Few tourists would notice this. But the area described as “Kota” in Jakarta has the richest history of the entire megalopolis. According to Jakarta Tourism Agency, Kota Tua (Jakarta Old Town) records some 280 historical structures. But despite the wealth of history in the area, little has been done so far to try to preserve its historical treasures.
Many buildings have been destroyed over the last fifty years. Some like the Baroque Amsterdam Gate, which used to marked the entrance to the Port area from the former city hall was demolished in 1950 to… bring fluidity to car traffic! Little has been done despite numerous promises from successive governments to spruce up the area. Tourists strolling along Kali Besar Canal – the craddle of the historical city built in 1619- have more chance to notice the muddy filthy waters of the canal scattered with garbage or the collapsing of old buildings than anything else.
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo wants to turn the clock again and make of Kota Tua the new heart of tourist and artists communities. A special zone is due to be created which will help speeding economic and infrastructure development as well as the restoration of the area. The City Government wants to take inspiration of Intramuros in Manila by establishing a special agency for Kota Tua, which would implement planning measures decided by both the city and the national government.
“By establishing a Kota Tua special economic zone, all of the development will be done through a single door, run by a specialized authority,” explained recently to the Jakarta Post Arie Budiman, Chief of Jakarta tourism and culture agency. He added that the authority should be comprised of representatives of the administration, the central government, private firms and local residents.
The creation of a single body would then help attract investors who have in the past been deterred by the number of various agencies in charge to implement projects. The difficulty to get a project approved has left most buildings in precarious stand, a lot of them being even on the verge of collapsing.
The creation of the agency will follow Joko’s ambitious plans to turn Kota Tua into a cultural tourism hub. Some RP 150 billion (US$ 160 million) will be attributed to start the renovation projects in Kota from 2014. The Dutch government is also backing the revitalization plan of Batavia and could help restored some of the buildings. According to Governor Joko, Kota Tua would be turned into the centre of creative industries such as fashion, food and handicraft. The Governor wants also to integrate luxury boutique hotels as well as art galleries and restaurants.
The establishment of a special economic zone might however take another three years before being fully operational due to long procedures. From next year however, new lighting, new pavements as well as tourism events will give a new breadth of life to the old Batavia.