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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Holistic view needed for Greater KL plan

Developers and valuers hope the Government’s Greater Kuala Lumpur (GKL) plan will not only be a catalyst to spawn a thriving capital city, but also have all the right attributes to become one of the most livable metropolis by 2020.

The GKL plan is one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas identified under the Economic Transformation Programme, which is a road map to turn Malaysia into a high income economy with a per capita gross national income of US$15,000 by 2020.

The 279,327ha GKL will cover districts under 10 municipalities namely Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selayang, Ampang Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Klang, Kajang and Sepang.

Real Estate and Housing Developers Association president Datuk Michael Yam says it is imperative that the Government take a more holistic view to the overall future planning of Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas, with the objective of benchmarking GKL against other world class cities.

“The catalysts required to turn GKL into a reality include better physical planning of Kuala Lumpur and its surroundings; transportation and traffic dispersal; social and cultural planning; crime prevention and respect for the rule of law; high standards of education and health facilities; environmental care; improvement of infrastructure and services; efficient government delivery system; and a conducive business and market friendly environment,” he tells StarBizWeek.

Yam says transportation connectivity, green lungs (where appropriate) and a whole hosts of user friendly amenities must be built into the development masterplan.

“Life cycle costing and economical and environmental sustainability should be factored into the planning of communities. Incentives should be given to developments that achieve the quadruple bottom line objectives covering profit, society, environment and sustainability,” he says.

Yam points out that a major challenge for the GKL plan is that the footprint covers an extensive area including neighbouring Selangor.

This inclusion is necessary and critical to the success of the extensive transportation network, supply of utilities, cleaning of rivers, waste management and connectivity.

“One of the keys to the efficient and effective delivery of the GKL plan, especially when the components of the area are controlled by governments from different parties, is the need for a governing body or organisation that can be mandated to make all decisions pertaining to the realisation of the plan.

“This body would be empowered by the governments to make decisions without fear or favour, and members of this body should be people with a macro view and the requisite expertise and experience to set policies and drive the project. It should have the courage to engage competent professionals to help plan, conduct market studies, analyse the financial viability and encourage best practice in executing the tasks,” he says.

He says: “Design and layout of infrastructure should be inclusive and forward looking, being friendly to mothers and the elderly as we progress towards an aging population in 20 years time. Such universally friendly features and amenities should be incorporated into best practice principles.”

Yam foresees that more residential properties, including higher quality residences, will be needed for the growing population and inflow of new talents. New commercial and retail properties will also be needed to meet the higher demand.

To avoid market mismatch, he says it is important to implement development initiatives in market-driven phases based on real demand.

P.K. Poh, a retired property veteran from Dijaya Corp Bhd and currently an advisor to a public-listed group, says urbanisation and high income alone do not make a city great if it is not livable.

“The GKL plan should have all the amenities expected of a great city, such as an efficient transportation system, reliable broadband connectivity, a clean, green and safe environment, comprehensive civic facilities (libraries and museums), a lively cultural and performing arts scene and a high level of service culture from those in the service industry. World-travellers will find these features very evident in the top 20 world-class cities around the world,” Poh adds.

He believes that for GKL to achieve the rank of a world-class city, the most important factor will be to create an efficient and reliable transportation system with seamless interconnectivity between different transportation modes to all corners of the city.

“I also think that the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in the city have been sidelined, in that there are not enough sidewalks (that are wide and level enough) and the total absence of dedicated bicycle tracks in the city.

“According to a recent article that I read, the top three world-class cities in the world – Munich, Copenhagen and Zurich – all have great connectivity, cultural and civic amenities and green spaces. This makes for a happier, healthier living for its residents, which is so important in today’s pressure-cooker environment.”

Poh says while the planning is already in place, “the time of reckoning is during the implementation stage.”

“It’s a long journey from now till 2020. Like all ambitious programmes, it will need to be reviewed from time to time, say, every three to five years, and tweaked. To do this, there needs to be a methodology set up to measure the progress in a clear, transparent and easily-understood manner,” he says.

According to CB Richard Ellis Sdn Bhd executive director Paul Khong, as planning details of the land have not been formalised, it is still premature to gauge how the final GKL plan will affect the value of the land.

“It is only in the planning stages and the plans are not formalised yet. At the end of the day, it is subject to the final planning approval for the respective projects. It is also important to ensure new projects are planned properly to ensure there will not be an over supply situation,” Khong says.

Mah Sing Group Bhd group managing director cum chief executive Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum says the comprehensive transportation proposal is particularly exciting as this will boost demand for properties.

“The plan includes the mass rapid transit and high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with a possible extension to Penang. This will be a major boost for the property sector if they materialise,” he says.

By The Star

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