by BENJAMIN YAU

UPDATE 27/5/2015: The new Atria Shopping Gallery, developed by OSK Property Holdings Sdn. Bhd., is opening on May 28, 2015. The following post is an eulogy for the predecessor, Atria Shopping Centre.

For those who are not informed, The Atria Shopping Centre in Damansara Jaya will be going has gone into oblivion by on 26 July 2011, as the latest owner, OSK Property Holdings Sdn. Bhd. will be demolishing has demolished this iconic building for redevelopment into a 2 15-storey office blocks and 4-storey shopping mall which equipped with 2 floors of basement carparks.

Even the deadline given is one month away, many tenants have moved away, and more to end their businesses by the end of this month.

Why the sudden emotions about this old suburban shopping mall? Why is it worth writing for? Well, my eulogy is just about to begin. (The following was written as of June 2011.)

                                                                                                                         

Before there was SSTwo Mall and Tropicana City Mall, there was The Curve and Ikano Power Centre (shortened to IPC recently), and before there was these two malls, there was 1Utama Shopping Centre, and before there was even 1Utama Shopping Centre, there was Atria.

Well, not really named Atria at first; according to Wikipedia, it was Gardenia Town Centre for the 30-year old shopping mall.

It was initially occupied by two departmental stores, Kimisawa of Japan and Printemps of France in the mid-1980s. Traffic jam at that time was described as common during weekends when there was sales in the departmental stores. There was even a discotheque called Picadilly Disco which was a popular hangout location for teenagers and college students where they have afternoon tea dances. In short, it means a disco club in the 1980s.

But that was before I was born, before the 1988 economic recession and early 1990s economic downturn, closing the three establishments above, before the place was taken over by the Lion Group, the owner of Parkson Grand, and renaming the complex as Atria Shopping centre.

This is where the inexplicable bond comes into description.

When there was the departmental store Parkson Grand, it seems like the complex survived from the recession. It began to flourish again. Residents of Damansara Jaya, Taman Megah and Kelana Jaya (and maybe even Taman Tun Dr. Ismail residents) came here to shop for new clothes. Furthermore, with Parkson Grand in Atria, there was Popular Bookstore, and many shops and outlets with buzzling people. I was one of the customers.

But it seems like time flies like arrows, and in 1995 a huge rival appears and threatens the livelihood of Atria Shopping Centre-1Utama Shopping Centre. This new contender of the Damansara market possesses an old nemesis-Jusco departmental store, which is owned by the Aeon Group whom Kimisawa joined after the recession. Atria had to strive to survive in this tussle of competition. Its only stake to attract visitors was Parkson Grand, which had maintained Atria’s relevance for another couple of years.

But then again, beautiful and wonderful times doesn’t stay long, with Lien Hoe corporation taking over Atria, and Parkson Grand supermarket taken over by Tops and later in 2005, by Giant. Atria went into declination, and its downfall is accelerated with Parkson Grand shifting out to the new wing of 1Utama, probably because Atria lost its relevance due to the competition from 1Utama, and new complexes like The Curve and Ikano Power Centre.

It seems like along with Parkson Grand’s departure, Atria’s fate of going into seclusion was nearing, with Popular Bookstore left for Ikano Power Centre, I believe, and creating one of the biggest bookstore in Malaysia. There was no longer a need or reason to visit Atria to shop. The only thing that acts as Atria’s life-support machine was the remaining tenants, namely Giant supermarket, Big Bookshop, Guardian Pharmacy, Nando’s Restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Bata Footwear, Speedy Video Centre, Esquire Kitchen, a few more F&B outlets and unknown fashion stores, furniture stores and other shops, not to mention, the occasional warehouse sales selling from electrical appliances to clothes and footwear that came and went.

Still, it didn’t help much in reviving the dying shopping centre. But, at least it retained Atria’s status as a place to “shop for groceries and needy, cheap items” and “a place to eat and yam-cha”.

Alas, Atria cannot escape from its fate of going into history, with OSK Property Holdings Berhad buying over Atria from Lien Hoe Corporation, and announces its redevelopment plans. There was a struggle from the residents of Damansara Jaya, claiming that the traffic volume generated after the completion of the 2 blocks of 15-storey office towers and 4-storey shopping mall will affect the lives of the residents, but eventually the plan was approved and the tenants of Atria are required to leave before 21 July 2011.

A (not-so) brief history about Atria, yet haven’t explain why I have such deep connections with this old complex.

Atria used to be a place to spend time. I used to attend piano classes at a music studio which is located in the shops that surrounds Atria, hence the frequent visits to there. I used to buy clothes, especially uniforms from Parkson Grand. After the departure of Parkson, the few reasons I visit there are either visiting the warehouse sales and try to get a bargain, or drinking at Kopitime with my aunts, or dining at Esquire Kitchen, or buying uniforms from The Uniform Shop. My mother on the other hand used to buy groceries in Giant supermarket while waiting for me to finish my piano lessons.

Now, I am no longer the student of the music studio, and I didn’t go there as frequent as I used to. So as many people in the area of Petaling Jaya.

Still, to me, Atria remains as the “heart” of Damansara Jaya, not just because of the word “atrium”, the singular word for atria, but its location as a suburban shopping site for Damansara Jaya people, moreover, it defines what is Damansara Jaya, along with Kolej Damansara Utama, or now known as KDU University College. It withstood the test of time, and saw how Damansara Jaya grows, and become increasingly valuable by each passing day, while counting its numbered days. Its building still looms regally, but within its hollow walkways and desolated spaces, the air is filled with loneliness and grief, from my last visit to pay my last respect and condolences to the complex with its fate sealed.

There might be Atria 2.0, but it will never relive the memories I have in the old complex; the jukebox in KFC that is now removed, the small elevated section in Esquire Kitchen with the portrait of the 8 Immortals, the lift which has a glass pane to see the centre section of the mall, the curved and sloped area at the other end of the complex…

But there must be an end for everything that had begun, and an end is inevitable to start something new. Thus, the death of Atria must be accepted with grace, despite there are much feelings and emotions treasured upon.

Upon the 5th Anniversary of Petaling Jaya as a city, I wish Atria farewell and rest in eternal peace, to sprout new hopes and expectations.

With this, I end my eulogy with a stanza of modified lyrics from “Candle in the Wind”.

Goodbye D-J’s rose
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were greatly shone
You called out to community
And you whispered to those in pain
Now you belong to heaven
And the stars spell out your name

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Update: As soon as Atria Shopping Gallery is reopened, there will be a piece written. The link will be featured here soon.

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