Revitalizing cultural heritage in Jakarta’s historic Kota Tua neighborhood
The city government of Jakarta has developed a comprehensive urban plan to revitalize the historic neighborhood of Kota Tua in an inclusive and participatory way.
Kota Tua is located in the historic heart of Jakarta and contains a number of cultural heritage sites. These include buildings and canals that were constructed during the 17th and 18th century colonial period. These sites serve as tourist attractions and contribute to the city’s economic, social and cultural growth.
Despite its rich cultural heritage, the area has declined as it suffers with poor infrastructure and service provision. The city government of Jakarta has instituted a comprehensive development plan to renew the neighbourhood’s vibrant atmosphere, improve the standard of living for citizens and revitalize the economy.
The plan includes a proposal to apply for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status. If successful, the revitalization program will be accelerated in developing Kota Tua as a more attractive destination to both domestic and international tourists further contributing to its overall economic growth.
This case study was contributed from the UCLG Learning Team (email@example.com).
Background and objectives
The Kota Tua (old town) neighborhood dates back to the pre-colonial era and was an important trading port in the 14th century. With the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century, Kota Tua became a major port for the pepper trade. In 1618, the city was conquered by the Dutch East India Company and was renamed Batavia. In the following centuries, Batavia became the center of the Dutch East-Indies colony and developed into a vibrant and multi-ethnic city. In the 19th century, due to the degeneration of Batavia, a new town; Weltevreden was built further to the south. This led to Batavia becoming a city with two centers.
In 1942 Batavia fell to the Imperial Japanese army and the Dutch officially surrendered to Japan; the city was renamed Jakarta. After World War II, Indonesia declared its independence and in August 1945, Jakarta became the capital of the newly founded Republic of Indonesia. During the Japanese occupation, Kota Tua experienced significant physical decline which continued after independence was declared. Many former Japanese buildings were abandoned or used as illegal warehouses. With the proliferation of illegal buildings, poor waste treatment facilities, and the growth of crime, the historic city center deteriorated considerably.
In 1974, a revitalization program for Kota Tua was introduced. The program focused on the protection of heritage sites and tourism developments. Despite these efforts, the service provision and infrastructure remained sub-standard and many buildings were run-down. The lack of pedestrian areas made accessibility for inhabitants difficult and together with the unregulated occupation of sidewalks by street vendors and parked motor cycles became a major problem for advancing Kota Tua as a tourist destination. In 2014, the city government deployed the Kota Tua master plan with the objective of developing the historic city center as a conserved cultural area.
The recent efforts to revitalize Kota Tua commenced in 2005 with the announcement of a revitalization program by the city government. In 2011, Kota Tua was declared a national tourism destination by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism which enhanced its role as a key tourist area of Jakarta. In 2014, the city established a master plan for the Kota Tua area which intensified efforts to conserve and revitalize the historic city center.
A key objective of the revitalization plan is to increase tourism to Kota Tua. This is in line with the Ministry of Tourism’s plan to position Jakarta as the major destination for international tourists visiting Indonesia. For this purpose, the preservation of the neighborhoods cultural heritage plays a crucial role, as it has economic value for both tourism and business.
Another key objective of the plan is the creation of high quality public spaces, including the redevelopment of Kalijodo – a red light district that has been transformed into an integrated family-friendly space. Previously, Kalijodo was densely populated and infamous for activities such as drug trafficking, gambling and prostitution. Today, the 3.4 hectare area is a semi-natural green park, including a playground, an international-standard skate park, with a Betawi-style mosque and a food court. Critically, the entire redevelopment process was organized in a participatory way, actively including the local residents and various stakeholders. For affected residents, the city provided housing compensation and free skills training at vocational centers. Furthermore, child-friendly facilities, including a library and a skate park were set up and a wall for street graffiti to attract young people was established. This inclusive approach led to a successful revitalization of the area and to a very high satisfaction among residents and visitors with the new public space.
A further objective has been the improvement of the accessibility of Kota Tua, which was identified as crucial for the successful implementation of the project. The city government has prohibited cars and motor cycles from the central Fatahillah Square that is used as meeting point and for events. The area, which attracts many tourists, is now easier to access and pedestrian friendly. However, for the pathways along Kali Besar canal and other popular areas of the city, solutions creating more public space and connecting those in a pedestrian-friendly manner still have to be found. The same applies to the only partly solved problem of illegal parking and street vendors who often occupy the sidewalks. Additionally, the improvement of traffic flows, water supply and waste management is being undertaken.
