Merdeka 118 Community Grants Programme: Releasing The Untapped Potential Of Downtown KL

Over the past decade, downtown Kuala Lumpur has been a particular focus of Think City’s work in Kuala Lumpur. As Think City Programme Director Matt Benson reminded The Citymaker in a recent podcast, Building A New Creative And Cultural District for KL, it’s not only the heritage core of Kuala Lumpur, containing a wealth of cultural assets, it’s also the iconic area in which Malaysia’s independence was declared. 

While part of Think City’s focus has been on regenerating cultural assets in the area that have become disused or fallen into disrepair, it has also prioritised the economic revitalisation of the area. “We think there’s an economic opportunity here,” Matt Benson told us, “To help create new types of economic activity, new types of jobs and spaces that will help transform the Malaysian economy; increasingly into that knowledge space.”

These comments were encapsulated by Hamdan Abdul Majeed, Think City Managing Director on the launch of a new Community Grants Programme created by PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn. Berhad (PMVSB), a wholly owned subsidiary of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), within the Merdeka 118 precinct in downtown KL, for which Think city is the delivery partner. Hamdan stated:

“Downtown Kuala Lumpur, in the heritage core of the city, holds immense untapped potential. The area has hollowed out with administrative centres and residents moving to suburbs in Greater Kuala Lumpur. Nevertheless, despite the pandemic, we have seen a recent rejuvenation in the area with a number of creative small business owners generating buzz and local traffic, demonstrating a wider interest in the area.”

The Downtown Collective

Petaling Street
Photo by Ravin Rau on Unsplash

The Merdeka 118 precinct comprises four key locations: the Petaling Street Precinct; Jalan Hang Tuah Precinct & Sports Quadrant (Stadium Merdeka, Stadium Negara, Malaysian Association of Basketball (MABA), Stadium Chin Woo, and the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), and the Kampung Attap and Pudu Precincts.

Earlier this year, Think City released its first Malaysia Business Community Pulse Check Report, conducted in the third quarter of 2020. Focusing on the downtown areas of a number of Malaysian cities, KL among them, it was designed to develop an understanding of the market conditions that business operators have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it made for sombre reading in places, business operators in Kuala Lumpur were cautiously upbeat, with 62% confident that they would remain open until at least the end of 2021.

Capitalising on this optimism, the Community Grants Programme seeks innovative and fresh ideas from individuals and organisations who believe they can help to create and sustain that buzz and traffic in downtown KL. Concentrating on sports, arts, heritage and business, its focus is on initiatives that will have a positive impact on the local community. This could range from capacity building workshops, community programmes and vocational training, to events, competitions, and other community-building projects within these designated precincts.

The programme forms a ccomprehensive restructuring and regeneration plan to build a Downtown Creative and Cultural District in the heart of this vibrant city. “With Merdeka 118 set to revitalise the [downtown] area further, the grants programme will ensure that the surrounding communities are not left behind,” added Hamdan. “The grants will facilitate opportunities to collectively cultivate a bustling precinct, where traditional businesses can create synergies with the new, and new developments can integrate with existing heritage. This will create a neighbourhood with rich cultural charm and qualities that will invite people not just to visit, but to build their lives there.”

An Iconic Location

Merdeka118
Courtesy of PNB

PNB’s President and Group Chief Executive, Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn said that the Merdeka 118 Community Grants Programme was created to foster synergies between the community and the Merdeka 118, a mixed-use development encapsulating work, living and public spaces: “Merdeka 118 is situated in an iconic location that is rich in culture and historical significance. In line with our vision to be a landmark destination in the heart of the city, it is crucial for the Merdeka 118 development to be integrated seamlessly with the wider community.” he said, adding: “It is our hope that the grants programme will unlock potential for the community and together, create a successful, thriving precinct. We wish for local businesses, institutions and communities to thrive alongside Merdeka 118.”

We’re hoping that many of you will be excited to join us in bringing new life to this important and culturally diverse district. We’ll update you over coming weeks, on both the Merdeka 118 Community Grants Programme and the Downtown Creative and Cultural District.

Submissions for grants are open from June 23 to August 20, 2021. There are three grant types, Sports, Arts and Business Community. Detailed criteria are available on the submission website, and all project proposals must be aligned with the programme objectives. These will be evaluated by a Review Panel comprising members of PMVSB and Think City, as well as a Technical Advisory Panel with experts in Sports, Arts, Community, Technology, Conservation & Heritage and Entrepreneurship development. 

Successful projects will be subject to short, medium, and long-term assessments and consideration will be given to applicants that co-invest in their proposed project ideas.

“With Merdeka 118 set to revitalise the area further, the grants programme will ensure that the surrounding communities are not left behind,” continued Hamdan. “The grants will facilitate opportunities to collectively cultivate a bustling precinct, where traditional businesses can create synergies with the new, and new developments can integrate with existing heritage. This will create a neighbourhood with rich cultural charm and qualities that will invite people not just to visit, but to build their lives there.”

To apply for grants or to find out more about the Merdeka 118 Community Grants Programme, head to https://www.merdeka118.com/grants2021

Join our Downtown KL community on Facebook and take part in the movement!https://www.facebook.com/DowntownKualaLumpur