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Monday, November 12, 2007

Getting the right mix

How do you upgrade an existing shop office, increase its rental value by almost two folds and yet be able to attract tenants?

Well, if you have 10 blocks of four-storey shop offices such as the See Hoy Chan Sdn Bhd group in a prime location like Damansara Utama in Selangor, and with the right team you can do wonders.

The group has successfully transformed the 30- to 40-year-old shop offices (formerly Fajar) into a chic retail-style shop office complex called Uptown 37.

Today, Uptown 37 is about 90% tenanted. Its tenants include HSBC that occupies two shop lots over two levels (including a corner lot), IZZI Pizza, Starbucks Coffee, 99 Speedmart and Umai-Ya Japanese Restaurant.

A year ago, it would have been quite difficult to imagine how one could knock down the walls here and there and turn it into such a stylish retail shop office complex.

The Uptown 37 in Damansara Utama

After about nine months of extensive renovation and refurbishment, Uptown 37 was completed early this year and has since become a new landmark in the bustling Damansara Utama commercial centre where the Damansara Uptown office blocks are located.

In fact, some new developments are going in this direction – creating a mix of retail lots seen in shopping centres and the traditional shop offices.

In the case of Uptown 37 at Jalan SS21/37, the upper office floors that are normally vacant or fetch the lowest rentals in most traditional shop offices have been turned into retail lots that can fetch much higher rentals.

An entire four-storey shop lot was “sacrificed” to create the main lobby with escalator and lifts as well as a high and attractive atrium. Many CCTV cameras are placed at strategic locations all over Uptown 37, thus giving its tenants and visitors a sense of security. The security control room is on the ground floor.

There are spacious corridors to the front of the retail/office lots and a rear corridor has also been created on each floor to give that spacious and airy look.

SHC Property Services Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Ng Kim Poh said a Vietnamese restaurant and other tenants would also be coming in soon. (SHC is a See Hoy Chan Sdn Bhd group company).

“Uptown 37 will enhance the entire rental value of the complex and will be a trend setter. It is definitely a rung above the normal shop offices. We managed to get tenants without any advertisements as many people were attracted by the transformation,” said Ng.

Rental for the ground floor unit is around RM8 to RM9 psf while the upper floors is from RM3 to RM4 psf.

The penthouse in Sutramas condominium in Segambut

Despite Uptown 37's ground floor rental of over RM10,000 per month as compared with RM5,000 to RM6,000 for the other shop offices in Damansara Utama, people see value and are willing to pay more.

“This commercial centre is more vibrant and prime than other centres like SS2 or Kelana Jaya,” Ng said. There are lots of car parking bays outside including open-air car parks. Most of the banks are also located here.

SHC Property Services sales & marketing manager Chew Peng Seng said See Hoy Chan group executive director Teo Chiang Khai has taken the lead by transforming the commercial landscape of Damansara Utama with the Uptown 37 project. “We are bringing in the right mix of tenants to enhance the image of the place,” he added.

Meanwhile, the group has also shown its innovativeness when it recently furnished all its unsold penthouses in its 178-unit Sutramas luxury condominium in Segambut.

And, what a great job it did! Nine of the 16 penthouses (2,700 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft) were sold. The unfurnished penthouse was originally priced at around RM950,000 but people liked the luxuriously furnished unit so much that they were prepared to pay RM1.4mil for it.

Chew felt that the buyers could have ended up paying much more had they tried to do the furnishing and renovation themselves and they might even mess it up. “A lot of purchasers of high-end condominiums actually prefer to buy a nicely furnished unit as it would save them a lot of hassle but there were none for sale,” he said.

The one-block Sutramas was issued with Certificate of Fitness for Occupation this April. All the standard units priced from around RM300,000 to RM500,000 (or about RM230psf) have been sold out. It boasts of one of the grandest lobbies for a condominium in the country.

By The Star (By S. C. Cheah)

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