Old Town Revival: Jakarta, West Java

Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso launched the Old Town Revitalization project recently marking the beginning of a development of the long-neglected historical heart of the city. The ceremony, held in front of the Jakarta Historical Museum, was a demonstration of the city administration’s political will to develop the crumbling area, said Sutiyoso. It was an attempt to convince investors to participate in public-private partnerships to refurbish the Old Town.

Jakarta Old Town is located in West Jakarta and North Jakarta. It has several old buildings harking back to the colonial era. In the past five years, a number of communities, without much support from the city administration, have made this part of the city more popular by organizing historical tours.

Sahabat Museum, Komunitas Historia and the Jakarta Historical Museum are among the groups that organize such tours.

Jakarta Historical Museum, known in Indonesian as Museum Fatahillah, is the center of the activities. Such tours have proved popular among Jakartans, especially among students and young professionals, as well as foreign tourists.

Aware of the potential of the area, the city administration envisions an area that can become an international tourist attraction — hence the Old Town Revitalization project.

The project itself is a product of a partnership between the Jakarta administration and a foundation called Jakarta Oldtown Kotaku (JOK), chaired by Miranda Goeltom. The foundation is responsible for finding investors, among other things. Goeltom said that a number of investors, including ones from Dubai, and philanthropists from the U.S. had shown interest.

“They want too invest in the area, though, not just one historical building. Thus, they want to know whether the city is prepared to improve the whole area,” Goeltom said.

In his speech, Sutiyoso said that the city was serious about developing the Old Town. He envisioned it to as a bustling cultural and economic zone with “cafes, museums and boutiques”.

The head of the Cultural and Museum Agency, Aurora Tambunan, said that the launch was only a start of a long road to revitalizing the 846-hectare area.

“This is a display of the city’s political will. This is a breakthrough. First, you will see the physical revitalization of the area surrounding the Jakarta Historical Museum. Next will be the Kali Besar area,” she said. “This area and the activities here will provide economic leverage through culture.”

Nothing much was on show at the ceremony, however. No master plan or models have been prepared to inform people about what the revitalized area will be like.

Besides statements from officials that the Old Town will be a semi-pedestrianized area with new businesses, almost nothing concrete was displayed at the ceremony, except for the results of the excavation of an old tram line, and the refurbished square in front of the museum.

When asked about a master plan, Tambunan confirmed that none existed as yet. “But we have set up a special team to execute the project. This is, after all, a dedicated program of the city, meaning it has top priority,” Tambunan said.

Evi Mariani