Penang Times Square at Dato' Keramat Road within the George Town city centre is an ongoing urban redevelopment project. It also serves as one of the shopping centres within the city centre, and its outdoor plaza is a main venue for major occasional events.
The area bounded by Dato' Keramat Road, Kampung Jawa Lama, Kampung Jawa Baru and Jalan Timah was once a tin smelting facility. In the early 2000s, the land was acquired and is being redeveloped by Ivory Properties Group. The first out of five phases, known as the Birch the Plaza, was completed in 2009 and comprises residential high rises and a shopping mall. However, Birch the Plaza has been struggling with low shopper traffic and tenancy from the very beginning.
The second phase, which includes M Mall 020, the newest shopping mall on Penang Island, has been completed as of 2015. A facelift of the existing Penang Times Square is also underway to increase its tenancy rate.
The main anchor tenant of Birch the Plaza is Sunshine City, a flagship department store of Suiwah Corporation.
The area occupied by Penang Times Square now was formerly a tin smelting plant owned by Eastern Smelting. The firm was initially named Seng Kee Tin Smelting Works, who opened the tin smelting facility in 1897. Owned by Lee Chin Ho, the first ethnic Chinese smelter to use European reveberatory furnaces, the firm imported tin from the neighbouring Sultanate of Perak and southern Thailand, which was then smelted into tin ingots.
The former office of Eastern Smelting, the Birch House, stands as a reminder of the area's past. It was named after the British Resident of the neighbouring Sultanate of Perak, Sir Ernest Woodford Birch, who was actively involved in the development of the tin smelting industry on Penang Island in the 1900s. After restoration works costing RM2.5 million, the Birch House is now used as the headquarters of Ivory Properties Group and also as a Mcdonald's Outlet.
With the death of the tin smelting industry late in the 20th. century, the area seemed abandoned for awhile. In the early 2000s, Ivory Properties Group acquired the land bordered by Dato' Keramat Road, Kampung Jawa Baru, Kampung Jawa Lama and Jalan Timah. The firm then began redeveloping the land in five phases.
While the Penang Times Square was under construction, the project was said to be tied to the Penang Monorail project mooted by the ruling Barisan Nasional alliance. The monorail project turned out to be an empty promise and died a slow death, as the Malaysian federal government refused to grant financial allocation for such a project after Barisan Nasional was booted out of power in Penang in 2008.
The first phase was completed in 2009 and was named Birch the Plaza. It included a shopping mall within the podium block and adjoining high rise condominiums. However, since its inception, Penang Times Square has struggled to compete against numerous other shopping malls on Penang Island. A dearth of retail and entertainment options has led to low shopper traffic and tenancy rates.
The outdoor plaza, on the other hand, has been utilised for major events and celebrations, such as New Year's Day countdown parties and open-air exhibitions.
As of 2015, the second phase has been completed with the opening of M Mall 020. The mall at the southern end of Penang Times Square is now the newest shopping mall on Penang Island. Despite the mall's boxy design, it also contains the only wax museum on Penang Island, as well as themed 'streets' at different levels of the mall. However, without entertainment and retail big names, it remains to be seen whether the new mall can inject new life into Penang Times Square, especially since there are still three phases to go before the final completion of the project.
In 2016, Ivory Properties Group has announced that it will commence a RM10 million facelift of Penang Times Square, in a bid to improve its tenancy rates.
In addition, as part of the Penang Transport Master Plan, a planned station for the Air Itam Monorail Line is to be built within Penang Times Square. If the plan goes ahead, it could substantially boost Penang Times Square's position as a logistical hub in George Town.
Within Birch the Plaza shopping mall, there are over 170 outlets spread out over four floors of the mall.
The main anchor tenant is Sunshine City, a flagship department store of Suiwah Corporation. The department store occupies the third and fourth floors. Both levels can be accessed via an external bubble lift or an outdoor escalator.
A huge indoor hawker centre named the Food Gallery is at the first floor. The Food Gallery comprises about 20 restaurants.
Also, The Soju Club is a night club operating within Birch the Plaza.
1000 hours - 2200 hours daily.
Penang State Government
N.28 Komtar State Assemblyman : Teh Lai Heng (Democratic Action Party)
Malaysian Federal Parliament
P.049 Tanjong Member of Parliament : Ng Wei Aik (Democratic Action Party)
- Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books.