In Penang, Yeap Chor Ee estate pioneers novel micro-housing scheme

Penang Island City Council mayor Yew Tung Seang  visits the pre-war houses at Lebuh Acheh in George Town February 20, 2019. ― Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Island City Council mayor Yew Tung Seang visits the pre-war houses at Lebuh Acheh in George Town February 20, 2019. ― Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, Feb 20 — The Estate of Yeap Chor Ee today announced a groundbreaking plan to redevelop shophouses into shared living and work spaces in the heart of the city’s Unesco world heritage site.

The project, involving a row of nine heritage shophouses along Acheh Street, will see the spaces transformed into a co-learning, co-living and co-working space for students and professionals. 

Datuk Seri Stephen Yeap, who is Chor Ee’s grandson, said the estate is investing about RM2.6 million into the project.

“Our concept is for this project to bring the community together and if this is successful, the whole city can be reactivated and we can even consider implementing the same concept for our other vacant shophouses in George Town,” he said during a short media tour of the row of shophouses today.

Chor Ee had been a prominent banker and tycoon known as the founder of Ban Hin Lee Bank in the early 20th century and his estate owns over 100 shophouses in George Town’s inner city.

Stephen said the estate is only financing the restoration project while Ayuh Bina Sdn Bhd is the main operator for turning the spaces into an education centre, co-working and co-living space.

Ayuh Bina consultant Howie Chang said they will set up a school of technology and future skills in the area.

The project, involving a row of nine heritage shophouses along Acheh Street, will see the spaces transformed into a co-learning, co-living and co-working space for students and professionals.
The project, involving a row of nine heritage shophouses along Acheh Street, will see the spaces transformed into a co-learning, co-living and co-working space for students and professionals.

The houses will feature 17 studio rooms, each with its own bathroom and kitchenette, while the other spaces will be turned into spaces for workshops and classes. 

“It is an integrated concept to bring like-minded people in technology together under one roof where they can live, work and learn together,” he said.

He said the initial plan was for the space to cater to between 25 and 30 students, adding that the school will focus primarily on software development and artificial intelligence.

Chang said they chose to site the school within the heritage zone as they wanted to bring the romance of the past with the technology of the future together. 

The project will take about 10 months to complete, with the first half of about four shophouses to be ready by October; the remaining shophouses will be done by November. 

Chang said they are still working on the programming for the school and they have yet to come up with a name for it.

Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang, who visited the site today, hoped this project will spur more shophouse owners to introduce micro-housing in their premises. 

“This will make the city vibrant as we will have youths living in the city and bringing life back to it,” he said.

He said this concept will maximise the use of spaces in the inner city and bring people together where they can learn, live and work.

“The city council will provide support for such a project in terms of infrastructure such as our back-lanes project which will provide safe public spaces for cyclists and pedestrians,” he said.

He said the city council is upgrading 9km of back-lanes to connect the inner city and create more than 10 acres of public spaces for pedestrians and cyclists.

* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.

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