NST, April 7, 2008
Kuala Lumpur's skyline is becoming quite heavily dotted with cranes of the mechanical kind. Though nothing like the world cities of Dubai or Shanghai, it is obvious that the country's capital and financial center is punching above its weight and fast becoming a happening place.
Powered by an economic boom, KL is a city furiously on the move, growing with iconic skyscrapers designed by some of the world's best architects that are transforming numerous sites within and around the city centre.
In the KL Golden Triangle, the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre project has helped put KL on the world map and taken some development pressure off the city's original downtown precinct. And in the city fringe location of Sentul, the Sentul West and Sentul East urban renewal projects promise to enhance quality of life, improve environmental sustainability and augment value for those who opt to invest in them.
Seeing is believing
Without a doubt, the capital has been reinvigorated by the physical transformation of Sentul, which until early this millennium was plagued by derelict buildings, traffic congestion and the absence of leisure and recreational amenities for the community.
Though rich in history - its origins go back as far as the late 1800s, when it was a bustling commercial area centred around the main railway station -neglect and increasing criminal activities caused the area to decay.
Visitors to Sentul today would find this hard to believe. Several international celebrities, including world-famous shoe couturier Datuk Jimmy Choo, members of the country's royalty and the expatriate community began making the place their home when The Maple at Sentul West condominium was offered for sale in July 2003.
Since then, the project has appreciated some 62 per cent from its initial launch price of RM260psf and can generate annual returns of 13.5 per cent!
Sentul's pearly lustre
Credit for Sentul's transformation must be given to public-listed YTL Land & Development Bhd (YTLLD), a subsidiary of YTL Corp Bhd, which recognised the area's potential in the early days.
It knew that historic landmarks can add value, provide aesthetic interest and enhance marketability of the properties surrounding them. And it knew these landmarks could become more precious as the world becomes more developed.
These were among its reasons for undertaking the redevelopment of a 294-acre site in the former railway town, and why Sentul's history has managed to find a place in the future.
An example is the former locomotive superintendent's office, which is now the Sentul West and Sentul East Sales Gallery-the one-stop centre showcasing the two very different lifestyles that define the area today.
Lifestyle amenities at Sentul West
Sentul West's character is depicted by the 35-acre Sentul Park, a former golf course that was transformed into the country's first and only private gated green lung in July 2006.
Also giving the precinct its unique identity are the KL Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) and the Sentul Park Koi Centre, two attractions that have gained international recognition.
KLPac, which was created to "bring the arts to the community", won the Special Award for National Contribution in the 2007 Malaysia Property Awards competition organised by the local chapter of the International Real Estate Federation (or Fiabci), while the Sentul Park Koi Centre, which opened in February 2006, is the only one of its kind outside Japan dedicated to the art of Koi breeding.
Last year, 16 of the 22 Koi it produced went on to win prizes at the 2007 AIl
Japan Combined Nishikigoi Show.
(The masterplan of Sentul West and Sentul East was also recognised by Fiabci last year as being the best in the country.)
Exuding exuberance in Sentul East In contrast to Sentul West, Sentul East has become known as a lively and energetic hub for the younger professional urban set.
Residential accommodation here comes in the form of The Tamarind and The Saffron condominiums, which struck such a chord with buyers that their units have so far appreciated between 27 and 45 per cent.
The 498-unit Tamarind was launched in May 2002, while the 467-unit Saffron was unveiled just over four years later in July 2006.
YTLLD's commercial offering, the d7 and d6 retail shops and boutique offices, too have experienced enthusiastic response.
When the first, d7, was launched in September last year, it took just an hour for 100 units to be sold while 90 per cent of the d6 units were sold when they were put on the market in January this year, despite being 20 per cent pricier.
This goes to show the sway Sentul East's trendy, carefree-lifestyle theme and cosmopolitan urban environment have over its target audience, comprising those in creative fields as well as professionals such as architects, designers and lawyers.
Of course, credit to the sales performance should also be given to the unconventional way the units were designed, with the d7 containing Small Office Home Office (SoHo) suites and the d7 with Sky Offices.
Making things happen
Since YTLLD stepped foot into Sentul, it has done things only a few other developers - or local councils, for that matter –have managed.
It bought into a run-down and fast decaying area, but in a matter of just six years, returned to the city a highly liveable and invigorating address that is being energised by KL's beautiful people.
Should other parts of the country be in need of a role model as they embark on reinvigoration or transformation exercises, this is where they should look.