Financing and resources
The city of Jakarta commenced the process of revitalization with the implementation of the Kota Tua Revitalization Program in 2005 followed by the Master Plan for the area in 2014. The city has focused its efforts primarily on the improvement of infrastructure, accessibility and services. However, the complex governance and ownership structures make collaboration with other public and private stake-holders necessary. The national government has supported efforts to foster tourism in Kota Tua and declared it a national tourist destination in 2011. As the majority of the buildings are privately owned, refurbishment, to a large extent, has to be carried out by the proprietors due to the city’s limited financial resources. In addition to government support, private investments and initiatives have been important for the revitalization of Kota Tua.
Results and impacts
The revitalization of Kota Tua has led to the refurbishment of many of the historic buildings and started a process of active preservation of the neighborhood’s cultural heritage. The increased measures to improve infrastructure and services in the neighborhood have achieved positive results but sustained and coordinated efforts remain necessary for ongoing success. Examples such as the Kalijodo area demonstrate the progress achieved in creating new and inclusive public spaces. The benefit of including stakeholders and local residents in the process of revitalization is reflected in the high satisfaction of residents and visitors with the implemented projects.
The proposal to position Kuta Tao as a tourism center is realizing valuable results with the number of visiting international and domestic tourists increasing and new restaurants, bars and coffee shops opening.
The application for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status can be seen as positive recognition by all stakeholders of Kota Tua’s cultural heritage.
Barriers and challenges
In Kota Tua 281 buildings are registered as heritage buildings with many in very poor condition. 50% of the buildings are publicly owned and split between the city of Jakarta (2%) and the Indonesian state or state-owned companies (48%). The other 50% are privately owned.
With limited financial resources the city government doesn’t have the appropriate budget to guarantee conservation of the cultural heritage in Kota Tua. While the current preservation orders and lack of infrastructure impeded additional private investment, it is difficult for the city to ensure the conservation of historic buildings as it relies on collaboration with private proprietors and the national state. Consequently, private investment needs to be sought through a combination of regulations and incentives. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and public-private partnerships (PPP) must be considered to attract funding. Cross-sector collaboration through an institutional framework is also a valid approach to overcome difficulties to raise sufficient funding.
Moreover, the management of Kota Tua involves a large number of agencies and institutions from the local through to the national level. The lack of communication and coordination between them makes it difficult to manage the revitalization process in an organized and effective way. Above all, there is a need for strong city government leadership to coordinate all stakeholders in order to facilitate the revitalization process.
Lessons learned and transferability
The main physical issues to be considered for successful revitalization are accessibility, safety and comfort in the old city center as well as the protection of historical buildings. One of the first measures is the improvement of infrastructure and transport facilities. This ensures the accessibility of the area and raises the living standards for local residents and visitors. It is important to promote public transport rather than private cars and to prioritize pedestrian comfort and safety. Additionally, the construction of bike paths should be considered and a solution for car and motor-cycle parking must be found. Moreover, adequate protection against further deterioration of heritage buildings and artefacts must be provided. Simultaneously, a mixed-use of living, working, and recreational facilities, including mixed housing has to be considered in the redevelopment. Finally, to increase the appeal for tourists, to foster the local cultural life and to bring back the vibrant atmosphere, various cultural events such as festivals, temporary/semi-permanent markets and night bazaars should be organized.
The most important non-physical success factors are related to building institutional frameworks. The city government and stakeholders have to reach to a consensus that Kota Tua not only reflects the identity of Jakarta but also of Indonesia. Key stakeholders must be encouraged to conserve the site independently. This could be done by providing incentives and appropriate regulation. Encouraging civil engagement in the decision-making process is also recommended in order to enhance ownership. Urban renewal needs strong guidance from government authorities. In the case of Kota Tua, the national government must introduce appropriate legislation and the city of Jakarta has to establish and implement coherent regulations. Moreover, a single, strong, control unit is necessary for the effective management of the program. Jakarta has already established a unit to manage the Kota Tua area but it currently lacks authority. It is necessary to effectively empower this unit so that it can implement strong policy and ensure smooth collaboration between the different departments of local and national government.
UCLG (2017): Revitalizing Cultural Heritage. A comprehensive urban plan to revitalize Kota Tua in Jakarta.