Sentul becomes hive of activity

Sentul West represents the more luxurious end of the Sentul Raya development and contains nine parcels of condominium developments.

Business Times Malaysia, 12 July 2006

BizFocus:
By
Sharen Kaur


Over the last several years, Sentul has shed its image as Kuala Lumpur's eye-sore and crime-infested area. Now it is aiming to become a more advanced comfort zone


FROM a once tough outer-city neighbourhood, Sentul is rapidly transforming into a sought-after address in Kuala Lumpur.

The area was once known more for its historical association with Malayan railways.

But not anymore. Today, Sentul is fast attracting residential and commercial property buyers.

New businesses are also sprouting.

Sentul is about five km north-west from the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Its name was derived from the Sentol tree (sandoricum koetjape), a handsome, fast-growing tree that can grow up to 150ft in height. Besides its fruit, the tree was also valued for timber and the shade it provided.

Sentul was founded in the late 1800s when the first Malayan railway line opened between Taiping and Port Weld and gradually expanded to connect to the north and south of Malaya.

This created a need for a centrally-located railway workshop. Sentul Works, as the railway workshop was called, was one of the finest integrated and complete engineering workshops in the country.

The workshop elevated Sentul's prominence overnight, and the community that comprised largely of railway workers and families who resided in the neighbouring quarters grew.

Thus, Sentul quickly became a centre of activity and cosmopolitan culture that is almost a microcosm of Malaysian living, complete with vibrance, colour and texture.

Over the last several years, Sentul has shed its image as a Kuala Lumpur eye-sore with ageing buildings and a crime-infested area. Now, it is aiming to become a more advanced comfort zone that is quite popular, even among the tourists.

In fact, land is scarce now for future development and owners with land available are raking in high profits.

New housing projects have helped "groom" the area.

Public transportation is being improved in Sentul.

The 7.5km Sentul-Batu Caves double-track high-speed rail service may operate in 2009.

Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, the Government has talked about finalising the three-packaged Sentul-Batu Caves project. Letters of Award (LOA) may be issued to three firms by year-end.

The beautifully landscaped Sentul Park Koi Centre boasts a main 700,000-litre disply pond, a smaller 20,000-litre pond, a resource centre and a Japanese restaurant.
One of them is YTL Corp Bhd, the country's largest builder and power group, controlled by the family of Tan Sri Francis Yeoh Sock Ping. YTL Corp has played an important role in developing Sentul since the 1990s.

YTL is expected to receive the LOA for civil, track and building works through YTL Land & Development Bhd's wholly-owned unit, Sentul Raya Sdn Bhd.

Sentul Raya is developing a RM7 billion seven- year mixed housing project in Sentul, which will enhance the town's attractions further.

Sentul Raya's masterplan for the 118.77ha project on prime freehold land is catalysed by the fact that the site is effectively split in half by the existing Sentul KTM Komuter station and its tracks.

The plan was developed by characterising the two halves differently from each other, thereby forming the unique personalities of Sentul West and Sentul East.

Sentul West, comprising 74.4ha, represents the more luxurious end of the development and contains nine parcels of condominium developments that ring a 14ha private gated park, formerly a golf course.

The park draws its inspiration from the landscape style of 18th century English gardens. The developer aims to put it on par with London's famous Hyde Park and New York's Central Park.

Sentul East, on 43.63ha, is a combustion of vibrant Malaysian flavours that sets the tone for modern downtown living. It will boast shopping and leisure areas which will comprise a hypermarket, marketplace, Masjid Row - a tree-lined boulevard that runs down the middle of the eastern parcel - and offices.

Serving as an icon for the development is the KTM train station, which will eventually be housed under Station Square, an archetypal town centre and a hub for public transportation, that anchors both Sentul West and Sentul East.

The units at Sentul East are smaller and much more affordable than the ones at Sentul West.

The Sentul project comprises residential, commercial and retail properties totalling 7,000 units, which should see Sentul's population increasing by another 50,000 people by 2009.

The man responsible for putting together the pieces behind this well- planned project is Francis Yeoh, the managing director of YTL Corp.

Yeoh has a passion for nature and architectural designs that are bold, exclusive and rich.

A good example is YTL's other prestigious project, the Starhill Gallery at Bintang Walk, which is also the city's grandest icon.

Some RM300 million was spent last year just to reposition it for a more exclusive ambience.


