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Sunday, May 25, 2008

New kid on U-Thant block

Landlovers finds exclusive niche for Koreans

AFTER a career in construction that spans 25 years, which took him to Singapore, the Middle East, Hong Kong and the American continent, Son Kuem Chan will be building his first property in Kuala Lumpur.

The managing director of Landlovers (M) Sdn Bhd, Son came to Malaysia in 2005. He recalls his initial reconnaissance of the Madge-U-Thant area as he scoured the area for land. “At that time, there was a lot of land to buy and prices were in the RM300 to RM400 psf region. Today, land prices in this area have doubled.

“If I sell the land, I will make money. But I want to build. I compare the market here with other countries in the region, and I see potential.”

Son has a small niche development called 9Madge along Jalan Madge. He will join a host of other developers, both local, Singapore and Korea-based, whose projects are located in the U-Thant and Madge areas.

Together with Landlovers on Jalan Madge will be Singapore-based Katana Developments Sdn Bhd (The Katana Residences), Tan & Tan Developments Bhd's (U-Thant Residences) and Singapore-based Dawntree Properties Sdn Bhd (Iringan Hijau), Nam Fatt Bhd (The Gallery @ U-Thant) and other small-scale niche players. The other Korean developer in the area is SsangYong.

“We expect more South Koreans to come to Malaysia. Right now, officially there are about 15,000 South Koreans in Malaysia. Unofficially, there may be between 17,000 and 25,000. In the next three to five years, we expect the number to swell to 50,000,” Son says.

Rodem Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Landlovers Group & Hanil Engineering & Construction Co Ltd of Korea, will develop the project.

“The attraction here is education. We have many Korean families sending their children here to school. Mothers follow their children here. After a while, the entire family comes over. So from just renting a condominium, some of them eventually end up buying one,” he says.

With just 23 units on 0.77 acres, Son is offering a contemporary five-storey, two-block development with two basement car park levels.

The building essentially consists of two wings interconnected by a lobby. There will be a central courtyard.

One wing will have four and five-bedroom units facing a 25-metre lap pool while the second wing will have two and three-bedroom units.

The penthouses will have their own gardens. The size ranges from 1,800 sq ft to 8,200 sq ft.

The smaller units will have a minimum of two parking bays while the penthouses, a total of six each. Son says it is essentially a parking bay for every 1,000sq ft. Price ranges from RM2.23mil to RM8mil. The company will use a Singapore architect and will bring in their own project manager from South Korea.

For a small project like this, Son says there's a lot of emphasis on quality, both in the public areas like central court, lobby and basement car park and inside the units.

“Most basements are dark and lack ventilation. Ours will be different. There will be ample natural light and modern electrical fittings. There will be no network of pipes in the basement, as with most. There will also be proper floor finishes in the basement,” he says.

Having checked some of the older developments in the area, Son says 9Madge will have larger units with high ceilings, to bring light and volume to the place.

Savills Rahim & Co managing director Robert Ang says most of today's niche developments in the Madge and U-Thant area are moving away from the 1,200sq ft to 2,000 sq ft units.

“In the 1980s and 1990s, developers gave five-star location but three-star projects, catering to junior expatriate managers. Today, the situation is different. Even among investors, they are going for quality and larger units, sometimes with a minimum built-up of 3,000sq ft. The demand now is five-star developments in five-star location,” says Ang.

There will be a lot of glass in the units themselves and a glass lift and a four-tier security system. The units will have control of the lobby and lift, which means visitors can be guided to the respective units. There will also be a concierge.

On the expected growth in the number of South Koreans coming into Malaysia, Ang says after South Korea recovered from the Asian financial crisis in 1997, real estate boomed.

“It has a population of about 70 million, and Seoul itself has 10 million or more. Development opportunities are very limited. Because these developers had the financial muscle, they decided to venture out into the region. Malaysia became one of their preferred destinations. Land prices in Singapore were rather prohibitive, likewise education. The South Koreans basically wanted a base in English and so they send their children over. As more of them came over, they decided to buy instead of lease. Another strong pull was Malaysia's golf courses,” says Ang.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)


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