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Friday, February 17, 2012

Let’s turn JB into iconic waterfront city

It is the magic of the water that should draw you to a waterfront city. Besides that, it is the fun factor and the glitter attached to it that are all too hard to resist.

Venice, Amsterdam and Cape Town are cities that continue to be ever so popular and even Sydney's waterfront has icons like the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay that attracts millions of tourists every year.

A website lists seven interesting waterfront cities that include Spain's San Sebastian “whose promenade stretches from one edge of the arching coast to another littered with a number of parks, cafes, hotels, pavilions and boardwalks''.

Baltimore, Stockholm, Hamburg, Nice, and Porto in Portugal are some of the alluring waterfront cities that capture the travellers' heart.

Closer to home, Johor Baru is in for a rejuvenation into a waterfront city. Hopefully, whatever it is doing will put it on the ranks of the top 10 waterfront cities in time to come.

The idea of transforming JB, among others, was centred on capturing the spin-offs of businesses and traffic into Singapore, which now has a resort element that is attracting visitors by the droves.

Hence Iskandar Malaysia was created. But after five years, are we there yet?

Certainly not, but progress has been made, in some parts more and in others less. A larger part of the rejuvenation means JB needs investors some have come, some have come and left, but the net is still out there to get more as the whole development is just too huge to rely on two, five or even 10 investors.

Iskandar Malaysia has five zones. The city centre falls under Zone A, which includes Danga Bay. This covers the southernmost strip that stretches from the west to east and will be revived into a waterfront gold coast consisting of luxury hotels, condominiums, high-rise offices and tourist attractions. At night, it should stand out like a blanket of glitter overseeing Singapore. The gross development value of Zone A runs into RM80bil for now.

Zone B covers Nusajaya, where UEM Group has huge tracts of land being developed into superb residential areas, with houses there fetching minimum prices of RM400,000. Legoland, which is 60% complete, should open its doors by year end.

Zone C is the western gate of Johor, where a mammoth petrochemical and maritime hub is taking shape. Zone D covers the eastern gate, where Johor Port is located. It will be the learning zone where universities and colleges will be located.

Recently, Danga Bay got a shot in the arm with a RM200mil injection from the Federal Government to jumpstart the project, which will have a marina, cruise terminal, fisherman's wharf, shopping malls, hotels and residential buildings along the Straits of Johor. Perhaps the money is to match what businessman Datuk Lim Kang Hoo the man behind Danga Bay has pumped in over the past 15 years.

There are many more highways and infrastructure being laid out and JB at a glance appears to be bustling with activities. However, the main question is, can all these developments take off the way they were planned and can they generate enough economic activity for sustainability?

For one, Danga Bay is suddenly getting more queries and investor visits but can that be said of the other developments?

The Iskandar Malaysia project will create hundreds to thousands of jobs over the years and the economic spin-offs are really unimaginable for now. However, this is a long-term project and as Lim puts it, “maybe the full completion would not be in my lifetime”.

To make it all happen, everyone involved has to move at lightning speed so that JB can be an attraction for any travellers to Singapore, or else, we may just miss this window of opportunity.

Deputy news editor B.K. Sidhu thinks AirAsia's Tan Sri Tony Fernandes should consider taking over India's Kingfisher Airlines to expand into the Indian sub-continent now that AirAsia has a base in Asia and recently, the Middle East.

By The Star

Exhibition hopes to attract overseas developers

The Malaysia Property Exposition (Mapex) 2012, to be held from March 2 to 4 at Halls 1, 2 and 3 of the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre in Mid Valley, will be opening its doors to top property developments from abroad.

Info: Ng (left) and KL Rehda chairman NK Tong showing the promotional material for Mapex 2012.

The event, themed “Home and Abroad”, is jointly organised by Rehda Malaysia with Rehda Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

It will feature international property players with properties from overseas.

As of now, companies with projects in Thailand and the Philippines have registered their participation and Mapex is now awaiting confirmation from Australian participants as well.

Mapex 2012 committee chairman Datuk Ng Sieng Liong said the event would attract foreign investors to invest in Malaysia and with it promote tourism at the same time.

“Malaysians are the biggest investors in Singapore and nowadays, with just 10 to 12 hours of travelling, you can be in any part of the world.

“We also want foreign investors to come to Malaysia and invest,” said Ng, adding that more than 50,000 people were targeted to visit the exhibition.

Over 65 developers from the local and international arena have registered for Mapex, showcasing over 300 housing developments including Sime Darby Properties, SP Setia Bhd, Mah Sing Properties, Lebar Daun Development and Seri Pajam Development.

The developers will be showcasing various developments in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang and Perak.

Major banks and financial institutions will also be offering attractive and competitive finance packages for buyers at Mapex including Bank Simpanan Nasional and Bank Mualamat.

There will also be talks on topics of interest to house buyers such as safety and financing during the three-day exhibition.

The exhibition is open from 10am to 9pm daily. Admission is free.

By The Star

Avenue offers new way to invest in properties

AVENUE Properties Bhd has introduced a scheme for retail investors to buy interests in properties.

The company launched yesterday Avenue Hotel Property Interest Scheme, offering 10,500 property interests or units where 70 per cent are available for the public to buy at RM4,800 each.

Chief executive officer Richard Woo said the scheme will offer property interest or unit holders seven per cent returns per annum, for the first 14 years of its 35-year tenure.

The rate of return is higher in comparison to fixed deposits, the Employees Provident Fund and endowment policies, where the returns are two per cent to six per cent, but lower than investing in properties and bonds.

Unit holders will be investing in a 130-room four-storey boutique hotel on Jalan Raja Uda in Butterworth, Penang, and the returns will be paid annually.

Woo told reporters that the rate of return will be more than seven per cent after the 14th year onwards, as the market matures.

He said the property interest is not transferable and neither can it be disposed of by unit holders during the first 12 months from the date of take-up.

"We expect the property interests to be fully subscribed over the next three to three-and-half-years, generating some RM50 million for the company," Woo said.

The business hotel, which is being constructed for as much as RM30 million, will be completed by the first quarter of next year. It is part of a 24ha rehabilitation project being undertaken by Avenue Properties.

Other components of the project, which is estimated to have a gross development value of RM500 million to RM600 million, are condominiums, a mall, and shop offices.

Khong Yue Chen, Avenue Properties group director for marketing and communications, said it is expecting an average room occupancy rate of 60 per cent in the first year of operation, with average rate of RM280 per room a night.

She said the company will offer a collection of resorts and villas next for unit holders to invest in.

By Business Times