City home in a park

SERENE: The Park on Sentul West is an inspirational story of urban renewal.

New Straits Times, April 25 2005

Fancy a residence in Kuala Lumpur with a private garden and landscaped 18th-century-style English park? YTL Land & Development brings the kampung to the city. DEBRA CHONG writes.

SOME people love living in the city. It's the crystal palace that draws small town folks with giant dreams. But after a few years in the concrete jungle, the pressure cooker conditions take its toll. Life becomes a little less flavourful. Thus jaded, the people start to yearn for the simpler life.

Still, it's difficult to extract one self from a lifetime of urban convenience. Kampung life is nice and all that, but the city has everything. Susah-lah to give it up.

That's why of late, urban renewal has become the catchphrase among property developers around the world. In Malaysia, it is YTL Land & Development Berhad's Sentul Raya scheme in a plum corner of Kuala Lumpur that has captured everyone's attention.

"I bought a unit (in Sentul East) as an investment. It's the convenience of being in the city centre. I'm not sure if I'll be living there when it's completed, but my two teenage daughters love the idea," said Swrinder Kaur, a teacher living in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.

From top: Some of the performers at the recent fete; The Hands Percussion group delights home owners with a taste of the performing arts scene soon to be available when the KLPAC opens in their backyard; Twenty-four-hour security ensures that children like this little boy with his kite will be able to play safe and sound in the outdoors.

Inspired by the likes of St James Park and Hyde Park residences in Britain, it's the home-in-a-park-in-the-city concept that has everyone drooling.

"I'm all for this project. Bear in mind, this is in the city and a dwelling in a park will be ideal. It's about time developers kept the preservation of the environment in mind," said one Sentul West buyer from Malacca who wanted to be known as Dr Yeoh.

No doubt the 118-hectare freehold real estate is targeted at the moneyed folk. It was originally a railway workshop in the 19th century. Now, there's Sentul East, the residential front for residents needing a 24/7 city high; and there's Sentul West, built overlooking a lush, green private garden on the other side of the KTM railway station. Both spell E-X-C-L-U-S-I-V-E! After all, the cheapest condo unit is going for about RM388,000, depending on the type and which level it's on.

But that's only one aspect. YTL has kept true to its commitment on urban renewal, choosing to retain a sizeable piece of greenery the size of KLCC park for public use, instead of reserving all 74 hectares for Sentul West home owners. Of course the residents will still have 14 hectares of private gardens but the rest is open to the public.

A recent fete on the half-finished grounds allowed some 200 home owners and the Press an inside look at what the place would look and feel like. Formerly the Sentul Raya Golf Course, the Park at Sentul West is undergoing works under the supervision of landscape designer Ng Sek San. When completed, it should resemble the free-forming English gardens of the 18th century, albeit with a tropical flavour.

The golf course grounds are filled with foreign exotic species, such as the red flame, raintree, golden showers, acacias, frangipani and a few ficus trees "hanging happily on the brick walls of the old (railway) workshop," said Ng.

"We are now re-vegetating the park with more indigenous species such as the kelat nasi, pelawan, tembusu, merawan siput, shorea, local cherries, and gelam," he added.

Visitors will of course be able to see more of the Sentul tree (Sandoricum koetjape) which gave the place its name.

It is hoped the plants will attract some fauna as well, birds chirping in trees, crickets singing in the evening breeze; basically breathing the soul of the kampung into the city. Already the park has brought in a family of ducks given free rein on the green.

But the big plan is to lure the people. Guards will patrol round-the-clock to ensure the security of the park, providing both residents and visitors the ease of mind and the freedom to play ball, fly a kite or even have a picnic, just like back in the good, old days.

All in all, it's starting to shape up to a great vision of people returning to the bosom of Mother Nature, now that it's conveniently in their own backyard.

PACKED WITH FACILITIES: The soon-to-be-completed KLPAC will hopefully take the performing arts scene in Kuala Lumpur to the next level when it opens next month.

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