Streetscape: Pekan Ampang’s heritage street in need of conservation

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 12, 2019 - August 18, 2019.

SUKE is the only upcoming project in the vicinity

Restoran Loke Yun Ampang was named one of the top 10 in Malaysia’s Hainan Chicken Rice King competition in 2007

Traffic congestion and a lack of parking space are common issues in the area

Most of the properties are 2 and 2½-storey shophouses

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On arriving at Jalan Besar Ampang, the first thing that comes to my mind is the famous Hainanese chicken rice from Restoran Loke Yun Ampang, which was named one of the top 10 in Malaysia’s Hainan Chicken Rice King competition in 2007.

According to its official website, owner Phang Kee Kam has been managing the restaurant for the past 12 years. He prepares the chicken, speciality rice, ginger and chilli sauce daily and ensures that every dish meets his exacting standards.

The front of the restaurant has been preserved to provide a nostalgic feel while the rear was renovated a few years ago to create a modern dining environment.

Jalan Besar Ampang is the main road in Pekan Ampang, a small town in Ampang Jaya. One of the area’s notable features is the pre-war shophouses with British colonial architecture.

From its beginnings as a tin mining hub, Pekan Ampang has had mainly traditional family-owned businesses that serve the daily needs of the local population. Those operating from the pre-war shophouses include furniture, timber, plywood, hardware, electrical service and motor spare part stores.

Most of the properties in Jalan Besar Ampang are 2 and 2½-storey shophouses, says Eddy Wong, managing director of Nawawi Tie Leung Real Estate Consultants Sdn Bhd. “However, as they are older properties, many have been redeveloped into 4 to 5-storey shopoffices”, he adds.

From 2014 to 2018, four units of 2 and 4½-storey shoplots changed hands, data from Nawawi Tie Leung Real Estate Consultants shows. With built-ups of 3,480 to 7,858 sq ft, the units were sold for RM350 to RM1,014 psf.

As at May this year, the asking price for similar properties in the area ranged from RM200 to RM495 psf.

“In terms of monthly rent, the ground floor is RM5,000 to RM8,000 per month,” says Wong. The higher the unit, the lower the rent, with third-floor units fetching less than RM2,000 per month, he adds.

“Due to the lack of transacted rental data, it is difficult to work out the actual rental yields of these properties. However, based on a few assumptions and an understanding of the market, we believe that the properties in the area have a gross yield of 6% to 7% per month,” he continues.

More than 40 shophouses in Jalan Besar Ampang are due to be demolished for the construction of the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway (SUKE) that will pass through Pekan Ampang. The highway is the only upcoming project there. Due to be completed in early 2020, it will have 14 interchanges linked to over 60 residential areas and connected to major highways and roads in Kuala Lumpur.

Wong says buildings in Jalan Besar Ampang have not been well maintained, thereby losing their heritage value. “The newly built and renovated buildings are slowly changing the look [of the street] and this gradual transition will result in the area losing its character.”

The town is plagued by traffic congestion and a lack of parking space while the older businesses do not attract the younger crowd.

“Pekan Ampang will experience a drastic change when SUKE is completed. It should improve accessibility and reduce traffic congestion,” says Wong.

“To maintain the heritage character of the area, a more conservational approach is required — similar to what has been done in George Town, Penang,” he adds.