Abandoned KL complex to be revived

Plaza Rakyat, located next to an LRT station in a prime area in downtown Kuala Lumpur, is home to what has been called "KL's biggest fish pond" - a seven-storey-deep pool filled with rainwater and several types of fish and snakes. Draining the massiv
Plaza Rakyat, located next to an LRT station in a prime area in downtown Kuala Lumpur, is home to what has been called "KL's biggest fish pond" - a seven-storey-deep pool filled with rainwater and several types of fish and snakes. Draining the massive pool will be the new owner's biggest challenge.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR • After 20 years in limbo, a giant uncompleted project in downtown Kuala Lumpur is finally being revived, and former buyers of the units will be compensated.

But the new owner of the Plaza Rakyat project, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), has a watery problem. The building will first have to be drained of what has been called "KL's biggest fish pond" - the complex's basement is now filled with rainwater, along with several types of fish and snakes.

DBKL took vacant possession of the project site after repaying a RM150 million (S$48.9 million) loan taken by its earlier developer, Plaza Rakyat, from a consortium of banks. After months of negotiations, City Hall will sign the deal to surrender the site to new developer Profit Consortium tomorrow.

The original plan for Plaza Rakyat, costing RM1.4 billion in 1997 currency, comprised a 79-storey office tower, a condominium, a hotel and a seven-storey shopping centre on land owned by the government.

It was 30 per cent completed when the developer ran into financial difficulties during the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis. The government terminated the contract 12 years after the project was left abandoned.

City Hall will now assess the corroding steel structure to determine if it can be incorporated in the new development.

But the biggest challenge will be draining the basement, said DBKL engineer Abdul Jamil Abdul Rahman. It took three months to drain the water out of only three levels of the seven-storey basement, he said, when the work started in June.

"After Friday, the site will be surrendered to the developers, and their engineers will have to drain out the water from the remaining four storeys. That is not going to be an easy thing to do," he said.

Only after the structure has been ascertained as safe will the next step be taken by DBKL on what exactly could be built on the site, which is located in a prime area beside an LRT station.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline 'Abandoned KL complex to be revived'. Print Edition | Subscribe