Kota Tua Targeted for Former Glory
Lenny Tristia Tambun | February 13, 2013
In less than a century Jakarta's old town, known as Kota Tua, went from being a bustling colonial center to a ghost town filled with decaying buildings abandoned by their owners.
Some of the buildings have been completely restored on the outside but their interiors remain mold-infested caverns of broken glass and crumbling ceilings. Others are no more than skeletons of concrete columns and rubble.
The Jakarta administration plans to revitalize Kota Tua, turning it from an area overrun by the homeless, thugs and prostitutes, into a cultural tourism center.
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo said on Tuesday that one of the first steps in the transformation would be to identify the owners of each of the colonial buildings.
"Some of them are privately owned, some owned by state enterprises and some belong to the city," he said.
"This complicates the renovation process. We can't do a face-lift of [Kota Tua] because the owners are different parties. If the city owned all the buildings it would be a lot easier to complete."
Joko said his administration would begin issuing reprimands to owners of rundown buildings later this year.
"Especially for buildings that are partially collapsed. They must be restored immediately," he said.
"The owners must finance their own [restoration]. That's stipulated in the 2010 Historical Sites, otherwise there will be penalties imposed."
The law states that building owners who damage or neglect a heritage site can face a jail sentence of one to 15 years and fines of between Rp 500 million and Rp 5 billion ($52,000 to $520,000).
The governor said the city had formulated a master plan for revitalizing Kota Tua, earmarking Rp 150 billion for the project scheduled to begin next year.
Kota Tua, also known as Old Batavia, spans 1.3 square kilometers on the administrative border between North and West Jakarta and was previously dubbed "the Queen of the East" by European sailors in the early 16th century.
Built around a canal system, it was used by the Dutch colonial administration mainly as a base for commerce and military defense, as well as an administrative center.
The walls that used to contain the city have since been torn down, but Kota Tua still retains its original design, making it relatively simple to navigate compared to the rest of Jakarta.
Over time, the capital's city center gradually moved further south toward the National Monument in Central Jakarta, but the antiquated remnants of Dutch architecture in Kota Tua remain intact.
Some buildings are abandoned, while others have been converted into museums, banks, offices and commercial stores.
In December, Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said that the city wanted to make Kota Tua "look like Venice."
"If we want it to be an advanced neighborhood, it should be made more upscale," he said.
"If there's a five-star hotel selling Rp 500 coffee, the hotel will be ruined for not charging enough. Kota Tua should be expensive so it can advance."
Gathut Dwi Hastoro, the head of the Kota Tua Management Unit, endorsed the plan, adding that the focus of the improvements should be along the tributary of a river passing through the area.
"The budget could be used to lay pavement, make bicycle lanes, put up lighting and clean and landscape the area," he said.
Robert Tambuna, the head of the Jakarta Heritage Trust, said there were 182 historical buildings in Kota Tua, but many owners were reluctant to renovate because of the hassle involved in applying for a permit.
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