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Draining The Capital’s Biggest Fish Pond

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Long abandoned: The Plaza Rakyat project was abandoned after the previous developer Plaza Rakyat Sdn Bhd was hit by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. — GLEN GUAN/The Star

AFTER 20 years in limbo, the billion ringgit uncompleted Plaza Rakyat project will finally be revived and former buyers of the units will be duly compensated.

Last year Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) took vacant possession of the abandoned project site after repaying an RM150mil loan taken by its earlier developer Plaza Rakyat Sdn Bhd (PRSB) from a consortium of banks.

After months of negotiations, DBKL will ink the deal to surrender the site over to new developer, Profit Consortium Sdn Bhd, on Friday

Profit Consortium is owned by Maxcorp Development Sdn Bhd, SW Land Sdn Bhd and Tan Sri Abdul Samad Alias.

Maxcorp is the private vehicle of Major (Rtd) Anuar Adam while SW Land is the developer of Sungai Wang Plaza.

The original plan for Plaza Rakyat comprised a mixed development with a multi-storey office tower, condominium, hotel and a seven-storey shopping centre.

A tricky part in rehabilitating Plaza Rakyat is draining the stagnant water from the basement car park.

The RM1.4bil project was 30% completed about 15 years ago when PRSB ran into financial difficulties during the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis, forcing it to abandon the project.

Then in 2010, the government terminated PRSB’s contract, 12 years after the project was left abandoned.

Subsequently, PRSB went into receivership and came under the administration of a consortium of lender banks.

New lease of life

It will take a few more months for the developer to start work to rehabilitate the project as a full structural report must be carried out on the site.

DBKL Mechanical & Engineering Department officer Abd Jamil Abd Rahman said it would take engineers several months to assess the corroding steel structures such as rebars and scaffolding left behind after the project was abandoned two decades ago, to determine if it could be retained or incorporated in the new development.

He added that the real challenge lay with the task of draining the water from the seven-storey basement which had since retained rainwater for so long.

A full structural report will need to be carried out to find out if the old steel roads and scaffolding remnants from the dead project can be reused.

The basement, dubbed the ‘swimming pool’ by DBKL officers, was now home to snakes and fish such as tilapia and haruan, which was said to be the most challenging part of the rehabilitation process.

“When we took over the site last year, we had to use four different pumps to drain out the water, which was at the same level of Jalan Pudu and the LRT pole.

“The site is located in a valley, so when it rains, the water will flow right into the basement.

“It was at a dangerous level and we needed to drain it out fast,” he said.

It took three months to drain the water out of only three levels of the seven-storey basement, he said, adding that the work had 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.

“We are also concerned, because the LRT is running above, and each time the train passes, it will vibrate, so all these are factors that need to be looked into,’’ said Abd Jamil.

A source familiar to the project said the new developers would only be able to determine the full extent of the work needed to be carried out to revive the project after their experts move in and assess the site.

“A complete structural integrity survey have to be carried out first.

An aerial view of the abandoned Plaza Rakyat project in Jalan Pudu.

“The concrete and steel reinforcement roads were left exposed to the elements for almost two decades, and as the original plan was for a 79-storey office tower, a 46-storey condominium, and a 24-storey hotel, the foundation had been piled deep into the ground,’’ he said.

“While we have ideas on plot ratio and density, one cannot fully plan anything at this stage until a survey is carried out.

“They are working on the estimates on what can be retained from the old project site or incorporated into the new design as well as sorting out some minor land matters,’’ added the source.

 

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