City not enforcing decree: Resident
This old house: A building on Jl. Teuku Umar built in 1913 now serves as a restaurant after years of neglect. Many heritage buildings in Menteng have been sold under market price as prospective buyers have been deterred by the red tape surrounding renovations. JP/P.J. LeoWhen Christel Irina and her parents moved to a house in the posh neighborhood of Menteng, Central Jakarta, in 1979, the family realized that the house’s air circulation and its layout were not as good as their former house.
“Unfortunately, we could not do anything about it. At that time, the city government strictly prohibited us from doing anything to renovate the house,” Christel said in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post.
Christel was referring to a gubernatorial decree issued in 1975 by then Jakarta governor Lt. Gen. (ret) Ali Sadikin, who at that time granted Menteng the special status of “housing complex with rich heritage”, ordering some residents there to preserve their houses’ architectures.
“However, it seems that the government is not as strict as it used to be. I see that many of my neighbors revamped their inherited houses with classic architecture into houses with modern architecture,” said Christel, who retained her house’s classic architecture with a Western-style facade. The Jakarta Administration is deemed by many as failing to protect historical buildings in Menteng, founded in 1908 as a housing complex for high-ranking government officials and the affluent community of Jakarta, known during that time as Batavia.
From thousands of heritage buildings formerly standing in the area, currently only 216 are listed in a 1993 gubernatorial decree as historical buildings. The decree divides Menteng’s historical buildings into three categories:
Buildings in this category may not be renovated with any change of their original design, while buildings of category B may undergo minor renovation as long as it does not change the external appearance. Category C buildings, meanwhile, can be renovated as long as their appearance remains in accordance with the primary designs of their surrounding neighborhood.
Despite their beauty, however, Menteng houses classified in the decree’s categories are usually low in demand, according to Nia Kaloke, the editor of the Menteng-Grip magazine, which publishes activities of Menteng community groups.
“Many prospective buyers do not fancy those classic houses, knowing that the law forbids them to renovate. Residents prefer to have a house that can be renovated according to their needs,” said Nia, who has been a resident of Menteng for 40 years.
As a consequence, she added, the prices of buildings classified under categories A, B and C were relatively cheaper than other houses in the area. “Houses classified under those categories can be sold at less than Rp 15 million [US$1,590] per square meter. Normal houses in Menteng are usually priced at more than Rp 25 million per square meter and some could be sold at around Rp 40 million–60 million per square meter,” Nia said.
She added that the low demand for Menteng’s heritage houses’, coupled with their high taxes and high maintenance costs, caused some of them to be vacant and even leave houses in ruins.
Among Menteng heritage buildings that are neglected are an iconic Dutch-style house on Jl. Teuku Cik Di Tiro, known as the Rumah Cantik (beautiful house), which currently is half torn after being sold for about Rp 16 billion last year, as well as a building on Jl. Cilacap, which used to serve as a Telegoongebouw (telecommunications center), half of which will be demolished to make way for an eight-story hotel.
City Construction and Supervision and Regulation Agency (P2B) head I Putu Ngurah Indiana said that his agency remained committed to preserving heritage buildings in the area. “Our concern is how these buildings can be preserved while at the same time providing economic benefits to their owners and their surroundings.” (sat)