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Saturday, January 7, 2012

I-Bhd’s decision to leverage on digital technology has borne fruit in the form of i-City

Ong with a model of i-Residence, the first residential project to be built in i-City.

When I-Bhd first ventured into property development about six years ago, the company decided to leverage on its digital technology prowess to undertake the construction of the first digital city in the country, i-City in Section 7, Shah Alam.

That decision has proved to be a worthwhile proposition.

The state-of-the-art information and communications technology (ICT) urban centre is located on a freehold plot along the Federal Highway Route II fronting the Sungai Rasau toll plaza.

According to I-Bhd executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong, the strategy has helped the group to establish itself as a unique property developer with a unique development that I-Berhad can be proud of.

“i-City is today one of the leading technology cities in the country – from being the first to provide fibre to the unit to having the whole 72-acres of development as a Cisco network.

“Being a MSC Cybercity with complete information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure, the development is provided with dual source power supply, multi-telco environment and super broadband accessibility of 200mbps,” Lim relates to StarBizWeek in an interview.

Chief executive officer Datuk Eu Hong Chew says i-City is the first gated and guarded mixed development that has been accorded the status as an International Park in Shah Alam.

The 10-year development will feature some 12 million sq ft of gross lettable area (GLA) for a total gross development value (GDV) of RM4.5bil.

Of this, about 35% will comprise residences, and the balance will be offices, commercial and retail space, hotel and service apartments, a convention complex, an intelligent school and a technology hub.

Since construction took off in 2007, some 500,000 sq ft or 366 offices suites as well as a 70,000 sq ft Tier 4 data centre have been completed.

Eu says Al-Rajhi Bank (Malaysia) had in 2009 invested RM95mil to purchase 250,000 sq ft of the office suites for investment purposes, adding that another institutional investor is expected to buy up the balance 50% of the office suites in the next three months.

He adds that i-City is promoting a cosmopolitan lifestyle living in line with the Selangor state government’s initiative last July of according i-City an international community.

“With this status, the plot ratio for the development has been raised to five times from three times previously which raises its GLA to 12 million sq ft from 7.5 million sq ft.

Bright lights: i-City, dubbed ‘the city of digital lights,’ is fast becoming a must-see destination.

“We are taking advantage of this higher plot ratio to increase the residential component to 35% of the GLA from 5% previously. This means some 3 million sq ft will be the residential component,” Eu says.

The first residential project in i-City will be i-Residence comprising a 33-storey block of 346 service residences and an adjacent double-storey block of 20 duplex suites.

I-Bhd director Monica Ong says the service residences with built-up from 715 sq ft to 1358 sq ft are priced in the region of RM450 per sq ft, while the duplex suites of up to 3,500 sq ft will be at around RM550 per sq ft. They will be fitted with air conditioners, water heating system and kitchen appliances.

“The i-Residence design is also in line with our master planner Jon Jerde’s concept of having luscious we well as pedestrian friendly environment,” adds Ong.

Intelligent city

Being part of the MSC Cybercity, the residences get to enjoy dual source power supply, a multi-telco environment and super broadband accessibility of 200mbps.

According to Eu, since its inception, i-City has what it takes to become a success story.

“Its location within the vibrant city of Shah Alam has opened up the opportunity for I-Berhad to get the full support of the state government, which has formed the i-City Selangor Steering Committee to facilitate its development,” he explains.

Being the maiden private sector-led ICT urban centre development in the country, the project has been designated as Selangor’s International City by the state government.

The state government will build a flyover from the Sungai Rasau toll plaza along Federal Highway cutting into Section 7 Shah Alam to i-City which is slated to be ready in 2013.

“This interchange plans include providing an exclusive access to i-Residence as well as from both KL and Klang,” explains Ong.

Under the light rail transit (LRT) blueprint, the extension of the LRT system from Kelana Jaya to Klang will also serve i-City.

Leveraging on these advantages, Eu says it will not be far fetched for i-City to realise its goal as a vibrant ICT urban centre where “work, play and entertainment come together.”

“i-City’s business plan involves not only developing properties for sale as well as for long term investments, but also to build up its leisure business based on i-City’s vision of being both a knowledge hub as well as a tourism destination.

“We started i-City with the MSC Malaysia Cybercentre development.

“Then in December 2009, we opened ‘The City of Digital Lights’ as it’s first leisure component. This year, we are launching our first residential component,” adds Eu.

Midas touch

The other decision to engage renowned American architect Jon A. Jerde of the Jerde Partnership as the master planner for i-City has also given the project its “winning streak.” Jerde has brought his Midas touch of “place-making” to turn i-City into the city of digital lights and a tourism destination that has become quite a hit among Klang Valley folks.

“We believe the relationship with The Jerde Partnership has resulted in the planning for the right products in line with the famous Jerde hallmark of place-making to make a positive impact here.

“Over the years, Jerde has built a strong network of retailers, mall operators and investors. Its name alone has become a premium brand that sells,” Lim says.

He says projects that bear the Jerde hallmark in the US include Universal Citywalk in Los Angeles, which has redefined the urban village as an intricate weave of uses and services, and the internationally acclaimed Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, Nevada, that is now a dynamic destination for a new form of urban theatre.

Jerde is also behind the iconic 4.2 million square feet Mall of America in Minnesota, the largest mall in the US, and one of the most vibrant shopping complexes in the world with 520 shops, theme parks and a university.

In Asia, Jerde’s architectural landmarks include Canal City Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan, and the famous Roppongi Hills in Tokyo. In Hong Kong, his signature can been seen in the Arcade @ Cyberport, an ICT-based residential, office and retail development.

“The first leisure element in i-City, dubbed the City of Digital Lights with its 1 million LED lights is Jerde-inspired from the Fremont Street Experience. We just adapted the lightscape concept to be in-line with our digital technology approach and hence the LED lights,” comments Lim.

Growth catalyst

Eu says for the next phase of the company’s growth, I-Bhd will be leveraging on Lim’s business and entrepreneurial expertise to further add value to the development.

The first step in this direction is the establishment of a strategic alliance between Everbright International of China and I-Bhd in December last year to co-develop 30 acres of land in i-City.

He says the 30 acres represent all the undeveloped land in i-City and will ensure that the whole development can be completed by 2020.

“The strategic alliance with Everbright International is made possible by Lim’s “guanxi” or special relationship that he has established with the various parties in China since venturing into China in 1984,” Eu says.

He points out that the joint venture with Everbright International is an important milestone for I-Bhd as it will enable the company to continue with its strategy of “selling upon completion as well as to hold part of the property as long-term investments.”

Furthermore, it will also enable I-Berhad to tap into China’s demand for investment of properties in Malaysia.

With Everbright International holding 70% share, the Chinese counterpart will drive the joint venture and thus free I-Berhad to pursue other development activities.

“For the next phase of i-City’s development, I-Berhad will be tapping into its branding expertise to brand it’s upcoming residential projects,” Eu adds.

I-Berhad has a few niche residential property projects in the Klang Valley for launch these one to two years.

The first residential project, i-Residence in i-City, is schedule for launch in March.

The 33-storey i-Residence will be the third building block in i-City after the MSC Malaysia Cybercentre and the tourism component.

The second will be a luxurious condominium project in Changkat Kia Peng, Kuala Lumpur.

The slightly more than an acre land in the city’s Golden Triangle is set to mark I-Berhad’s move into the high-end residential market.

The parcel was acquired by Lim about 20 years ago and is today a valuable prime land located within 5 minutes walking distance to KLCC. Also on the card is i-City South, a 7-acre development to the south of the current i-City site.

By The Star

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