Bukit Bintang’s covered walk among stars
PETALING JAYA: The Government's proposal to revive plans for the Bukit Bintang area to be developed along the lines of Singapore's famous shopping haven Orchard Road to boost tourism and increase shopping expenditure, has received positive response from retail associations and real estate consultants.
Under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), a 6km-long covered walkway would be built in the Bukit Bintang area. The walkway is part of the RM204bil public-private investment master plan under the ETP's Greater Kuala Lumpur development.
For comparison, Orchard Road is a 2.2km one-way street flanked by distinctive shopping malls on both sides of the road.
Malaysian Retailer-Chains Association (MRCA) secretary general Valerie Choo said in principle, the Orchard Road concept would be good for Bukit Bintang.
MRCA is happy that more emphasis has been placed on reviving Bukit Bintang. Malaysia is now able to sell Bukit Bintang as a tourism product while tourists and locals will be able to walk seamlessly and comfortably from one mall to another, she told StarBiz in an e-mail.
However, she said more needed to be done such as shopping mall enhancement and refurbishment.
This is what Singapore Tourism Board did in 2009, pumping in S$40mil to rejuvenate Orchard Road together with other stakeholders i.e. shopping malls and building owners, she said.
Choo suggested planting more trees to create lush greenery and shade to complete a multi-sensory experience for tourists and locals alike.
But the most vital thing is how the traffic condition can be improved in that area, she said, adding that road closures were now carried out without stakeholders being informed beforehand.
Malaysian Association for Shopping and Highrise Complex Management (PPK) president H. C. Chan said Bukit Bintang had the pedigree and history in shopping since its first shopping mall Sungei Wang Plaza opened over three decades ago and this gave the area tremendous potential to be a world-class shopping destination.
Creation of a comprehensive pedestrian network would be a major step towards integrating all the mall and hotel facilities and linking them to public transportation, befitting and expected of a world-class shopping destination, he told StarBiz via e-mail.
Besides customer-friendly physical integration, he said there was a need for a long-term holistic approach of branding and marketing Bukit Bintang as a single shopping haven entity, similar to Orchard Road or Regent Street of London.
PPK urges all mall owners and managers in Bukit Bintang and interested stakeholders like the City Hall to adopt a common platform and work closely together for the common good of the country's tourism and their respective properties, he said.
Henry Butcher Retail managing director Tan Hai Hsin said reviving the concept of Orchard Road in Bukit Bintang area was viable and long outstanding. It should have been done many years ago! he told StarBiz in an e-mail reply.
However, Tan said many things still needed to be done to make Bukit Bintang area a world-class shopping district, including:
All major shopping centres should be linked via a series of tunnels and/or bridges that provide cover and protection from the rain and the sun. Berjaya Times Square is now disconnected from Sungei Wang Plaza. There is no covered bridge or tunnel joining both buildings. Also, Plaza Low Yat is disconnected from Sungei Wang Plaza/Bukit Bintang Plaza. Sungei Wang Plaza/Bukit Bintang Plaza is linked to Lot 10 via a bridge. Lot 10 is disjointed from Fahrenheit 88, which is not directly linked to Starhill Gallery or Pavilion.
Jalan Bukit Bintang or Jalan Sultan Ismail should be turned into a pedestrian mall during the weekends. This was attempted many years ago but with great resistance from the hotel, office and retail operators in the area who complained their customers would not be able to access their premises when the road is closed.
Public facilities such as a tourist information centre, public toilets and street furniture are important components of a world-class shopping district. The tourist information booth in front of McDonald's is too small, unfriendly and stocks too few brochures. According to recent media reports, the public toilets (in front of McDonald's and Lot 10) are not well-maintained.
A tourist brochure or shopping directory just for the Bukit Bintang shopping district is a must. In Singapore, there are a few publishers on Orchard Road's retail attractions and other facilities.
By The Star Online