GEORGE TOWN, June 14 — Penang’s immediate focus is for heritage buildings in the Unesco world heritage site to be restored first before looking at a possible use for them, Chow Kon Yeow said today.
The Penang chief minister said over 500 heritage buildings were in a dilapidated state when George Town was first inscribed as a Unesco heritage city.
“We need to save these buildings from falling into ruin first before we consider other issues such as the use for these buildings after restoration,” he said in a brief press conference after opening the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site 10th anniversary exhibition.
He said over the past 10 years, due to interest from investors, many of these heritage buildings were restored.
“Yes, there is foreign ownership of these buildings but it’s still under control,” he said.
The foreign ownership of heritage properties is about 3 to 4 per cent out of the 4,000 properties in the heritage zone, he added.
He said the restored buildings have given the inner city a new breath of life whereas previously, they had been left vacant, abandoned and in a poor condition.
“Foreign ownership may be an issue but we must look at the interest in restoring these buildings because previously, these buildings were falling into ruin either because the owners were unable to restore them or could not afford to do so,” he said.
He said another issue that needs to be looked at is the use of the buildings after restoration.
“For example, if previously the building was a godown in the 1990s, we are not sure that once it is restored that it can still be used as a godown, or that we have to look at other suitable ways for the building use,” he said.
He said that he hoped local heritage building owners will restore and protect their buildings, especially those located in the heritage zone.
He said they can restore the buildings first before considering other uses for them.