GAMUDA Land's upcoming project, The Robertson, is set to transform the skyline of busy Jalan Pudu in Kuala Lumpur. The mixed-use development, with an estimated gross development value (GDV) of RM670 million, sits on three acres of freehold land and will comprise two blocks of serviced apartments — one of 41 storeys and the other, 45 storeys — as well as a 10-storey commercial complex and a row of 2½-storey shoplots.
A pull factor will be accessibility as the site is within walking distance to current and future mass rapid transit (MRT) and light rail transit (LRT) stations.
"The proposed MRT stations at the upcoming Warisan Merdeka Station and the Bukit Bintang Station will be 550m and 800m respectively from the project. It is about a 600m walk to the Hang Tuah Monorail Station and a 630m stroll to the Plaza Rakyat LRT Station. The area is also within walking distance to popular shopping attractions at Jalan Bukit Bintang and Petaling Street/Chinatown," says Gamuda Land managing director Chow Chee Wah.
"This is a good area for people such as expatriates who don't own a car or prefer to move around using public transport."
The developer is planning to launch the project, which is pending building plan approval, in 2Q2013.
While the serviced apartments and shoplots are for sale, the commercial block will be retained, with plans to turn it into a wholesale centre. "A 10-storey block is too tall to be a shopping mall, hence the decision for a wholesale centre concept, which is the trend of late," says Chow.
The wholesale centre will focus on fashion apparel and accessories, with 40% of tenants likely to cater for wholesale customers, and the others to casual buyers and retailers, he says.
There will be two levels of basement parking for the wholesale centre to ensure that visitors don't have to jostle for parking space with the residents of the serviced apartments. The residents will have their own 5-storey carpark with the facilities podium and the serviced apartments above it.
The 41-storey tower will offer 382 units, and the taller tower, 428, for a total of 810 units. Built-ups range from 557 to 814 sq ft, with an indicative starting price of RM660,000 or RM1,200 psf. Gamuda bought the land, on which a Honda centre stood, for RM105 million or RM820 psf in 2010. Beside it is the Swiss Garden Residences, while Tung Shin Hospital is just across the road.
For comparison, units at the Casa Residency, located south of The Robertson, with built-ups of 535 to 1,063 sq ft, were sold at an average of RM880 psf by the developer, according to data from CH Williams Talhar & Wong (WTW). Mutiara Johan Group completed the project last October.
Another serviced apartment project, Six Ceylon at Bukit Ceylon by Bolton Bhd, which is still under construction, with built-ups ranging from 695 to 1,555 sq ft, was selling at RM800 to RM1,055 psf.
Meanwhile, the Low Yat Group is proposing to launch and sell units of its Tribeca at Jalan Imbi development at an average of RM1,600 psf, with built-ups ranging from 510 to 1,020 sq ft.
Prices of serviced apartments in the vicinity of The Robertson are between 5% and 6%, depending on location.
As for rentals, fully furnished units with built-ups of 550 to 1,400 sq ft at the Swiss Garden Residences are going for between RM4 and RM6 psf.
"The Robertson is targeting young professionals who are used to working and living in the city. These people are also used to using public transport," Chow explains.
Sky gardens will be built on top of the two towers, with a dip pool, spa gardens and yoga deck on one tower and a viewing platform and cocktail garden on the other.
The podium level will be divided into three zones. The Party Zone will have a putting green, a pavilion, reading corner, barbecue deck and play area, while the Wet Zone will have a 50m infinity pool, splash and kiddies pool, as well as a Jacuzzi. At the Play Zone will be a basketball court, outdoor gym, aroma gardens and a reflexology path. There will also be a barbecue area.
For the ground level, a "green avenue" is planned outside the shop units, with vertical greens, pedestrian walk and a fern garden.
Only six shop units, measuring 28ft by 59ft, with built-ups of 4,100 to 6,556 sq ft, will be available for sale. Prices start from RM1,250 psf. The units feature a deep balcony that is ideal for alfresco dining.
The area is notorious for traffic congestion, particularly at the junction of Jalan Pudu and Jalan Bukit Bintang, partly due to ongoing road works. Chow believes this is a short-lived problem.
"When The Robertson is completed in four years, all the road construction works will have been completed," he says. "In time, this whole area will be transformed as well."
WTW's managing director Foo Gee Jen agrees. "The traffic congestion is a short-term matter. The congestion is mainly to the east of Jalan Bukit Bintang's T-junction to the Jalan Imbi junction. Travel from The Robertson to the west and north to the CBD, Golden Triangle and KLCC should not be affected."
However, Foo says The Robertson is situated in a less desirable part of the city, which could make buyers think twice. "This is an old area of KL city that has long been associated with a high-crime rate and as a red-light district.
"We don't think the Gen Ys and the expatriate market segments will be enamoured with a residential address previously considered the old town of KL. The area will be noisy round-the-clock with traffic and the activities of Tung Shin Hospital opposite the road. Views of the vicinity could be a negative point."
Chow believes these issues will be resolved by the time The Robertson is completed.
What's more, he is confident that the Gamuda brand by itself will be able to create a place of interest where there wasn't one in the first place.
"With the master planning and right product mix, I think we can create a 'location'. And with the backing of the Gamuda brand, I think confidence levels will be there thanks to our reputation of on-time delivery, after-sales service, and maintenance," Chow asserts.
The residential blocks will also be situated behind the commercial tower that faces Jalan Pudu, partially blocking the traffic and noise.
As for the area's image, Chow sees this improving with the future gentrification of the area, such as the redevelopment of Pudu Jail and the new MRT stations being built.
"In time to come, this whole area will be transformed. So the early birds will catch the property appreciation as the area will be gentrified in the future. We must be able to see forward. Look at the walking distance from The Robertson to key places and Pudu Jail's redevelopment. The former Cathay Cinema land will eventually be redeveloped with the MRT coming. Menara Warisan Merdeka is also within walking distance … Plaza Rakyat too cannot be left as it is, something will happen with it in time."
As for the global economy, Chow is confident that Malaysia is resilient enough to weather any uncertainty.
"External factors will affect Malaysia. We can't be shielded. But the government has also taken steps to mitigate these factors by implementing infrastructure projects like the MRT and ETP (Economic Transformation Programme) projects which have a multiplier effect.
"In a down period, you implement these infrastructure projects and when the cycle recovers, you are ready to move ahead. Give it another two years when the global market recovers and Malaysia will be ready to take on the challenges and take advantage of the upside of the recovery," Chow says.
The Robertson may help revitalise the area as more people come to appreciate that KL is changing and reinventing itself. With the population in the city centre expected to surge from the current six million to 10 million by 2020 under the Greater KL Plan, The Robertson looks well positioned to take advantage of future demand.
This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of Jan 14-20, 2013.
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