KOMTAR in April 2016
|Tallest in Penang, Malaysia since 1985[I]|
|Address||Penang Road, 10000 George Town, Penang, Malaysia|
|Town or city||George Town, Penang|
|Renovated||2013 - 2017|
|Roof||248.7 m (816 ft)|
|Floor area||71,080 m2 (765,100 sq ft)|
|Lifts/elevators||26 Mitsubishi/Hitachi Elevators|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Architects Team 3|
Jurubena Bertiga International Sdn Bhd
|Structural engineer||Ove Arup & Partners|
|Renovating firm||Only World Group|
The KOMTAR Tower, in the city of George Town in Penang, Malaysia, is Penang's tallest skyscraper and the eleventh tallest building in Malaysia. KOMTAR is an acronym for Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak, named after the second Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The tower was constructed in 1974 and completed in 1986. When the skyscraper topped out in 1985, it was originally completed with 65 floors and a height of 232 metres (761 ft). At the time of its completion, the KOMTAR Tower was the second tallest building in Asia after Sunshine 60 in Tokyo. The building maintained its status as Malaysia's tallest skyscraper for another 3 years before being surpassed by Menara Maybank in Kuala Lumpur in 1988. To this day, KOMTAR Tower's status as Penang's tallest skyscraper remains unchallenged.
KOMTAR actually consists of a multipurpose complex, comprising retail outlets, a transportation hub and administrative offices of the Penang state government. It was named after Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein Al-Haj, the second Prime Minister of Malaysia, who officiated the piling of Phase 1 on 1 January 1974.
In 2015, as part of a revitalisation plan, three more storeys were added, raising the height of KOMTAR Tower to 249 metres (817 ft). In addition, KOMTAR Tower is home to the Rainbow Skywalk, the highest glass skywalk in Malaysia, which has been installed at the top of the skyscraper and launched in 2016. Further efforts to revitalise KOMTAR include the launch of The Gravityz, billed as the world's highest rope course, at the exterior of the skyscraper's 65th floor in 2018.
KOMTAR was the brainchild of Lim Chong Keat, the younger brother of Lim Chong Eu, the second Chief Minister of Penang. It was meant to revitalise the city of George Town by creating a complex that would house administrative, commercial, retail and transportation functions under one roof, as well as projecting Penang's relatively new modernist architectural scene in the post-independence era.
This massive urban renewal effort was first proposed in 1962. A report from Robert Nathan also recognised that George Town was beginning to show signs of decline, with the majority of the city's residences consisting of 19th century shophouses that were in derelict conditions and had turned into slums.
By the time Lim Chong Eu took over as the Chief Minister of Penang in 1969, the state of decline in Penang had been exacerbated by the revocation of Penang's free entrepôt status. Thus, the KOMTAR project was seen as an attempt to reverse the declining fortunes of George Town, and revitalise both the city and the state of Penang as a whole.
A masterplan for George Town drawn up in the 1960s called for the conservation of the historic city centre as a heritage site, whilst an 11 hectare area bounded by four roads - Prangin, Maxwell, Penang and Magazine Roads - was to be developed into the 'Penang New Urban Centre' consisting of a four-storey podium, three 17-storey residential blocks and a central 65-storey skyscraper. The proposed complex also included a geodesic dome inspired by the designs of Buckminster Fuller, a colleague of Lim Chong Keat.
The central skyscraper was to house administrative offices of the Penang state government, while the geodesic dome would contain a multipurpose hall. As noted by Dr. Gwynn Jenkins in her book, Contested Space, the three residential blocks were to provide a ‘socially-engineered residential community’ in flats of mixed income and ethnicity. In addition, the complex was also planned to serve as a commercial district and a public transportation hub, all of which were to be condensed under one roof.
The complex was designed by Architects Team 3 (AT3) of Singapore, led by Lim Chong Keat. Lim recounted that he was responsible in making sure that the appointed consultants were competent, and of sufficient national and worldwide standing required to accomplish the project. Experts of other fields, including social researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and a traffic consultant were also roped in.
The KOMTAR project only got off the ground in 1970, during the tenure of Lim Chong Eu as the then Chief Minister of Penang. It was the single most ambitious urban renewal project undertaken by Penang Development Corporation, the development arm of the Penang state government. The master plan was divided into five phases for implementation.
However, the KOMTAR project also entailed the destruction of hundreds of colonial-era shophouses, schools and temples around the 11 hectare site, displacing the more established neighbourhoods in the process. Notably, Gladstone Road, which once ran through the area, was wiped off the map when the construction of KOMTAR commenced.
