stronger taste. He also said that they have plans to start selling this special Hainan tea blend in a 3-in-1 packet.
Their business will be moving into a lot measuring 3,000 square feet located next to the entrance of ICC. Here, Tan explains they will be able to fit in their own tables and chairs to continue their popular breakfast business. As the space is vast, he has also invited the other food stalls to join them and share the space rather than move to the food court upstairs as many of the surrounding stall owners are now their close friends.
Customers can also expect a price increase for regular items like crispy popiah. May Lim who runs Sisters Crispy Popiah estimates that prices will go up about 10 per cent since they will have to fork out extra for rental. They are only paying a licence fee at the present location. May who relocated to the market about 14 years ago finds the new place to be cleaner and bigger, like a supermarket. She will be moving into a lot measuring 900 square feet, a slightly bigger space than her current stall.
As the carpark is still under construction, visitors to ICC will have to park in Pudu Plaza or the open car park space next to the building. Ngew believes most customers may shy away from the place since the open car park space charges are higher at RM5 compared to RM2 currently at the parking lot in Jalan Melati.