Iskandar Malaysia (Part 5 - The Southern Development Corridor)
Iskandar Malaysia will drive the growth of the property sector in Johor during the current global economic downturn. Real Estate & Housing Developers Association (REHDA) Johor branch chairman Lee Kim Chai concurred that Iskandar Malaysia was the driving force for the property market in Johor. He said the influx of local and foreign investors would create job opportunities within the 2,217 sq km Iskandar Malaysia and the presence of new residents boded well for the market in Johor. The retail sector in Iskandar Malaysia is set to enjoy exciting times with more investments and new players expected to enter the market in the near future according to a recent statement by the southern region representative of the Malaysian Association for Shopping & Highrise Complex Management (MASHCM) Jenny Chan. She said competition in the sector had become more intense in recent years. Five new shopping complexes and hypermarkets were opened in the 2nd half of 2008 in Iskandar Malaysia. They were viz., a) Tesco Extra Plentong, b) Sutera Mall, Danga City Mall, c) Tesco Tebrau City and d) AEON Bukit Indah. In two years’ time, it will be exciting for the southern region folks as it was reported that KSL City, Hilltop Nusajaya and Ponderosa Mall @ Taman Impian Emas will be opened in 2010. In the pipeline are Nusajaya Shopping Mall and also the expansion of the IOI Mall II at the existing IOI Bandar Putra Kulai.
Residents in Iskandar Malaysia, which covers Johor Bahru, Senai-Kulai, Gelang Patah-Pontian and Pasir Gudang-Tanjung Langsat, are spoilt for choice as there are more than 20 shopping complexes and hypermarkets in this region alone. The shopping complexes and hypermarkets are also very popular with the Singaporeans visitors due to their strong Singaporean dollar. During weekends, these Singaporeans throng the JB city centre areas doing their window shopping and scouting for cheap deals despite the daily traffic congestion at the Woodlands checkpoint and the Malaysian immigration side.
It was also reported that in the near future, Iskandar Malaysia will have the Malaysian Premium Outlet (MPO) centre, which shall be built on a 20-hectare parcel of land in Asiatic Indahpura, in the Kulai Jaya township. This is a tripartite joint-venture project between a) Asiatic Land Development Sdn Bhd, b) a member of the Genting Group and c) the US-based Simon Property Group’s subsidiary, Chelsea Property Group. It is noted that the MPO is Chelsea’s first premium outlet in Southeast Asia which offers international branded items at discounted prices. For the record, Chelsea Property is the world’s largest owner, developer and operator of upscale outlet centres with 38 outlets in the US, 6 in Japan and one each in South Korea and Mexico.
The Malaysian government has approved incentives for developers and investors involved in the development of Iskandar Malaysia which was launched on 4th November 2006. ‘Since its launching in 2006, there were more than 25 developers who had already invested in Iskandar Malaysia. In 2008, three local companies, a) Kota Selat Tebrau Sdn Bhd, b) Best Reality Point Sdn Bhd and c) Tune Hotels Sdn Bhd were selected to undertake new waterfront projects worth about RM540million within the Danga Bay area in Iskandar Malaysia.
The Johor property market also benefited from Iskandar Malaysia as demand for high-end residential properties was on the rise in southern Johor. Besides the “Iskandar” factor, Singapore also played an important role in determining the economic growth of Johor.
Under the 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010), the federal government had allocated RM6.83 billion for infrastructure projects in Iskandar Malaysia. And in the past 6 months, the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) had awarded RM1.62billion worth of tenders to 18 projects.
Some prominent developers are using Iskandar Malaysia to promote their products and one of these developers is UEM Land Bhd. UEM Land, being the largest landowner and master developer of Iskandar Malaysia, will be the key beneficiary to this region. UEM Land owns about 9,564 acres of developable land in Iskandar Malaysia and there are plans to develop more affordable housing units for the folks in this part of Johor. It is hoped that greater bilateral ties with Singapore and the rumours of a 3rd bridge to be built on the eastern part of Johor to link with Changi in Singapore has brought back the focus to Iskandar Malaysia.
UEM Land Bhd said its two high-end residential development projects include East Ledang and Horizon Hills, a joint venture between UEM Land and Gamuda Bhd. It had attracted a large number of foreign purchasers who made up 65% and 45% of the purchasers in East Ledang and Horizon Hills respectively. These projects had recorded an encouraging take-up rate. UEM Land will also develop a housing project to house the federal government’s staff based in Kota Iskandar. It will also build the CIQ (Customs, Immigration & Quarantine) complex at Puteri Harbour. The CIQ Puteri will facilitate visitors coming to Johor Bahru from Singapore using water taxis and ferries from nearby islands in the Riau Archipelago such as Bintan and Batam. CIQ Puteri will have a marina to berth yachts and light vessels from all over the world.
Land values in Nusajaya had risen from an average of between RM5psf to RM8psf previously to RM12psf now since Iskandar Malaysia was launched in 2006. To-date, Iskandar Malaysia had attracted RM42billion of development pledges, with actual cumulative investments reaching RM12.9billion. It has sold 2,476 acres of undeveloped land in Nusajaya to developers, investors and strategic partners. Some of the prominent development projects include Acerinox’s RM5billion steel manufacturing plant, the Johor Administration Centre and the RM650million Legoland Park Malaysia.
The Johor Administration Centre, launched in April 2009, also helped to provide a realistic focus and commitment to thoroughly develop Iskandar Malaysia into one of the most prominent townships in this part of the region. The Nusajaya township in Iskandar Malaysia shall see full operations by 2011, which shall boast the Newcastle Medical School, Puteri Harbour, Danga Bay Villas and the Coastal Highway. International developers such as Limitless LLC and Dubai-based Damac Holdings are two of the biggest investors in Nusajaya with agreements to develop residential and commercial properties at Puteri Harbour, the 688-acre crown jewel of the development.
Legoland Park Malaysia is set to have miniature replicas of iconic buildings and structures across the region. The park, situated on a 23-hectare site and scheduled to be completed in 2012, is a joint venture project between the Merlin Entertainment Group and Iskandar Investment Bhd. Merlin Entertainment production director Tim Burnell said the replicas included the Petronas Twin Towers and its researchers were currently touring several Asian countries in search of other iconic buildings and structures to be incorporated in the theme park.
All the structures will be located at Legoland’s Miniland where cities are created and the miniland is part of the theme park. Several famous buildings in Johor Bahru such as the Royal Museum, the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque and the Dataran Bandaraya clock tower will be featured in the park, too.
Other famous structures from the region include India’s Taj Mahal, Beijing’s Bird Nest Stadium, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Singapore’s Merlion statue. Only six candidates applying to become model shop assistants shall be selected from the shortlisted ones to attend a 10-week training programme in California. They will be asked to build models or components in the Legoland Model Shop here and will assist the master builders to train 40 others who will join the workshop from November 2009.