Batu Kawan: From 'dead' to boom town in 5 years

PENANG - Tuition centre owner Sivaneswari Ranganathan cannot believe that the value of her two-storey terrace house has risen from RM80,000 (S$31,520) to RM120,000 in just two years.

Five years ago, she would have described Batu Kawan on Penang's mainland as "dead". "You wouldn't see more than one or two cars pass by on the main road every day," she told The Sunday Times.

Today the sleepy suburb 45 minutes from George Town is becoming a boom town, situated on the mainland side of the Second Penang Bridge that is set to open this month.

Property analysts expect prices to rise in the towns at both ends of the Second Penang Bridge, namely Batu Maung and Bayan Lepas on the island and Batu Kawan on the mainland.

"Prices of land have improved at least 30 per cent as compared to three or four years ago depending on the exact location of the land in both areas," said Mr Shawn Ong, vice-president of asset valuation at Henry Butcher Penang.

These price increases are a direct result of the second bridge, which is aimed at easing heavy traffic in the busy island's industrial nerve centre of Bayan Lepas and Batu Maung.

The bridge project was started in November 2007 and the 24km bridge is due to open on Friday.

Batu Kawan will have a fire station early next year. Its police headquarters was built less than two years ago.

Inside the 810ha district, just five minutes from the mainland entrance of the Second Penang Bridge, are a slew of projects. A 16ha shopping centre and a golf course are on the cards. There are also plans for a branch campus of Britain's University of Hull.

"It's definitely going to open the eyes of many people here. Some of the children don't even know what is KFC," said Ms Sivaneswari, 36, referring to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Last month, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that a 16ha Premium Shopping Outlet would be built in Batu Kawan, similar to Johor's Premium Outlets in Kulaijaya.

Ms Peh Chui Ang, 41, a manager at the How Kee Seafood Restaurant, expects the government to try to make Batu Kawan, which means Friendship Rock in Malay, as developed as Malaysia's major cities.

"The Chief Minister said if George Town is old Penang, we will make Batu Kawan new Penang," she said, beaming.

Less than three years ago, her seafood restaurant received only 15 to 20 tour buses of tourists for lunch and dinner each week. These days, they get 35 buses every two days.

"Before this, we used to sleep at 7pm," said Ms Peh. "At least now got more action."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.