Wednesday, October 17, 2007

PGCC’s official brochure

Abad Naluri, the overall developer of the Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project, has put out a glossy promotion brochure entitled “Tomorrow’s City Today”, which is being given out to the unsuspecting Penang public at PGCC"s roadshows at Queensbay Mall and Gurney Plaza. Other than its often extraordinary use of the English language, the brochure is less than revealing about exactly what the plans are. There is no information about the number or design of the buildings (other than the ‘icon towers’), neither is there is any specific information about, for example, traffic implications (road widening plans are mentioned, but no detail as to the figures and calculations on which they are based). Instead, like all PR exercises of this kind, the brochure is full of beautiful pictures which will bear little resemblance to the end-product, and language phrases which are in the end meaningless. “Living, breathing, organic”, “easing, absorbing, redistributing” …. standard PR talk but without any substance.

The brochure is 56 pages, of which nearly half (25) are just glossy pictures, mainly of the Icon Towers, about which there is some brief explanation. 7 pages describe the competition for the Icon Towers and feature the two foreign architects, Hani Rashid and Nasrine Seraji. 8 pages attempt to present the project’s eco-credentials, with drawings of all sorts of eco-design initiatives that will go into making the project ‘zero carbon’. 4 pages talk of Penang’s new Metropolitan Park, which, it is implied, PGCC will create. 4 pages give graphic presentations of needed road changes in the vicinity, without any figures or management plan. 4 pages are introductions. 2 pages present a ‘canvas’ map of the site and just 2 pages highlight the benefits the city will bring (re jobs, etc).

Sleight of hand

As well as being very short on detail, the brochure is full of sleight of hand. For example, the glossy pictures of the Icon Towers present them without any other tower blocks being visible, despite the fact that, as far as we can ascertain from the developer’s own submission plan at least 37 are planned. Strangely, one picture of the Icon Towers seems to have imported possibly a Scottish hillside to replace Penang Hill! Are we so ashamed of our own landscape? Further, we mentioned the pages devoted to Penang’s Metropolitan Park. Here is what the brochure says (this is a direct quote, the English is theirs):

“Consist of four inter-connected parks, Penang Metropolitan Park will used up about 860 acres of untouched green area and transform it into a highly active park for the people in Penang. There will be no non-evasive tracks or pathways will be presented, in which it will allow public access as to promote a healthy lifestyle and to boost up the eco-tourism of the island”.

This gives you an idea of the language! And of course Penang Metropolitan Park will be made up of the already existing Botanical Gardens (582 acres), and the already existing Youth Park (178 acres), and all PGCC is doing is converting the green and open space that was the racecourse to a densely-populated urban development with just 26 acres of PGCC Central Park and 72 acres of PGCC Hill Park, presumably on the hill slopes which are too steep for even PGCC to cut. In other words, just 11% of the so-called Metropolitan Park will be due to PGCC, and that is after they have dumped a huge new city on the present open space of 260 acres (the present racecourse site).

Zero carbon

There are some extraordinary claims in the brochure. For example, the PGCC project apparently “gives us an opportunity to create a new micro-climate on the Island. We wonder to what this is referring: by concreting over most of 260 presently green acres, concreting over ever more of Penang through the road widening schemes needed in the vicinity (Scotland Road, Air Itam Road, Green Lane) and inducing thousands of extra cars and people to journey there – yes, the micro-climate will change ... for the worse?

Of course the brochure makes much of the claim that the project will be ‘zero carbon’. This is a concept we need to treat very cautiously. Questions must be asked about the way they will measure carbon emissions: for example, will the carbon emissions caused by the actual building of the project (which will last about 10 years?) be included? Will that include all the road widening schemes? How will they measure carbon emissions once the project is completed? Is “zero carbon” talking about the project as a whole, or just one building? Building by building?

And the brochure anyway blandly tells us that in the end, zero carbon will be achieved not by the project itself, but by investing in other projects elsewhere which will ‘offset’ any carbon deficit. With money, you can buy anything, it seems!

Check out for more on this.


