George Town’s Heritage Grants Program

Penang’s George Town received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008 in recognition of its incredible built form – a central city packed with colourful, crumbling shop houses from the 1800s.

A critical element in preserving these beautiful buildings has been giving support, advice & grants to their owners. Before the George Town Grants Program, many of these properties were ‘modernised’ by their individual owners, stripping them of their charm. Supporting owners to understand the value, both cultural and economic, of preservation has seen many of them restored to their former glory. They now act as a platform for a multitude of new businesses, cafes, galleries, shops, hotels and restaurants that have sprung up to service a growing tourism trade.

George Town will need to be wary of being a victim of its own success with the impacts of gentrification and capital growth. A large part of its appeal lies in the diverse, young, imaginative business owners who have been attracted by the cheap rents it has so far been able to offer.

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