Restoring Penang's heritage pays off for Singaporean

WHAT'S COOKING: The Loke Thye Kee restaurant was renovated as part of the first phase of a heritage project.


    Oct 17, 2016

    Restoring Penang's heritage pays off for Singaporean


    A SINGAPOREAN entrepreneur with Penang roots, Jonathan Foo, 44, is seeing his family investment in heritage properties in George Town taking a form that will generate long-term recurring income.

    He is chief executive of 1919 Global which has to date spent in excess of RM10 million (S$3.3 million) to conserve its heritage properties in George Town.

    "In 2006, my father bought 19 pre-war properties in dilapidated conditions along Khoo Sian Ewe Road, Penang Road and Phee Choon Road.

    "Many of our relatives and friends did not believe it was good investment because no one believed that dilapidated pre-war houses could be renovated and adapted for modern commercial use.

    "When George Town was awarded the World Heritage Site status from Unesco in 2008, we knew it was time to start doing something with our heritage property investments.

    "For example, we interviewed the original owner of the famous Loke Thye Kee restaurant and the people who worked there to get a feel of the environment of the 1920s and 1930s when the restaurant was very popular, so that we can set a theme for our restoration project," he said.

    The first phase of the restoration project involved renovating Loke Thye Kee restaurant, on the corner of Khoo Sian Ewe and Burma roads.

    The second phase involved turning five pre-war houses facing Penang Road into a hotel.

    Known as Loke Thye Kee Residences, the hotel, which started operations a year ago, targets overseas and domestic tourists who appreciate heritage architecture.

    The third phase saw the renovation of the Majestic Theatre into a convention hall.

    The fourth phase of restoration, which is being worked on now, involved turning 12 pre-war properties along Phee Choon Road into a commercial hub for the media industry, with production and post-production facilities for film, television and design.