Ong (centre) and Siow (right) studying the Sentul West plan with another resident.

Tranquillity amid construction boom

 

COMPANIES and small-scale business owners in Bandar Sentul expect to rake in better margins than before because of the forthcoming population growth and advancement in the area.

 

Bestotel City Centre, a boutique hotel along Jalan Ipoh and within walking distance of the Sentul Komuter train station, expects business to double because of the growing popularity of Sentul among local and foreign travellers.

 

Minutes away from the hotel are local and international banks, major shopping alls, PetalingStreet, Jalan TAR, Chinatown, Central Market and government buildings as well as many local and national buses plying the area with ample services to and from Genting Highlands.

 

A restaurant owner in Jalan Ipoh, who declined to be named, said that since he moved to Sentul, profits have tripled despite tough competition in the vicinity.

 

"I do expect more business in the near future because of the ongoing developments in Sentul, and also because more and more companies are moving here," he added.

 

Residents expect better times ahead for the area.

 

"The once tough neighbourhood in Sentul is now a place of convenience with easy accessibility to near and far destinations," said Andy Tan, a 50-year-old businessman who has just moved from Gasing Hill in Petaling Jaya to a double-storey house in Bandar Sentul.

 

Tan said Sentul has much to offer and the amenities include the popular Sentul Curry House, three- to five-star hotels for meetings and discussions, plenty of restaurants, local and international banks, and top-class shopping malls that are just minutes away in the vicinity of Bukit Bintang, Ampang and Bangsar.

 

"I am also a fan of koi (carp) culture, and the best thing about my moving to Sentul is the fact that the Sentul Park Koi Centre is nearby," said Tan.

 

Dedicated to the art of koi breeding, the centre is the only one of its kind outside of Japan. The facility aims to go beyond selling koi to imparting the very essence of koi culture.

 

The centre is beautifully landscaped and boasts a main 700,000-litre display pond and a smaller 200,000-litre pond, a resource centre and a Japanese restaurant.

 

Tan noted that Sentul has progressed, with millions of ringgit invested from the time he first visited the area in the early 1990s.

 

"Back then it was a place most of us would avoid because of the high crime rates and also because it was so undeveloped and old-fashioned.

 

"Today, I can't say the same. There is a lot of changes now with many connecting roads and highways better security and improved landscapes. Population has also doubled," said Tan.

 

Fifty-year-old Ong Boon Hock and wife Siow Yuen Lan, 39, from Ampang have another reason to move to SentuI in the near future.

 

Ong and Siow are proud owners of a condominium unit they have just bought at Sentul West. They invested close to RM500,000 for a single unit, hoping to spend quality time with their family in a place which offers lush greenery, tranquility and added security.

 

"We were going through the brochures and looking at some of the units on display, and since it was my wife's birthday, I decided to surprise her by booking a unit.

 

"I must admit I didn't take the location into consideration as what mattered most was the beautifully-landscaped park and lush greenery surrounding the unit which you can't possibly get elsewhere," said Ong.

 

Siow added that Sentul West has a good balance of property, park and commercial area strategically located within the development. When buying a property, these criteria matter the most on top of convenience and security.

Ng Eng Sim

Property prices may surge if area is developed: Ng

 

PROPERTY prices may rise in Sentul if the area is developed as a commercial hub, a property expert says.

 

Kim Realty chief executive officer Vincent Ng Eng Sim said that at the moment, Sentul lacks tourist attractions, hotels, shopping malls and proper infrastructure.

 

"It will take years to develop Sentul, but the potential is there. Look at Damansara Perdana. The development started with only high-rise residential homes, but now there are so many strata offices and major shopping malls," he said.

 

Ng pointed out that Damansara Perdana has progressed rapidly in a short period of time and its appeal is further enhanced with the building of new highways which shorten the travelling time, to Kuala Lumpur city by more than half.

 

"The infrastructure was so undeveloped previously, but now it is progressing with the building of new highways like the Sentul link and the DUKE highway. With the necessary infrastructure in place, Sentul can be turned around," he said.

 

Ng said the Sentul West project by YTL Corp Bhd may even benefit some of the commercial areas surrounding the development, but he does not expect property prices to boom

overnight.

 

"There will be good investment opportunities for the developers and people who are hunting for a good buy in anticipation prices will inflate in the future", he said.


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