No other way but to adapt

Traders at city centre, Old Market have to accept changes brought about by current needs

Wee (left) interacts with a fruit vendor at the entrance of India Street Pedestrian Mall in Kuching.

KUCHING: The greatest challenge faced by the business community at the city centre and the Old Market areas is to strike a balance between conserving the heritage and sustaining their livelihood.

According to Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) member Dato Wee Hong Seng, in order to achieve the right balance, the whole community in the two areas has to face the inevitable change brought about by current needs of all stakeholders.

“If we were to create Kuching City that has life and soul, we have to put our minds and hearts together and move on as a community so that we can preserve and conserve our heritage and, at the same time, we will be able to ensure everyone will have sustainable income,” Wee told The Borneo Post here yesterday.

He expressed confidence that with the plan in place for DBKU to set up a tourism section, it would augur well for the community in the two areas.

In order for the plan to succeed, he said the community in the two areas must be willing to share their ideas so that DBKU could implement what is best for them now and for the future.

“There is no point in obtaining heritage status for Kuching when the business community does not benefit from it. So there must be a vantage point where everyone could agree and with that decision, the whole community will prosper in the long run,” he said.

Wee, who is also the president of India Street Merchants’ Association, pointed out that one of the initiatives taken by his association was to provide the ‘link’ for businesses to prosper in the two areas.

“What we mean by providing the link is that we want the people who patronise our place to be able to move around freely so that they will be able to spend their quality time here. After all, the two places are now well-linked with Plaza Merdeka shopping complex, the Darul Hanna Bridge and the (Kuching) Waterfront which will provide a rich experience of shopping in modern setting as well as the traditional ones which we offer here,” he stressed.

Wee also revealed that DBKU will put up the history of each street name in the area to provide information on their rich historical heritage, which will enhance the tourism potential of the area.

Wee showing the mural of an old bus which used to ply Kuching areas on the wall of a shophouse adjacent to the Electra House. More murals and paintings will be put up as part of an effort to record the rich historical heritage of Kuching for the benefit of visitors and tourists.

And to make the place even safer, Wee said the business community there will take the initiative to install CCTVs in the vicinity and at the same time engaging security guards to further boost security in the whole neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, Wee, who is also the honorary deputy secretary of the Kuching Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, informed that the current price of each shop unit in Kuching City Centre could easily reach RM2.5 million.

“The price of properties here has increased tremendously over the years. When I first bought mine here in 1989, it cost me RM450,000. So, we must continue to enhance the value of the properties here through continuous efforts to add value to what we have. What I mean is that we must move forward as a community and we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from others because it’s not going to work that way,” he stressed.

Wee reckoned that there are more than 600 shophouses in the two areas.

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