JOHOR BARU: Old and new elements and features must co-exist and complement each other under the multi-billion ringgit Johor Baru city centre transformation project.

University Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Dean, Faculty of Built Environment, Prof Dr Ahmad Nazri Muhamad Ludin said redevelopment did not mean the old has to make way for the new.

“But the most important thing is that the project is able to bring back the crowd to Johor Baru again and make it a vibrant city,’’ he said.

Ahmad Nazri said the opening of the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex at Bukit Chagar here in 2008, was the main reason why the city centre was now ‘deserted’.

Prior to the opening of the CIQ, motorists and visitors especially Singaporeans would stop over in the city centre to change money and patronise eateries but the traffic had now been diverted to Jalan Tebrau and Stulang Laut.

He also said the parties involved in the transformation project must include the conservation of pre-war houses and heritage buildings in old parts of the city centre.

“These buildings are windows of the past and tells the rich history of Johor Baru and how the city has transformed into what it is today,’’ said Ahmad Nazri.

Malaysian Institute of Architects deputy president Saifuddin Ahmad said Johor Baru city must have its own uniqueness which could not be found in other Malaysia cities or towns.

He hoped the stakeholders would conserve heritage buildings or old buildings with historical value under the transformation plan.

“Development and redevelopment does not mean we have the liberty of pulling down old or historical buildings and replacing them with modern skyscrapers,’’ said Saifuddin.

He said old and heritage buildings could be turned into income generated products with new usage such as turning them into boutique hotels, specialty retail and food and beverage shops.

Johor will unveil the project this year to rejuvenate and redevelop the city centre in line with its status as one of the five flagship development zones in Iskandar Malaysia.

The RM1.8bil project includes RM200mil to open and clean up Sungai Segget, one of the filthiest rivers in the country, which flows along Jalan Wong Ah Fook in the city.

Several years ago, RM6mil was spent to cover up a stretch of the river, which has the reputation for being a dumping ground for raw sewage, into a pedestrian walkway.

The redevelopment project covers 485.62ha area within the Johor Baru city central area including Bukit Timbalan, Sungai Segget, the former site of the Lumba Kuda low-cost flats, Bukit Chagar CIQ and Tanjung Puteri Lorry Customs Complex.

Johor Baru has humble beginnings as a small Malay fishing village, originally known as Tanjung Puteri and was founded in 1855 by Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, the father or Sultan Abu Bakar.

Sultan Abu Bakar, famously known as the “Father of Modern Johor” changed the name to Johor Baru after he moved the seat of government from Teluk Blangah in Singapore to Johor in 1866.

During his reign (1862-1895), Johor Baru was one of the “most modern and developed towns” in the Malay states due to the large presence of British and Chinese traders.

Source : Star Property

By : Zazali Musa