We want a park, not condos at 100 Quarters site, say Brickfields residents

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KUALA LUMPUR: Residents in Brickfields want the site of the civil servant housing 100 Quarters to be turned into a park or a football field instead of the proposal to build a multi-storey condominium project at the site within Kuala Lumpur, where redevelopment has seen many old neighbourhoods turning into glitzy high-end condominium blocks.

A Brickfields Rukun Tetangga leader said they did not want a heritage status to be given to the century-old government quarters as it would not benefit the residents of one of Kuala Lumpur’s pioneer settlement areas.

Central committee member G Gunasegaran said the site of the vacated 100 Quarters should be turned into a green lung for the densely built-up neighbourhood which was once the centre of a brick-making industry that fed the British construction drive in colonial Kuala Lumpur.

Gunasegaran, who is the Save Vivekananda Ashram Brickfields (SVAB) action committee chairman, said the people of Brickfields need an open field for their children to play and not a new condominium that will worsen the already bad traffic congestion in the area.

They have submitted their objections to the proposed condominium project to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) three months ago but at the time, the residents did not offer a specific proposal to turn the site into a green space.

“The basis of our objection then was that the traffic would become worse if more condos come up, but we did not look at it from the heritage aspect.

“To us, there is no point in 100 Quarters being declared a heritage site because that means we can’t really use it for anything,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The quarters were built in 1915 and consist of three rows of houses along Jalan Chan Ah Tong, Lorong Chan Ah Tong and Jalan Rozario in a prime location near the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

They were once the homes of employees of Malayan Railways or Keretapi Tanah Melayu. The KL Sentral integrated transport hub is located where the old railway depot used to be.

Gunasegaran said City Hall had called them for a meeting after receiving their objections and the residents were told by officers that they would respond after discussions with other relevant bodies.

“But we have not heard from them and we have also been busy with the Vivekananda Ashram issue.

“Our Rukun Tetangga committee is meeting next week, we will discuss sending DBKL a letter to check on the status of our objection against the redevelopment of 100 Quarters into condos,” Gunasegaran said.

Concerns about the redevelopment of the quarters were raised again recently following a statement by S Paranjothy, a Gerakan international bureau affairs committee member, who said Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd (MRCB) had been allowed to redevelop the site despite the property being owned by the federal government.

MRCB, however, refuted the allegations on Saturday and said the land had yet to be transferred to the group. As such, it has yet to receive a development order from City Hall.

Gunasegaran also told The Malaysian Insider that it was the residents who had enlisted MRCB’s help to ensure the security of the area as the vacant units were being used for vice activities, making it unsafe for residents.

“They obliged us and are putting up hoardings around 100 Quarters to keep looters and drug addicts away,” he said.

Gunasegaran said MRCB was aware of the residents’ objections to the proposed condominium project.

“They know we are against the redevelopment of 100 Quarters into condos because this area cannot take any additional traffic.

“In fact they have agreed to do a study on the traffic situation here to be submitted to the authorities,” he said.

DAP vice-chairman M Kula Segaran also expressed concern in a recent statement that City Hall was not doing enough to protect the 100 Quarters as part of Kuala Lumpur’s history.

The Ipoh Barat MP said the field next to the quarters is the only green area in the crowded Brickfields and ought to be preserved.

Kula Segaran also noted that the quarters’ close proximity to Vivekananda Ashram meant that the federal government property ought to be preserved as a heritage site, as stated by Culture and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz on Nov 5.

Gunasegaran said the SVAB action committee would be meeting the heritage commissioner today on the process of expediting the heritage status for the ashram.

The pressure group met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s representative on Indian affairs three weeks ago and told him their concerns about the ashram.

Gunasegaran stressed that the residents were not objecting to redevelopment “for the sake of objecting”, but that their primary fear was the increasing traffic in Brickfields.

They want any new development to benefit the community, instead of making their quality of life worse. — The Malaysian Insider

 

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 23, 2014.