Of course there is reference to the issue of traffic. An ideal world is presented (again, please excuse the English, it is not ours but theirs), as in:

“Energy demands for transportation will also be minimized. Transportation throughout the PGCC will account for a significant portion of the area’s carbon emissions. Enhancing the city by designing for pedestrian friendly movements a highly effective means to reduce transportation emissions within cities. Transportation energy will be reduced by increasing public transportation options, as well as ensuring a reliable and frequent service fitting to transportation demands.”

We would all love this to have been Penang’s transport plan for the last thirty years. But the reality we know is very different. It is the reality too of people choosing cars over any other form of transport. It defies belief that creating a city of over 32,000 people will not create huge traffic (car) woes. No matter what pretty phrases are trotted out, the fact remains that we will lose even more of our precious island to car culture (PORR of course is essential for PGCC, and then there is the widening of Scotland Road, Green Lane and Air Itam Road - and it is almost certain that we, the Penang taxpayers, will be asked to bear a significant part of the huge cost of the latter schemes, if not all of it).

The developer should be duty-bound to make its traffic management plan public, so Penangites can see the basis on which the developer is ‘selling’ the traffic issue to our MPPP. MPPP should insist on its publication and public discussion before approving the project. The traffic situation alone has huge implications for all Penangites, and it is shameful if it is to be dealt with in secret.

Please note that elsewhere in the brochure, the car culture is glorified by the following: there will be a “Quantum leap to Penang’s transportation infrastructure with major investment to build Penang Outer Ring Road and major private/public sectors initiative to provide seamless connectivity along Scotland Road and Masjid Negeri Road with road widening, new flyovers and underpasses.” And note that neither Abad Naluri nor Equine will be paying for it.

Road projects listed in the brochure are the construction of an underpass along Jalan Masjid Negeri under Batu Lancang – Masjid Negeri Road Junction; an increase of the number of approach lanes at Ayer Itam RoadMasjid Negeri Road junction; and the construction of a flyover and underpass at Batu Granting RdScotland Road junction.

The brochure proudly announces the need to “widen Green Lane on the southbound lanes to provides 3 lanes of continuous traffic movement” (again, English is theirs). Anyone who uses Green Lane will no doubt be highly amused!


Just two pages of the brochure talk of what the new city will house, without any details of the tower blocks that will house them. The brochure claims that PGCC will provide (2000?) retail outlets, medical tourism, conference and exhibition space, office space, a performing arts centre (PEN PAC), and 5 star hotels and service apartments (as well as living space, presumably, but not mentioned at all). All this it is claimed will create 5,000 construction jobs followed later by 4,000 jobs in hotels, 2,000 jobs in service and health sector, and 10,000 jobs in offices. It is claimed that PGCC will give Penang a 25% tourism boost, though this is not explained or quantified at all.

We know that most of the construction will be done by the labour of migrant workers, and one sad aspect of the project is that it is not for ordinary Penangites at all, but the high-end, wealthier clients who can spend the sort of money that gives the developers the profits they seek. One of the two international architects have already told us that the original plan by the developers was for a population density twice that of Hong Kong – hardly the vision of a development that represents “….the highest commitment to the creation of energy-efficient and environmentally conscious architecture.” But we know money is the bottom line ….. (For the interview with one of the architects, see


Another extract from the brochure, just to give you further flavour. Here is a stark statement, given prominent position on a page spread showing the eco-credentials of the Icon Towers.

“Changes in our climate are caused by gases that trap heat from escaping into outer space have increased the Earth’s temperature. One major effect of climate change is the continuing rise of the sea levels and this has caused disasters like extreme storm or flooding. The health of the people living in disaster-hit areas is threatened as the people are exposed to infectious diseases such as malaria.”

Again leaving aside the English, we just have to hope that the sort of science reflected in such a statement is not a reflection of the quality of science that has gone into, and is planned for, the project. It is ghastly.


Finally, Penangites can rest assured that the project ‘takes advantage of the lushness of the surrounding mountainous landscape by pulling it into the urban fold.’ We leave it to you to draw the correct image from that!

If you want more information, especially about how to join in a campaign to demand local accountability and/or to oppose the project, check out Plus the other links provided elsewhere on this blog.