What Will Come of Silveritage Galleria?

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From the Editor’s Desk

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

That is the burning question on most Ipohites’ lips. What will come of this once opulent and proud building which was, supposedly, to be the “home” of the silver state’s rich cultural heritage? Built at a cost of almost RM15 million, and officially opened to the public in 1998, Silveritage Galleria, as its name suggests, was earmarked as a likeable exhibition centre to showcase Perak’s arts and culture.

Editor's Desk - What Will Come of Silveritage Galleria

The responsibility to transform this piece of real estate was being entrusted to the State Development Corporation or Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak. There was much expectation surrounding the newly built complex then, as Ipohites were looking forward to it becoming what it was supposed to be – an exhibition centre of standing.

Equally interesting was the accompanying hype. It would be a one-stop centre of sorts for everything and anything to do with arts and culture. The presence of two general-purpose halls augmented its importance as a choice location to hold social functions such as weddings and seminars, considering the cost factor.

The complex was ideally located on the southern banks of Sungai Pinji close to the city’s airport and at the outskirt of an expanding Ipoh. From the outset everything was near perfect, proximity to city centre and, above all, accessibility with a pleasant design to match.

But like all things else it was only good in theory, as ensuing events would have a telling effect on its viability. The one single factor that caused the complex’s untimely demise, to my mind, is its conversion from an idealistic and under-used cultural showpiece to a nightmarish and ill-conceived bus terminal. Public clamouring for an alternative to the congested Medan Kidd and pussyfooting by the authorities hastened its decline.

At best, the Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal was merely a short-term fix to please the privileged and well-connected few.

When the much-touted Amanjaya Bus Terminal in Meru Jaya was opened in 2012 and became operational the following year, the fate of Silveritage Galleria was sealed. Although designed as an integrated terminal, the Meru Jaya facility, built at a staggering cost of RM140 million, has yet to catch the public’s imagination.

The absence of a proper shuttle service connecting the terminal with outlying areas of the city is the reason why many are reluctant to use it. But with over 30 bus companies already operating at the new terminal, the latest being the Bercham-based YoYo, the much-preferred Ipoh-KLIA-LCCT-Ipoh shuttle bus service, travellers have little choice but to accede.

Sometime in February of last year the Executive Councillor for Tourism, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, visited the galleria in anticipation of its closure and announced plans for a revival. She said that the complex would be turned into a one-stop centre for the sale of products synonymous with Perak such as pomelos, kacang putih and salted fish.

Plans to house the offices of travel and tour agents were also in the offing. The agents could use the empty bays to park their tour buses while in transit. That was the bait but, in all likelihood, it was not tempting enough to inspire our listless tour operators. There were no takers.

Hamidah insisted that the transformation would be effective once the Medan Gopeng bus terminal ceased its operations in mid-2012. It is already August 2013, nothing seems to be happening. Silveritage Galleria is as empty as it has been since the relocation exercise early this year.

The eerie silence that greets night-time passers-by amplifies its destituteness prompting some to call it a haunted facility. The few remaining food traders consider closing down as the only option left.

There is every possibility that this showpiece building belonging to the Perak Development Corporation is fast becoming a white elephant.  The prospects are simply too glaring to dismiss.