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Saturday, December 8, 2007

New dimension to Damansara area

Pusat Bandar Damansara and the overall Damansara Heights landscape will take on a new dimension with the flurry of ongoing activities in the town centre. Several developers have staked their territory that comprises several parcels.

Work on a smaller plot, of about 2.17 acres, will be undertaken by four established names in property development. The Lion Group has joined hands with the real estate investment arm of American International Group Inc, Singapore-based Koh Maju, and Singapore’s Heeton Holdings Ltd, to form a joint venture company Panareno Sdn Bhd to build a luxury high-rise residential project Twins at Damansara Heights.

The two-tower block fronts Jalan Damanlela, and is adjacent to Jalan Johar. The project offers 318 units of luxury residential suites, on twin 36-storey blocks, with 159 units in each block.

GuocoLand (M) Bhd, which is part of Malaysia’s Hong Leong group of companies, is also staking its claim in that territory. GuocoLand is offering a mixed development on 8.5 acres of freehold commercial land comprising retail mall, office towers, luxury condominiums, serviced apartments and a five-star boutique hotel.

The development in Pusat Bandar Damansara underscores two things – the presence and interest of Singapore developers in Malaysia and the ever escalating number of high-rise residential projects in Kuala Lumpur.

In the heart of the city, Singapore’s Hong Leong group, under the helm of Kwek Leng Beng, will also be building Millennium Residence, a 57-storey convex glass and steel structure next to the newly refurbished Grand Millennium, formerly The Regent Kuala Lumpur, in Jalan Bukit Bintang.

The Grand Millennuim Kuala Lumpur, formerly known as The Regent

While Twins at Damansara is expected to be launched this year, there are about 20 condominium and serviced apartments in different parts of the city that are scheduled to be launched next year.

Says Kwek: “It does not matter whether 5,000 more units will be added to the Kuala Lumpur skyline. Even 8,000 will not be a lot. There will always be competition. The question is location, location, location! So you spread it out. They don’t buy the residence, they buy the address.”

Kwek was commenting on the more than 5,000 units of high-rise residential units, excluding those that are already launched several years ago, that are scheduled to be launched in the city next year. He will be building his first condominium, Millennium Residence, here.

South Korea is short of units. So they go out to other parts of Asia to buy. Likewise, Singaporeans and comparatively, Kuala Lumpur is cheaper than many other Asian cities,” he says.

“As to whether a developer makes money or not depends on the right location, timing and human resources,” says Kwek. He has been in property development for about 40 years.

Kwek says in a way, his company City Developments Ltd, an international property and hotel group, under the Hong Leong group in Singapore, helped to kick start the Singapore condominium real estate market.

“It was in the doldrums for eight years, beginning from 1996. In 2004, we came up with The Sail @ Marina Bay. That project had more than 1,000 units, a 70-storey and a 64-storey block. We started at S$900 psf. Today, the higher floors are S$3,000, with the average pricing between S$2,500 to S$2,700. That is three times the original purchase price in a time frame of four years. When a person goes into property investment, he must be patient. It is a medium to long-term investment.”

Kwek, who is also adviser to the Las Vegas Sands Corp to build and run the first of two casino resorts, also talked about how the casino resort will help to launch Singapore into the next phase of growth.

Singapore reversed its 40-year ban on casino gambling to have two casinos, one on Marina Bay and second on the island of Sentosa, to boost tourism. It chose Las Vegas Sands’ vision of convention-driven district over three other bids, Malaysia’s Genting Bhd and two Singapore government-owned companies.

Singapore has not been growing until the last 10 years. The new resorts will take us to another phase. I can visualise the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) market already. The casino takes up only 6%. MICE is a very profitable business. We want to double tourists arrivals to 17 million by 2015, create more jobs. We project that there will not be enough hotel rooms, malls or condominiums.

“The casino resort will be very significant and it will provide competition for the gaming business in the region. If people like it, they will come more often,” says Kwek.

Marina Bay Sands, expected to cost US$4bil, will be the most expensive casino in the world when completed in 2009.

American casino operators have been rushing to expand in Asia to tap the region’s fast growing ranks of millionaires and middle-class consumers.

By The Star

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