BB Plaza’s future up in the air, says UDA
KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 — UDA Holdings Bhd today said it was equally in the dark as Bukit Bintang Plaza’s (BBP) tenants over the fate of the four-decade-old mall, which is expected to be cleared out by next year to facilitate works on the Klang Valley MRT.
The mall owner said in a statement here that it has not received any formal notification from the Finance Ministry on whether BBP would be maintained, demolished or acquired by any party.
“However, UDA has issued eviction notices to three tenants, namely Starbucks Coffee, Gloria Jeans and Hot & Roll, according to instructions given by MRT Corporation to us,” the Finance Ministry-owned agency said.
It added that the remaining tenants operating inside BBP could proceed with their businesses until further notice.
“UDA will try to ensure that the welfare of the tenants are protected,” the agency said. “UDA also promises to inform tenants from time to time [of] any new developments relating to the future of BB Plaza.”
Earlier today, some 50 BBP traders staged their maiden protest outside the mall entrance, complaining that they have been left out of the loop in discussions between UDA Holdings, MRT Corp and the Treasury over plans to vacate BBP for MRT works.
They gave UDA Holdings a week to respond to their demand for briefings on the status of the building, and threatened to stage more protests in the future.
This, coupled with previous protests by other affected traders in different parts of the city, could see further delays to Malaysia’s plan to build its first mass rapid transit rail system meant to increase urban connectivity.
The traders said they supported the government’s plans to site the MRT’s largest of the 13 stations beneath their premises but want to be included in all discussions held among the relevant authorities.
There has been no engagement to date, they said, adding that their only sources of information were the media and unverified snippets obtained from their sources in UDA Holdings.
“Do we still have a future in BB Plaza? We want to know,” the group’s spokesman Hassan Saad asked.
“We do not know who is taking over the mall. MRT Corp? Or is UDA planning to redevelop the mall? Will we be compensated? Will the tenants be guaranteed lots here once the construction is done?” he asked.
The Malaysian Insider reported earlier this month plans by MRT Corp to clear out BBP’s tenants by 2013 to make way for the construction of a massive underground station, which will begin with the building’s foyer and the adjoining Yayasan Selangor building.
BBP houses a majority of Malay businesses while Chinese businessmen run their companies in the adjoining Sungei Wang Plaza and nearby shophouses.
When contacted recently, UDA Holdings chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed had told The Malaysian Insider that discussions were still ongoing over whether BBP would be sold to MRT Corp or redeveloped.
A day later, MRT Corp CEO Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid said in a statement that government has no plans to acquire BBP, as feared.
He said, however, that MRT Corp’s plans to link its station to the mall would open up opportunities for UDA to redevelop the building and elevate traders’ statuses, instead of merely relying on “cheap rental” to boost Bumiputera trade.
The Treasury owns MRT Corp, which has taken over the MRT project from Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd last year after the government decided that the MMC-Gamuda joint-venture will manage the development of the 51km rail line between Sungai Buloh and Kajang as the project delivery partner (PDP).
MRT Corp has been negotiating land acquisitions for the project but has run into a standstill with land owners in Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang. It is, however, expected to sign an agreement with several property owners in Jalan Imbi.
The Malaysian Insider had reported on May 21 that delays in acquiring land in Jalan Bukit Bintang had prompted the Finance Ministry to call MRT Corp and other parties for an urgent meeting to consider options to ensure the country’s most expensive infrastructure project meets its 2017 deadline to start operations.