Turning concept into reality

-A +A

NOT one to rest on its laurels, property giant Sime Darby Property Bhd (SDP) recently introduced the much-anticipated City of Elmina ahead of its official launch next June.

The 5,000-acre City of Elmina is a regional grouping of townships. It is located along the Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) in the Klang Valley, has a gross development value (GDV) of more than RM25 billion and is expected to take 10 to 18 years to complete. It is also envisioned to be Selangor's 'wellness and liveable' city.

SDP managing director Datuk Abd Wahab Maskan tells City & Country that the concept was approved a few years ago. "It is all about fine-tuning and turning the concept into reality now. Selangor Vision City (SVC) was approved in July 2007 by the Selangor State Planning Committee, and Elmina was one of the several townships to be developed along the GCE. City of Elmina was identified as a 'Wellness and Liveable City' within SVC."

SVC spans 43,000 acres and it includes Bukit Jelutong, Kota Elmina, City of Elmina, Lagong Mas, Bukit Lagong and the existing residential areas of Kampung Kubu Gajah, Subang Puteri and Kampung Melayu Subang. SDP is contributing to the growth and development of Selangor with SVC, which is part of the national plan for KL Conurbation by 2020.

Wahab, who is also group COO of Sime Darby Bhd, says: "SDP has a lot of landbank in some of the most urbanised areas in the peninsula, where the population is high and there is a lot of urban migration. Statistics show that by 2025, there will be a population growth of about 10 million to 15 million people along the Selangor and Negeri Sembilan corridor. Currently, it is seven million.

"When we say corridor, it is not just our land, it is a master plan as a whole. We are a master developer and master owner of estates, therefore our mindset is trying to establish the most suitable use of our land. We look at what is best and this is reflected in the concept of corridors.

"In the central corridor (which includes Subang Jaya and Putra Heights), the master plan includes townships that belong to us, so we became the anchor catalyst for the development of the area.

"This is another dimension to us as a sustainable community development player. We do our own development, but also create opportunities and help with the master planning of the area. Just like SVC, we work together with the state on the master plan. Not every developer can do that. Pure developers that just buy land and develop. [They] cannot do this. We can, and this is another of our community sustainability and economic roles," he says.

SDP currently has a landbank of 19,000 acres in the country.

Vision Valley starts from the border of Negeri Sembilan. "Our land there is very big and virtually anchors the whole development. You will find the fourth corridor, known as the eastern corridor, covering the northern portion as well. The master plan includes our Bandar Bukit Raja (landbank: 5,000 acres) and S P Setia Bhd's Setia Alam, as well as Carey Island. Some of our land was sold to WCT Land Sdn Bhd.

"Master planning happens before real development takes place at the right time. For example, development plans are already in place for Carey Island, and has been agreed to by the government. But the question is suitable timing. It's visionary planning. It's the role of Sime Darby as a leader. It includes having a vision in planning our townships, as well as the value of sustainability."

City of Elmina

In the earlier master plan, City Of Elmina was to be the central part of SVC. Due to its size and location, as well as it being adjacent to a 2,700-acre forest reserve, City of Elmina was envisioned to be the most liveable city in Shah Alam, as well as being a wellness city.

It is being developed in line with Mercer's Quality of Living Survey. The internationally-recognised standard measures liveability in terms of healthcare, education, hygiene, culture, safety, environment, recreation, political and economic stability, as well as public transport.

"If you look at the whole region, the 5,000-acre development has the right features where the vision can be implemented.

"Why wellness? It's because even back then, we had already envisioned that wellness would be the expectation of the new market. Everybody wants to be well in all aspects, including health, wealth, spiritually and emotionally. This is basically the background of what was planned earlier and what it is today.

"Today, we are supposed to add value to all these details and not miss the opportunity. Wellness in terms of the four aspects is what one would get when buying a property in the City of Elmina. We believe the demand here will be good, as it has all the right elements.

"In terms of environment, to make it a liveable city, we have green elements such as green spaces, parks, walking/jogging paths, housing plus other extras that are not commonly available in other townships.

SDP head of property development Zulkifli Tahmali adds: "Two components have already been developed. One is the completed 250-acre Bukit Subang. The other is the 1,000-acre Denai Alam, which is about 75% completed. We recently launched the eastern side of Elmina — 255 terraced houses, which have been fully sold."

Soft launched in May, all 255 double-storey link homes, with a GDV of RM188.18 million, were snapped up. The intermediate freehold units were priced from RM599,888 to RM828,888.

City of Elmina is a short drive from Damansara and Petaling Jaya. It is easily accessible via several highways, including the GCE, Shah Alam-Batu Arang Highway, New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) and proposed Damansara-Shah Alam Highway (DASH).

