Saturday, September 28, 2013

Will the Warisan Merdeka project spell the end of Chin Woo Stadium? - ( M4L4YS14 )

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — For the past 60 years it has been standing like a sentinel on a hill in the heart of Kuala Lumpur but these days, the future is looking a little uncertain for Chin Woo Stadium.

Kuala Lumpur’s first Olympic-sized pool which athletes had in the past used to train for major sporting events and is still enjoyed by the public, also sits on the same land owned by the Chin Woo Athletic Association Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Unsure about the impact of the proposed Warisan Merdeka project on the stadium, the 92-year-old association is seeking assurance from the tower’s developer, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB).

Chew Kee Hui, the association’s secretary-general, worries that digging works by PNB for its planned eight-storey underground car-park and tunnels could cause structural damage to the Chin Woo Stadium.

According to Chew, the stadium lies directly adjacent to the Warisan Merdeka project, which involves a 4.5 acres plot that the association was forced to sell off in the 1970s when it ran into financial difficulties.

When expressing concern over the effect of the project’s piling works on the stadium, he pointed out that the Warisan Merdeka tower at 118-storeys and 600 metres will eclipse the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers which is currently the country’s tallest building at 452 metres.

“What we worry (is that) our wall will crack, what we worry, because quite close, if you dig so deep, maybe the earth will affect our building,” he told The Malay Mail Online recently, referring to the stadium’s proximity to the plot of land where PNB is set to build the project.

“Already we told them now it is [a building in good condition], but now if there is something cracked, then we will sue them,” Chew said, saying that the association had already taken photographs of the stadium as evidence of its current state.

Chew Kee Hui, 70, worries that the digging works for the Warisan Merdeka project - which includes a 118-storey tower - could damage Chin Woo Stadium.“You see what we worry, according to what we know, they want to dig eight stories from the surface of the earth, they make car-park, they want to make two-level traffic to go in and out, [similar to] the Twin Towers,” he said.

He also asserted that PNB has said it plans to build four-way underground tunnels for vehicles that would end at locations such as Dewan Bahasa Pustaka, Bank Negara and Kampung Pandan.

Pointing to a thin strip of land between the stadium’s open-air carpark and PNB’s land, Chew said PNB wants to convert it into a six metres-wide access road, which will purportedly start at Stadium Merdeka and end at the foot of Chin Woo’s hill.

Although the association had requested PNB to set aside 12 metres, the company appeared insistent in only allocating six metres of space to separate the two properties, Chew said.

Despite PNB’s plans for traffic diversion, Chew fears that the traffic conditions in the neighbourhood would worsen, pointing out that parents were already swarming the area due to the existence of seven schools there, including the Victoria Institution, SJK (C) Jalan Davidson, Methodist Boys’ Secondary School, Confucian Private Secondary School and the SMJK Confucian.

“You can imagine now already got traffic jam, an additional 7,000 to 10,000 vehicles coming into this area, you can imagine in the future what will the traffic (be like),” he said in reference to the expected increase in traffic inflow when the project is done.

Chew questioned how the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) could approve the construction of Warisan Merdeka, claiming that the plot ratio for the land was too high, adding that the city authority had failed to release relevant information.

PNB plans to convert the thin strip of car-park space lying between Chin Woo Stadium and the firm's land into a 6m-wide access road despite the association's objection.“We wrote to ask for EIA, layout and also public hearing, all these we wrote to them, they never replied us. Until today we have also not received anything from them,” he said, referring to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and building layout plans.

“That is why we say the project is not transparent, the whole project is not transparent, we know very little from the newspaper, from what they told us, we don’t know more than that,” Chew said.

Chew was unable to furnish documents of PNB’s plans, saying that they had not provided them to the association in the multiple meetings they have had.

The Sultan of Selangor officiated the beginning of Chin Woo Stadium's construction in August 31, 1951, with the building launched by the British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia, Sir Malcom Mcdonald in December 11, 1953.PNB and DBKL have yet to respond to The Malay Mail Online’s requests for verification and clarification.

Also on the list of Chew’s concerns is the fear that the noise from Warisan Merdeka’s construction would disrupt activities at the stadium and lead to a loss in income for the association which has around 3,000 members.

“In these four or five years, maybe will affect Chin Woo’s daily activities if they started their project,” he said, estimating that around 100,000 to 200,000 individuals use the stadium’s facilities each year, with the yearly collection of the hall’s rental coming up to around RM300,000.

But the association will continue to have funds coming in from the rental of its 150-odd Kenanga apartment units. Chew said the annual RM500,000 in rental income pocketed is enough to pay its 30 over staff and the stadium maintenance works, which can cost from tens of thousands to half a million ringgit.

Chew said the association’s activities, which are open to the public, promote the culture, music and martial arts of the Chinese community, among other things.

“All the while, the aim of our association is to preserve and promote cultural activities regardless of race and religion,” he said, saying that some of the association’s members came from other ethnic groups.

The Chin Woo association is one of the many landowners in the Jalan Sultan neighbourhood which will see its landscape being changed by two projects – Warisan Merdeka and the MRT railway line that includes a station stopping near Stadium Merdeka.

Kuala Lumpur's first Olympic-sized swimming pool was built on Chin Woo's land in 1954 and still remains popular with the public. But Chew has no complaints about the MRT line as the tunnel will not pass through Chin Woo’s land, saying that it would help to ease the traffic jams there.

The Warisan Merdeka project could start as early as next month, several local dailies had reported on July 9, with PNB reportedly being in the final stages of fulfilling DBKL’s requirements for the development.

Government-linked firm PNB has formed a wholly-owned unit, PNB Merdeka Ventures, to carry out the project which is said to cost RM5 billion.

The project — which will include a 118-storey tower, a four-star hotel and two blocks of 40-storey condominiums — will see Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara being retained as heritage sites.

In July, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor had said that Warisan Merdeka would bring new life into the “dead” heritage area, giving his assurance that its heritage value will be kept intact.