The then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, officiated the first piling ceremony on 1 January 1974, during which he made clear that “this project would change the face of the city, discarding the colonial heritage image in favour of one which reflects the identity of Malaysia and its multi-ethnic culture”.
KOMTAR Tower was topped out in 1985, making it the tallest skyscraper in Malaysia at the time. The 65-storey, 232 m tall skyscraper was also the second tallest in Asia at that point, behind Sunshine 60 in Tokyo, Japan. KOMTAR Tower was officially completed the following year and remained as the tallest skyscraper in Malaysia until 1988.
|1 January 1974||The first piling of the KOMTAR Tower one was done by the late Tun Abdul Razak, the second PM of Malaysia.|
|2 December 1976||Part of the complex's first phase podium block was completed in 1976.|
|23–24 January 1983||A fire broke out at the 43rd floor of the KOMTAR Tower and destroyed the floors above it. Firemen were unable to put out the flames as it was too high up. The flames eventually burnt out after approximately eight hours. The skyscraper was still under construction at that time and it was one of the worst high-rise fires in the country.|
|1986||Phase 1, Phase 2A and Shangri-La Hotel (now Jen Hotel) opens.|
|1988||Construction of the 65-storey Komtar Tower is completed.|
|1997||Construction of Phase 3, Prangin Mall begins.|
|2000||Prangin Mall opens.|
|2005||The long-time anchor tenant at the mall, Super Komtar, a local department store chain folded in. Another department store, Aktif Lifestyle (formerly Yaohan) occupying the adjoining block, has also ceased operations.|
|1 May 2008||The new Penang state government, led by the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition, reaffirmed its commitment to revitalise KOMTAR by cancelling the relocation of its administrative offices to Bayan Mutiara.|
|17 December 2008||A new anchor tenant named Pacific took over Super Komtar Supermarket & Departmental Store as the main anchor tenant with a floor space of over 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2). Upgrading and renovating works on Phase 2A completes.|
|19 August 2009||Komtar Walk was opened outside Pacific's main entrance. It features 19 F&B outlets and an open space. 1st Avenue, Phase 4 commenced construction.|
|27 May 2010||Popular Bookstore, which opened in Komtar at 1991 and was the first Popular outlet outside Kuala Lumpur, returned to its former location after moving to Prangin Mall in 2004. The store in Prangin Mall has since ceased operations.|
|17 August 2010||Requests for Proposal (RFP) were called by the state government to rejuvenate the open space of the level 5 podium and Geodesic Dome, levels 59 and 60 of the tower, and the installation of an outdoor bubble lift linking level 5 and the level 65 rooftop.|
|17 November 2010||ICT Mall @ KOMTAR opens.|
|25 November 2010||1st Avenue Mall opens.|
|31 July 2012||Penang Heritage Square announced for Phase 5 development.|
|29 October 2013||RM50 million KOMTAR revitalisation and rejuvenation project covering levels 5, 59, 60, 64 and 65 kicks off by Only World Group Holdings Berhad (OWG).|
|1 June 2015||59 Sixty Restaurant on levels 59 and 60 of tower block opens for business.|
|18 September 2015||OWG takes over the management of KOMTAR multistorey car park and upgrading works have been carried out over six months. Level five of the nine-level car park will be dedicated to women drivers only for security reasons, where shoppers can access the upcoming shopping arcade directly as they exit the car park.|
|20 January 2016||Revitalisation project expanded to include the construction of three additional levels (levels 66, 67 and 68) and new spaces (levels 3, 4, 5 and 6).|
|16 July 2016||Official launch of Tech Dome Penang.|
|18 December 2016||Official launch of The Top @ Komtar.|
|February 2018||The Gravityz, a rope course along the exterior of the 65th floor, was launched.|
As part of Phase 1, KOMTAR Tower had been completed in 1986. However, out of the original five phases, only Phases 1 and 2A, the latter which involved the creation of KOMTAR Walk, a 155-metre-long walkway lined with food outlets, were never completed according to plan. Phases 3 and 4 were jointly developed with private firms into Prangin Mall and 1st. Avenue Mall respectively.
While KOMTAR was originally built to revitalise George Town, by the early 2000s, it became a white elephant itself. The displacement of entire neighbourhoods and businesses during the construction of KOMTAR in the 1970s and 1980s caused the vicinity of KOMTAR to become depopulated, thus depriving the retailers within KOMTAR of a catchment area. The 1997 Asian financial crisis exacerbated the decline of KOMTAR, while the completion of newer shopping malls throughout George Town led to retailers in KOMTAR shutting down in droves. Potential tenants and the general public alike were also unimpressed by KOMTAR's poor maintenance, its confusing interior layout and dark, garbage-strewn corners.