DASH will also connect the Elmina to Penchala Link. Meanwhile, the Sungai Buloh mass rapid transit (MRT) line is expected to be built on the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) land, which is close to City of Elmina as well.

"City of Elmina was envisioned many years ago. To start the ball rolling, we built affordable houses in Bukit Subang. Then we went on to develop Denai Alam, which offers both affordable and higher-end properties. These developments blend well with the master plan for City of Elmina.

"The recent launch offered both industrial and residential properties. The timing of the launch corresponds with market demand. There are two interchanges leading into the City of Elmina. We built the interchanges earlier — that is our strategy," Wahab explains.

One of City of Elmina's distinctive features is the 300-acre central park, which stretches from east to west of the project. The park has a direct linkage to the forest reserve and the surrounding development. People can choose their routes, depending on how many kilometres they wish to walk, jog or cycle. They can even have picnics in these green spaces.

"Weekends can be spent in Elmina. There's no need to drive to a restaurant for a weekend breakfast. Families can decide to walk together for some exercise and then have a picnic anywhere they choose," says Wahab.

Another aspect of wellness is the Spa, which will be located in the wellness cluster. The cluster, which is close to the forest reserve, comprises two components — a wellness centre and a wellness real estate cluster.

Wahab says the wellness centre [complex] will sit on 12 to 20 acres of land. "We are still looking at the size of this cluster. It will be managed by a branded operator and we are currently in talks with several operators. This wellness complex will be linked to a wellness real estate cluster of about 200 acres. It is for people who visit the wellness centre, those who live there and for special events.

"We have an international designer coming in to see what other sustainable and liveable elements are needed for the park and the township. For example, would it be a conventional type, like Subang Jaya city centre, or something that is more a next-generation city centre? This is something we are working on. We have to leave this creativity and innovation to the planning and architectural experts — both within SDP and external parties," says Wahab.

Says Zulkifli, "It is what we call place making, as it is very important that people can identify and feel they belong there. For example, a place where people can work, live and have recreational activities. We have plans for a 70km cycling track along the green corridors and streets, so one can cycle to the town area, as well as a green area and a well-marked marathon-distance (42km) jogging track. Transport plays a big role too, so all these cycling and walking paths and buses — all the layers are already in place. Amenities are important as well."

Citing Melbourne, Wahab says it is important to know what makes it one of the most liveable cities in the world. "We look at the elements and see what we can bring to Elmina. Transport is one of them. Cycling is a growing trend here. As the township grows, we are looking at planning annual events. Maybe in the future, there will be a Le Tour de Elmina?" he laughs.

The developer is also looking at setting up a small animal farm close to the wellness cluster. Wahab says it could be a place for families to take their children to during weekends or school holidays. It can be a destination, he adds.

"We have noticed that sometimes we build places for activities, but people do not use them much. We want to build places for cycling, events — another example of place making — so people can identify with the place," Zulkifli says.

Wahab says the 300-acre park, which includes a river, was envisioned as an active park where the community can utilise the green space. "Recently, when we got involved in the Battersea project in London, we noticed the 200-acre Battersea Park, just beside the iconic Battersea Power Station project.

"Battersea Park has become a selling point for the project, so why can't our park be a selling point for City of Elmina, or Selangor for that matter? Futsal, tennis, volleyball … it will be managed properly as a facility. It is not a money-making proposition; it is more a liveable city proposition," he explains.

A consortium of Malaysian investors, comprising Sime Darby, S P Setia and the Employees Provident Fund, owns the Battersea Power Station site. This is SDP's first major overseas development. The developer also has projects in Singapore and Australia.

"Our vision and ideas drive us to create and play our role as a sustainable player for our shareholders and to do justice to their landbank. It is important to maximise and add value to it, taking into account all these important elements. As a master planner, we take care of everybody, not just our own developments," Wahab says.

Wellness Cluster

This cluster will cater for four different needs in the market:

i.Complementary — wellness-oriented retail destination, consisting of elements such as fitness centres, organic food shops, cosmetic surgery, dermatological services, spa, detoxification centres, stem-cell bank, IVF specialist, ophthalmology lasik services and alternative medicine providers such as acupuncture and medication using natural herbs.

ii.Preventive — integrated medical screening facilities such as X-ray, CAT scan, blood testing and laboratories.

iii.Curative — primary, secondary and tertiary medical facilities such as general practitioner clinics, specialist consultants and hospital surgeries.

iv. Hospitality — serviced apartments, hotel and resort to cater for medical tourism and people who need accommodation while visiting or caring for sick family members or friends.

This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of July 29-Aug 4, 2013.