Moulmein Rise is going to stand like a sore thumb at the centre of the Moulmein residential area and the Pulau Tikus wet market. It is a 27 storey Commercial & SOHO luxury property project comprising of 2-storey of commercial spaces, basement car parks with 90 lots, 2-storey of car parks with 200 lots and 22-storey of 84 units of Small Office Home Office and facilities floors. The speculated developer price for the units is RM1,300.00 per square foot or RM2.5 million per unit. An average size per SOHO unit is 1,700 sq ft.
Why am I concerned? I grew up and lived in one of the houses located at Jalan Moulmein for 7 years. The roads around the site where Moulmein Rise is located are two lanes and are not suitable to serve as service roads. Moreover, there is a provision of public carparks at one side of the roads e.g. Jalan Moulmein & Solok Moulmein.
If you take a look at the project info board, a significant thing is missing: the MPPP approval reference. I spoke to some residents and friends and they told me that they were not given a "Notice of Objection" to allow them to state their disapproval and concern.
From what I understood, the developer has launched it as a SOHO to circumvent the stricter requirements under a residential or commercial development. If it is a residential project, they have to comply by a 1:5 ratio and the building will stand no more than 5-6 storey, consistent with buildings around the area. If it is a commercial project, the develop needs to provide a building line setback and a service road. It would have rendered the plan not feasible.
Hence, what was launched and approved is a SOHO, which the MPPP said the guidelines are debatable and grey. So, this is a way to get around any guidelines in Penang. In line with the CAT policy, the state government and the local authorities should provide a clarity to such cases. SOHO, a concept promoted in 2007, means serviced residential units sitting on commercial land. If it is used for residential purposes, the MPPP should define it as a residential project and not assist developer to circumvent the rules and regulations.
The developer has not made clear any development details and project layout. MPPP has not been able to give clear answers on the requirements and address the adverse impacts on the residents and market goers. The state government is happy to just allow the developers to flaunt all rules and strict local council guidelines. As an example, the S.P Chelliah affordable housing project announced by the state is going to break all density records in the country: 160 units per acre! It is worse than even downtown Hong Kong! By acting this way, isn't the state government inviting more developers to flaunt and circumvent guidelines?
Even on a non-peak, at 3pm, the Jalan Pasar one way street is filled to the brim with vehicles and hawker stalls. What would happen when the Moulmein Rise construction goes full steam? It will create a chaos and massive congestion around the whole residential area. Market goers and shoppers will avoid coming to the market because of a lack of parking space and some of the traders are going to close shop.
The manner the project is conceived and approved does not help to allay fears and concerns that our city planners are sleeping on the job and the state government is keeping its eyes closed.
How to achieve the status of livable city if the project is going to sacrifice livability, community lifestyle and the decades old wet market that is such an important landmark in Pulau Tikus?
We need a real CAT!