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Monday, June 30, 2008

Upmarket challenge for Bolton

Chan posing in front of a Tijani home.

FOR decades, Kenny Hills has been known to be the home of the rich and famous. Be they corporate leaders, politicians, members of the royal families or someone with heaps of money, Kenny Hills drew them with her meandering tree-lined roads and mosquito-filled slopes.

But the community who lived there also treasured and protected what they have with passion. And because they had influence and power, Kenny Hills continued to remain green.

Several years ago, residents of Kenny Hills were up in arms when they discovered that certain parts of their beloved neighbourhood in Jalan Langgak Tunku would come under the bulldozer. Their concerns were natural as Kenny Hills, one of the most up-market residential urban living in the city, is also the last of the green bastion of modern city living.

Having a home here is equivalent to having arrived. There is nothing to upgrade to. With a benchmark as challenging as this, what can any developer offer that will appease the current community and at the same time, appeal to new buyers?

This challenge was presented to Bolton Bhd when it became one of the largest land owners there with 42 acres in the late 1990s.

Says Bolton executive director Chan Wing Kwong: “Kenny Hills is like a gentleman’s club. How exclusive can any developer be?”

It was a challenge they decided to take up. They took a second look at their plans, which at that time, was to be a high dense commercial, retail and residential area.

“We decided to adopt a more seamless approach, taking into consideration the current community. If anyone were to buy, our first catchment would be the community here,” says Chan.

Hence the governing rule was to consider the wishes of the community. The second thing they did was branding. Bolton had previously done two other high-end projects in the city, but nothing of this scale. That was when Bolton decided to put greater emphasis on branding. That led to the birth of the Tijani (crown in Arabic) brand. Bolton plans to use the brand Tijani for their upmarket projects across the country, eventually.

Says Chan: “We decided to focus on long-term value.”

Because Kenny Hills was like a gentleman’s club comprising the rich and their sons and daughters, relationships matter.

There is the old rich who made their money by the sweat of their brow. At least their fathers did. Now that they have their third generation, they too want their children to live close by. But the young rich did not want the cumbersome duties of having to look after a home on half an acre. (That’s the land area of some of the properties there).

That was when Bolton came up with a 3-in-1 strategy – the natural, modern tropical and modern minimalist – to meet the needs and demands of the community they were targeting.

Tijani 1, comprising 33 vacant lots, took on a natural theme. Its entrance was understated with lots of greens and land area between 13,000 and 54,000 sq ft (more than an acre).

A small house on a large piece of land – the definition of Kenny Hills homes and this was what the community lived by.

Bolton was targeting an audience who is used to living on large pieces of land. When Tijani 2 South came about, the concept changed to appeal to a community who wanted to downsize but who nevertheless, wanted an oasis of green to remain. Forty-four semi-detached homes were introduced in this modern tropical setting.

Needs and wants change with the season but some basic needs have to be respected. With emphasis on that, Tijani 2 North, with its 70 units of low-rise duplexes and 84 units of condominiums, was launched in 2005.

(Bolton will launch its low-rise block of eight storeys comprising 28 units before the end of the year at between RM1,000 and RM1,200 per sq ft in Tijani 2 North. There will be a Tijani 3 later on, which comprises 100 odd units of condominiums. Tijani 2 North was launched in 2005 at RM650 psf.)

“We are now appealing to the youngest generation. They may be buying with their own money, their father’s or grandfather’s money. They don’t want to maintain the grounds, they want to enjoy life and socialise. They are adventurous and don’t mind mixing with the neighbourhood. So we provide them with a clubhouse and other facilities,” says Chan.

Looking back, he says the single factor that gel this 3-in-1 strategy is relationships.

“Location, quality and being green are important but above all these lie the importance of relationships. But having said that, 30% of our buyers were foreigners. They know they cannot go wrong with this location.”

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

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