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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kepong's makeover

Several major property developments in the area in the past years have raised its status.

In 2002, Perdana ParkCity Sdn Bhd launched its first phase of Desa Park City. The strata-titled double-storey terrace housing, known as Nadia Parkhomes, began from RM400,000.

At that price range, the subsidiary of Sarawak-based timber company Samling Group was setting a new benchmark in Kepong-Segambut area.

An established area comprising several townships with a Kuala Lumpur address, it boasts neither a population of professionals with deep pockets nor masses of urban poor. Predominantly Chinese, the majority of whom were entrepreneurs or tradesmen, they amassed their wealth through shrewd business dealings. But amid the positive elements of a hard-working entrepreneurial community, there were also the weaker elements that gave Kepong its stigma, which started out as Chinese new villages. Until today, developers shy away from that Kepong name. But like any villages around the country, there was an abundance of land.

The Samling Group had, in 1990s, scoured the Klang Valley to site its flagship residential development. It bought 473 acres of the part-rubber part-quarry land for RM200mil in 1999 when the market was at the bottom. This was equivalent to RM425,532 per acre, or less than RM10 per sq ft.

Fast forward 2005. The demand for a new generation of housing in that vicinity caught the attention of developers. That year, RB Land Holdings Bhd purchased a 4.5-acre piece of rubber land adjacent to Desa Park City for RM9.8mil, or about RM50 psf.

Says RB Land’s MD Datuk Soam Heng Choon: “Based on today’s pricing, that was a good price. Now it is about RM65 to RM80 psf.”

RB Land is not an early bird. There was another developer before it. Between 2003 and 2006, Sunway City Bhd had purchased four pieces at the average price range of RM20 psf for their joint venture projects. Its first phase of Sunway SPK was launched in 2004, with double-storey terraced housing beginning at RM526,000.

Says RB Land’s Soam: “The landscape over there has improved considerably...likewise, the roads and other infrastructure. There are today the NKVE, the LPD and the Penchala Link, not to mention the Middle Ring Road Two. Although there was a toll of RM1 (now RM1.60) going towards Petaling Jaya, the pull was there because of the amenities at the Curve. The stigma of gangsters and bad hats, at one time prevalent in the Jinjang and Kepong area, is also slowly beginning to clear.

“The fact that the population, at one time was able to afford double-storey houses with price tags between RM130,000 and RM160,000, are now able to fork out RM600,000 to RM800,000 is very telling,” says Soam.

“This is a very strong factor to spur developers to move in and to provide niche housing,” he says.

The other attraction was the type of housing that was appearing on the landscape. Over the years, the scene has changed from wooden houses to concrete single-storey terraces in the 1970s. Today, the offerings include double-storey, semi-detached and bungalow units. Link houses, though, continue to dominate.

Says Soam: “RB Land undertakes large-scale township development which is the bread and butter of most developers. But we also focus on the high-end market. Township development goes on for years. They provide developers with a steady source of recurring income. Niche development, such as the one we are offering in Bukit Segambut, adds to our bottom line faster because they command higher prices.”

Soam showing a model of the Bayu Sri Bintang

Known as Bayu Sri Bintang, RB Land’s project is adjacent to Desa Park City. The 4.5-acre guarded community will have 26 units of semi-ds and four bungalow units on elevated land. Soam says the look and feel of the place will be exclusive and contemporary with lots of glass and metal deck roofing. “It will be in line with the current trend in the area,” he says.

Bayu Sri Bintang is priced between RM1.4mil and RM2.5mil. They have sold a third of it, with most buyers originating from Kepong/Segambut.

A large portion of the population here are 45 years old and above. Unlike the previous generation, today’s parents buy for their children. And the children, if given a choice, would prefer to stay close to their folks. They enjoy the privacy of having their own homes, yet the convenience of being near enough to the family home. Their preference is landed units, he says.

Soam says in time to come, as land becomes scarce, high-rise dwelling will become the norm. Right now, it is difficult to find large pieces of land that goes into hundreds of acres.

“Those days are over. What we have today are pockets of between three and five acres. Bukit Segambut is still relatively green. The rubber trees are still there but as more developers come in, this will go. This is all part of the urban renewal process,” he says. Besides the landed units in Bayu Sri Bintang, RB Land will also be offering low and high-rise condominium units Bukit Segambut area. This will be launched next year.

“The commercial centres are already there. Carrefour and Jaya Jusco are operating in the area. A large part of the vibrancy is due to linkages in the area to Mont’Kiara, Batu Caves and the city centre are already in place,” says Soam.

In steps Sunway

It was this connectivity that prompted Sunway City Bhd (Suncity) to enter the scene in early 2000s.

At the outset of the interview, its MD Ngian Siew Siong had a geography lesson for his listeners. “We have four different sites here. They are neither Segambut nor Kepong, but Damansara Northwest.”

For years, Suncity has honed its brand. Whether it is Kota Damansara or elsewhere, it is not letting up, particularly when its offerings are half a million and above. Its first phase began with Syarikat Permodalan Kebangsaan Bhd (SPKB). A JV Sunway SPK Homes Sdn Bhd was created for that first 120 acres. The 608 units are 100% sold. It is currently offering Villa Manja, also with SPKB.

This 33-acre development comprises 196 units of semi-detached units with a launching price of RM1.8mil each in a guarded environment with a single exit and entry point.

The density ratio is 6 units per acre, which is low as the ratio for semi-detached is generally 10 units per acre.

Says Ngian: “We want to upgrade the image of this location with quality housing. We want to attract a certain group with this type of housing, at this price point.”

Ngian says the original dwellers of this part of Kuala Lumpur have never seen such a development before and Sunway wants to set new benchmarks in this area. Villa Manja will be a freehold development with security.

The buyers of Suncity homes are a mixed group with the majority coming from Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur.

Those from Kepong are generally upgraders, he says. There are a growing number from the conventional Damansara belt such as Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Damansara Utama, Damansara Jaya and other vicinities such as Bandar Utama, Sri Hartamas and Mont’Kiara. (refer to chart)

Encouraged by the response in the area, the company is scheduling to launch 180 units of three and three-and-a-half-storey townhouses in an 18-acre site next to Country Heights Damansara next year.

“The response to our townhouse developments in Sunway Damansara, Laman Impian, ParkVille Garden and Challis Damansara Garden Villas in Petaling Jaya have been tremendous. We want to do a similar concept over at this third piece of land we have here. The market is ready,” he says.

Its four pieces of land is adjacent to Villa Manja. This will be launched in the latter part of next year.

By The Star (By

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