By WONG KING WAI
The mature neighbourhood of Damansara Heights will soon have a new member – Aira Residence by Selangor Properties Bhd (SPB).
Chief operating officer Chong Koon San tells city & country that the RM800 million development, to be launched next month, aims to revitalise SPB’s brand and attract the younger generation who is unfamiliar with the developer’s previous projects.
SPB was incorporated in 1963 with the late Tan Sri Wen Tien Kuang and Puan Sri Chook Yew Chong Wen as its first directors. It is known as for being the master developer of Damansara Heights or Bukit Damansara, a suburb carved from a 1000-acre rubber plantation purchased in the 1960s.
“The [directors] developed connectivity and they did a lot of land development and town planning. The area was developed in five phases and we have only 30 acres remaining,” says Chong.
Chook Yew is the chairman of SPB and her son, Wen Chiu Chi, is managing director.
Buildings in the area developed by SPB include Menara Milenium, Wisma Damansara, Kompleks Pejabat Damansara and Plaza Batai.
Chong says the company’s property development division has not been very active for some time now, focusing on maintaining existing properties for recurring income. However, it now feels it is time to re-establish itself as a premier developer.
“The management has decided to revitalise the property development division to get our brand up again,” says Chong. “We found that we are less connected with the younger generation… that was why the rebranding campaign was started two years ago.”
SPB has carried out many activities for the campaign, such as tweaking the company logo to reflect its new vision and direction, and sharing the new ideals with its staff. Another part of the exercise was the refurbishment of Plaza Batai, which used to house the popular Hock Lee Supermarket. After the refurbishment last year, it houses Ben’s independent Grocer and several hip restaurants and cafes. Plaza Batai, completed in 1972, consists of 16 terraced shop lots.
Aira Residence is another way to showcase SPB’s revitalised division.
A new development
While SPB is confident of producing a quality product, will the current soft market conditions throw a spanner in the works?
Chong does not think so. “During a slowdown, we control our cost and take a look at our existing properties to see how we can enhance them and create long term value,” he says.
Furthermore, there are a number of banks that are willing to provide bridging and end-financing for Aira Residence, which Chong sees as a sort of validation that the project will do well.
He adds that it is timely to develop Aira Residence now as the Malaysian property industry has reached a high level of sophistication.
“We have seen a lot expertise being brought into the country to develop [projects], and the standards have gone up, so we thought it is the right time [to launch Aira Residence],” he says.
For the upcoming condominium project, SPB has engaged Aedas, an international firm, for its architecture, Studio Piet Boon of the Netherlands for its interior design and Tierra Design of Singapore for its landscaping.
Chong says “Aira” is an Arabic word for “the breath of life” and he hopes that three-acre Aira Residence will live up to that with its design and landscaping.
“There will be a meditation garden with many tropical trees, a bio-pond with aquatic plants and a few pavilions. Near the lobby, we will have a lawn. There will also be a viewing deck that offers unobstructed views of KL city centre, a terraced garden and café as well as facilities like a gym and multipurpose hall,” he says.
Additionally, the development’s design will facilitate natural ventilation and the units will have sliding shutters to reduce the glare of the sun.
Situated at a high point of Jalan Batai, the 18 storey Aira Residence will comprise 105 condos with built-ups of 2679 to 7730 sq. ft. Scheduled for completion in 2019, the average price of the units is RM1700 psf.
All units will have unobstructed views of KL city centre. The target market is high-net-worth individuals living in Damansara Heights and Bangsar, Chong says.
The substructure work for the project started in January and is expected to be completed in a year’s time.
According to real estate agency Fernstate Sdn Bhd director Shawn Fernandez, Aira Residence, being a low-density development, will draw interest. “The larger units will test the market with the sub-RM2000 psf price point. They will have a distinct characteristic – almost all of them will have an unobstructed view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. While the market is trending towards smaller units, Aira Residence’s bigger units may sell well, given that this segment is under-supplied in the area.”
Fauziana Siebel-McKenna of Zerin Properties concurs. “Our market studies confirm active demand for larger luxury condos – more than 3000 sq. ft. – in prime locations. For example, Serai in Bangsar, which features unit sizes of 4000 sq. ft. upwards, was launched at RM3000 to RM1500 psf. It recorded a take-up rate of 54% (65 of 121 units) in less than three months after the launch, with most of the buyers being Malaysian. Serai is now fully sold.
“This shows that larger luxury condos in prime locations offering high quality finishes, facilities and service will perform well in the terms of sales and rental,” she says. “Aira Residence is targeted at a niche market – those looking for properties valued at RM5 million and above, and owner-occupiers.”
Zerin Properties is the marketing representative for Aira Residence.
SPB has been involved in several other activities on its own properties.
After Plaza Batai, it is now refurbishing SPB Tower, which is located next to Aira Residence. Completed in 1974, the tower is 17 storeys tall and has 64 units with an average built-up of 1700 sq. ft. SPB owns 49 units and the rest were sold. The tenants and owners have already moved out and will return when the work is completed – about the same time as Aira Residence.
SPB Tower will eventually be part of Aira Residence.
SPB’s future plans include the redevelopment of Kompleks Pejabat Damansara and Wisma Damansara.
Chong says SPB’s land bank includes about 70 acres in Gombak and Selayang and 150 acres in Ulu Langat. The company is looking to acquire suitable land parcels the Klang Valley, especially those in areas with good infrastructure such as highways or rail network.
He says the company does not plan to launch any other projects besides Aira Residence this year.
SPB is also active in Perth and Melbourne, Australia, he adds. In Perth, there is Claremont Quarter and 7 Bayview Terrace. The former, located 10km from Perth’s central business district, occupied 6.4 acres and has a net lettable area of 311,869 sq. ft. The Bayview Terrace property is a two-storey shop located in the retail hub of Claremont’s town centre. It has a net lettable area of 3035 sq. ft.
In addition, SPB is involved in land acquisitions with joint-venture partners in Australia. “These parcels are subdivided and sold to individuals. However, we developed a parcel in South Beach [in Perth]… 36 residential units were built,” says Chong. Other residential subdivision projects include Mason Green in Piara Waters (26.7ha) and Brabham (20.2ha) both in Perth as well as 125ha in Point Cook, Melbourne.