As part of the Penang state government's initiative to regain the glory days of KOMTAR, a revitalisation effort was launched in late 2012. Only World Group (OWG) was awarded the RM50 million renovation project, which included the construction of a banquet hall at level 5, a 30,000 sq ft boulevard to house food and beverage (F&B) outlets, an international-themed restaurant at levels 59 and 60, a sky restaurant at level 64 and a sky lounge at level 65.
in 2015, three new floors were added onto the KOMTAR Tower, thus increasing its height to 249 metres. The top floor (68th floor) was topped with a rooftop Sky Bar, as well as the highest glass skywalk in Malaysia. Dubbed the Rainbow Skywalk, the 16 metre-semi-circular glass skywalk is also the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. The U-shaped glass walkway is constructed from the same glass material as that of Grand Canyon Skywalk and is designed to withstand a total weight of 16 adults.
Three high-speed bubble lifts were also installed, two of which connect a theme park at level 5 to levels 65, 66 and 67, while the other links level 59 with the level 68 summit. While the bubble lifts were initially designed with a transparent glass wall to allow for a panoramic view of George Town on the way up, the lifts were modified in 2016 following a safety advice by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health for the bubble lifts to be completely concealed.
In 2018, The Gravityz, a 90 m (300 ft) long rope course outside the 65th floor, was opened to the public. Dubbed as the world's highest rope course, it is sited at 239 m (784 ft) above sea level and features various obstacle courses along a platform lining the exterior of the 65th floor, including a zip-line challenge. Specialised gear imported from Switzerland are utilised and for safety purposes, only six persons, weighing not more than 600 kg (1,300 lb) accumulatively, are allowed along the platform at any given time.
|Level 1||Main Entrance, KOMTAR Bus Terminal|
|Level 2||Popular Bookstore, Asia Comic Cultural Museum|
|Level 3||Offices of the Penang state government and the Penang Island City Council, ICT Digital Mall, Durian the King of Fruits, Penang State Gallery, Tongkat Ali King|
|Level 4||Top Boutique Aquarium, Penang House of Music, Entrance of Tech Dome Penang, Jelly Bump|
|Level 5||Auditorium, Geodesic Dome housing the Tech Dome Penang, 7D Discovery Motion Theater, Magic Mirror Maze, Danceoki, Ocean Explorer, Musical Carousel, Jurassic Research Center, Dino Gym, Dragon Regatta, Space Time Squadron|
|Level 6||Grand Imperial Restaurant|
|Level 7–58, 61-64||Offices of the Penang state government (including the Chief Minister of Penang) and the Penang Island City Council|
|Level 59-60||Top View Restaurant & Lounge (formerly known as 59Sixty)|
|Level 65||Observatory Deck & The Gravityz Outdoor Rope Course|
|Level 66||Gym in the Sky|
|Level 59-60, 66-67||Tower Club Penang|
|Level 68||Rainbow Skywalk, Coco Cabana Bar & Bistro|
The renovation works conducted by OWG are intended to turn KOMTAR Tower into a modern tourist attraction in the heart of George Town. Collectively, the renovation project was officially named 'The Top'.
The attractions are as follows.
The Dewan Tunku Geodesic Dome, located on level 5, is a partial-spherical structure based on a pattern of circles called geodesics which intersects to form triangular elements. These triangular elements spread the stress across the entire structure. It is based on a concept studied, developed and popularised by R. Buckminster Fuller.
The main entrance to the Geodesic Dome is from the auditorium level, and is also accessible from level 4.
The multi-purpose hall Dome was used for performances, official functions, concerts and other events.
As part of the recent renovation works, the Dome and the squash centre have been transformed into Tech Dome Penang. The dome now contains the following galleries:
ICT Digital Mall @ Komtar, or simply ICT Mall, is a new retail development managed by Venice Gateway Sdn. Bhd. Opened in November 2010, it occupies the space originally occupied by Yaohan Department Store and later by Aktif Lifestyle Store. The new mall is geared towards offering shoppers an array of electrical and electronic products including computer hardware and software, telecommunication products such as cellular phones, cameras and other photography gear.
A food court is also located at the ground floor of ICT Digital Mall @ Komtar, as well as the Asia Comic Cultural Museum at level 2. To ensure smooth traffic flow to ICT Mall, a new overhead pedestrian bridge is constructed to link the third floor of ICT Mall to 1st Avenue Mall.
