Kuala Lumpur a step closer to redeveloping city's biggest Malay enclave

KUALA LUMPUR (The Straits Times/ANN) - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has long said that the area, with its dilapidated buildings and cramped roads, is an embarrassment for the Malay community, Malaysia's majority community. 

After decades of stalemate, the Malaysian government is inching closer towards redeveloping Kuala Lumpur's biggest Malay enclave of Kampung Baru, after it recently raised its offer to RM1,000 (S$331) per sq ft to landowners.

Malaysia's Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad said he is optimistic that a plan to modernise the 120-year-old village, comprising old village houses and ageing apartments, will be finalised by June, based on feedback obtained from landowners.

The Kampung Bharu Development Corp, a government agency which coordinates and regulates development in the area, has met landowners to discuss issues, he said. "These meetings have been held since early last month, and we have met nearly 50 per cent of the 5,374 landowners in Kampung Baru," Mr Khalid said.

"Of the total, 97 per cent said they are ready to sell their lots... and we will finalise it in the next six months," he said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has long said that the area, with its dilapidated buildings and cramped roads, is an embarrassment for the Malay community, Malaysia's majority community. Tourist brochures describe it as a "traditional Malay village".

Still, not everyone wants to sell.

Mr Mohd Farid Rahmat, who owns a portion of his house along with 10 other cousins, is holding out from selling as the deal is simply not profitable enough for him, and he likes living in the city.

"I just don't want to sell it," he told The Straits Times.

Under the master plan drawn up by the Pakatan Harapan government, and once approved by the enclave's residents, the sprawling 90ha site - slightly larger than Singapore's Botanic Gardens - will be transformed by tall residential and office blocks along with modern commercial buildings and upgraded infrastructure.

The Straits Times understands that the government is hoping to obtain at least 80 per cent approval from the 5,374 landowners in order to go ahead with the rebuilding.

The Mahathir administration last October raised its offer to landowners in Kampung Baru - from RM850 per sq ft made in September to RM1,000 per sq ft.

Successive prime ministers since Tun Dr Mahathir himself in the 1980s have eyed this piece of land, a stone's throw from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, for redevelopment but previous attempts to woo its owners have failed. Multiple ownership of plots also hindered the government's plans to buy out landowners.

Landowners who take up the offer will be paid RM850 per sq ft in cash, with the remaining RM150 in the form of shares in a special purpose vehicle to be set up. The owners have also been promised a 15 per cent discount on properties in the new development, should they wish to buy these.

The area today is dwarfed by swanky condominiums and gleaming office towers just across the narrow Klang River.

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