By Clara Chooi and Thanusya Shanmuganathan
KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — Putrajaya today declared an end to the row between MRT Corporation and Bukit Bintang Plaza (BBP) traders after confirming that the 1970s-built mall would not have to be vacated during construction of the Klang Valley MRT’s largest underground station there.
Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also gave the traders the government’s assurance that should BBP change ownership, their businesses would be given first priority in the newly-developed complex.
“We hope that this can bring relief to the traders here. Any issue, we can settle through discussion... there is no need to take to the streets,” he said after a two-hour meeting with representatives of the traders, mall owner UDA Holdings Bhd and MRT Corp here.
Ismail, however, confirmed that the five businesses located on the sidewalk outside the mall entrance would have to move out by the end of the week to make way for preparatory work on the MRT.
He said that following this afternoon’s meeting, MRT project owner MRT Corp had agreed to foot the bill for compensation for the five businesses.
UDA Holdings had last week announced that the iconic mall located in the city’s busiest shopping district would be demolished to make way for the MRT, the country’s most expensive infrastructure project to date.
The Finance Ministry-owned firm had said that the mall’s 167 tenants, 60 per cent of whom are Bumiputeras, would have to clear out of the building by year-end to facilitate preparatory work on the country’s first mass rapid transit system.
The Malaysian Insider reported two weeks ago that property conglomerate Tradewinds Corporation Bhd (TCB), which is majority owned by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, has proposed to acquire BBP and the adjoining Yayasan Selangor to facilitate the MRT work.
Syed Mokhtar also owns a major stake in the MMC-Gamuda joint venture, which is the project delivery partner and tunnel contractor for the 51km Sungai Buloh-Kajang line in the first phase of the MRT due for completion by 2017.
The 167 traders inside BBP had recently raised their concerns last week over the fate of their businesses following media reports on alleged plans for the total demolition of the plaza to make way for work on the MRT.
A group of some 50 traders had staged a protest outside BBP two weeks back, lamenting to the media that they have been left out of the loop of negotiations between UDA, the Treasury and MRT Corp over future plans for the building.
The traders said they were happy to accept the integration of the MRT with BBP, noting that it would boost their businesses, but are worried over the possibility that the plaza would be redeveloped without any guarantee that they would be given lots in the new building.
But in an immediate response to the protest, UDA had initially said it was equally in the dark over future plans for BBP, on whether the iconic mall would have to be demolished or whether it could be sold off to the highest bidder.
UDA chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed had also expressed his preference not to redevelop BBP, citing cost constraints as the reason.
Rebuilding BBP, he had said, would cost at least RM500 million, which would in turn be translated into hefty rentals to the traders.
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