KOMTAR Walk, which covers a 155m-long stretch parallel to Prangin Road, is a food and beverage hub developed by Pacific Hypermarket & Department Store Sdn Bhd.
KOMTAR Walk houses F&B outlets underneath an open-air lightweight roof. The 19 outlets, five of which are single-storey ones, stand in a single structure at the foot of the overhead bridge facing the outdoor carpark. Seven more are connected to KOMTAR Tower next to the George Town White Coffee outlet while the remaining seven outlets, which are all double-storey, are located opposite. These two rows are separated by a 5m walkway, which also allows for outdoor seating.
The KOMTAR Bus Terminal serves as the hub of public bus services within George Town, which is currently provided by Rapid Penang. A large majority of Rapid Penang bus routes within Penang Island radiate from this terminal, thus making KOMTAR accessible from all parts of Penang Island.
Hotel Jen is a 4-star hotel next to KOMTAR Tower. It was originally built as part of Phase 2A. Upon completion in the 1980s, it became the Shangri-La Penang and remained so until it was rebranded in the 2000s as Traders Hotel.
Prangin Mall was initially planned as part of Phase 3 of the KOMTAR project. Named after Prangin Road, also known as Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong, Prangin Mall was opened in 2001. It caters to a market ranging from lower to middle class. The mall comprises six levels including a basement floor, two levels of basement parking and a further three levels of parking at the upper floors. In recent years, Prangin Mall is also well known for a wide range of electronic retail outlets.
Originally part of Phase 4, 1st Avenue Mall at Magazine Road was completed and opened in 2010. At present, the shopping mall contains 655,000 sqf in gross floor area and spreads over 7 retail levels. The mall's top floor also contains a TGV Cineplex .
As of January 2017, Phase 5 has never been completed. The area allocated for Phase 5 covers the abandoned historic Sia Boey Market, located just east of 1st Avenue Mall, and is bounded by four streets - McNair Road, Prangin Road (Jalan Dr. Lim Chwee Leong), Magazine Road and Carnavon Street.
In July 2012, Phase 5 was earmarked by the Penang state government and Penang Development Corporation to be developed into Penang's new heritage enclave, known as Heritage Square. This would be in line with George Town's World Heritage Listing as well as to complement PDC's revitalisation efforts for KOMTAR as the socio-civic centre and business hub of Penang. This prime 4.5 acres of land in the heart of George Town will predominantly be public space. The Heritage Square and Centre will dedicate, consecrate and restore the cultural vibrancy of George Town by promoting the living heritage and street life in the inner city, as well as greening the city, thus ensuring a balanced development for the area. The project which is currently under construction, with an objective of revitalising the KOMTAR Phase 5 area, and to improve the heritage value and significance of the site by creating urban spaces and landscapes for healthy urban living. The development of Heritage Square Project will revitalise the adjacent KOMTAR building complex which is directed at regaining the glory of KOMTAR as the nerve centre of Penang.
The components of Penang's Heritage Square consist of the following:
This will revitalise the “Sia Boey” into a retail and tourist site, comprising among others a visitors’ centre, crafts and souvenir retail areas, flowers and food hubs. To expand the “Sia Boey”, market, it is expected that PDC will build an additional adjacent market to complement the existing one for a similar function. This restoration would mark the core zone boundary of the George Town UNESCO Heritage Site.
As George Town needs more public space for recreation, public congregation, celebrations and cultural performances, the urban public space which include some green areas will be promoted as the first of its kind in Penang for healthy living. The heritage celebration square will also provide a spot for a centre of culture, arts and traditions in George Town, in turn promoting cultural vibrancy and the concept of melting pot of cultures in the inner city.
To refurbish and reinstate the urban setting of the area whereby existing traditional pre-war shophouses along Maxwell Road will undergo adaptive reuse into cafes, coffee shops, tea houses, crafts and handicraft centres, mini-museums, boutiques and B&B hotels which are parallel with the heritage theme. To also reinstate urban setting and usage of the area whereby Maxwell Road will only be limited to pedestrians, and thus promoted as a walking street.
This 5-storey building will serve as a venue for arts, cultural, heritage, community, youth and performing activities. The GHC will be raised above street level to provide street plazas for the public.
To restore the Prangin Canal with plans for hawkers street food zone and street furniture amidst well-landscaped areas.
In June 2016, however, "Sia Boey" (Phase 5) was identified as a likely site for a transportation hub for the planned Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Mass Rail Transit (MRT) interchange under the Penang Transport Master Plan. The planned Penang Arts District has now been shifted to an alternative 9.2 acres vacant site off Macallum Street Ghaut and Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, located 500 metres east of the Sia Boey Market.
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