CHINESE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OFFICE GEORGE TOWN

Chinese Chamber of Commerce, George Town

On one hand, preserving old building brings a big return from tourism sector. Yet conservation cost aside, it actually pays a hefty price in the land scarcity needed to make way for economic development of bigger size and population. Is it worth it?

Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s branch office in Penang, Malaysia, dated back in 1928, at the decline of Qing dynasty and the rise of Nationalist movement in China, is one of the examples of Chinese preserved buildings overseas.

More than just protecting the site amid the modernisation—as seen across the block—conservation of such buildings in Penang, is a guarantee for indefinite time.

This is an extraordinary commitment considering that keeping old buildings is inefficient as low-density offices cost space. Especially in a town that sits on a small island, separated by a strait from the rest of the country, space is extremely limited.

High-rise buildings have in the past few decades slowly scraping the skies of Penang, keeping up with demand for space. But supplying office space within these low-density old buildings deserves a praise.

This is part of the solution to ensure continuous growth for commercial and tourism sector, although economic gains to land value ratio does not look too good.

In Singapore, for instance, the policy favors land reclamation, while the city administration in Jakarta compromises the protection of heritage sites for the sake of supplying new, high-density office spaces. In many ways, however, it is hardly that each cases be compared.

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