Priceless: An old building on Jl. Cilacap, Jakarta, undergoes renovation. The Jakarta administration’s heritage conservation efforts have focused on historical buildings from the colonial era. —JP/Jerry Adiguna
The Jakarta administration insisted that the transformation of an old heritage-class building in Menteng, Central Jakarta, was being carried out in accordance with existing regulations, dismissing claims by urban activists to the contrary.
City Construction Supervision and Regulation Agency (P2B) chief, I Putu Ngurah Indiana, said on Friday that the agency had issued a building permit for the construction.
“We have checked all compulsory documents and construction preparations for the new building. The renovation is in keeping with regulations,” Indiana told reporters at City Hall on Friday.
His agency had previously issued a pre-construction permit to renovate the building on Jl. Cilacap in Menteng, Central Jakarta, which functioned as a telecommunications center, Telefoongebouw, in 1923. It was once also the office of the Central Indonesian National Committee (KNIP) and the then National Education Ministry.
It is reported that the current owner plans to change the Telefoongebouw building into a hotel.
The building is a heritage-class building. The front part of the building is listed as category B and the rear, category C.
A 1999 bylaw on the preservation and utilization of heritage buildings divides historical buildings in Jakarta into three categories, namely, A, B and C. Buildings in category A are not allowed to be torn down except under certain conditions, and any renovation should maintain the original design.
For B category buildings, they can be demolished internally but the main external structure cannot be changed.
Buildings in the last category may be altered and renovated but only in accordance with the primary designs in the surrounding neighborhood.
Indiana said the Telefoongebouw’s main structure, located in the front section, would not be torn down but would be renovated into the hotel’s lobby. “The rear of the building, however, has been demolished and builders will construct an eight-story structure to house the hotel rooms,” he said.
City Tourism and Culture Affairs Agency chief Arie Budhiman corroborated Indiana’s statement. “The building includes both categories B and C,” he said.
Marco Kusumawijaya, an activist with the Rujak Center for Urban Studies, however, disagreed with the administration officials’ statements.
“The building was protected by category A. An official statement saying otherwise is manipulation,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
The center complained that decisions taken by the Jakarta administration relating to spatial urban planning had largely ignored the governing regulations.
According to historian Adolf Heuken, who has lived in Menteng for 30 years, the administration has committed countless violations against its own regulations, especially regarding the protection of historic buildings.
“For example, there is no demolition permit from the P2B for the Telefoongebouw reconstruction,” he said, adding that Menteng was a residential, not a business, district.
The debate over the heritage building has led to the City Council recommending the administration revise a 1993 gubernatorial decree and the 1999 bylaw on heritage conservation to increase its power in protecting historic buildings.
The chairman of the Council’s Commission B, overseeing tourism and culture, Selamat Nurdin, said last week that the two regulations were weak and obsolete; resulting in the administration having insufficient powers to enforce the protection of old buildings in the city.
The gubernatorial decree lists 216 buildings as heritage sites that are divided into the three categories. (cor)
Ruined heritage buildings:
• An iconic Dutch Indische Woonhuizen (Indies Residence)-style house known as the Rumah Cantik (beautiful house), located on the corner of Jl. Teuku Cik Di Tiro and Jl. Ki Mangunsarkoro, was half torn down after being sold for about Rp 16 billion (US$1.76 million) last year.
• A building on Jl. Teuku Umar, which formerly served as the immigration office during the early years of independence, is now serving as a restaurant. It was built in 1913 and was neglected for years before taken over by a private company.