City & Country: Making of the ‘new’ Bangsar

For low-profile developer UOA Holdings Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Australian Stock Exchange-listed UOA Ltd, interviews with the press are rare. The first time City & Country spoke to the developer was more than two years ago when it launched three residential developments simultaneously under the build-then-sell concept. The Happy Garden, Villa Yarl and Halimahton projects, all located off Jalan Klang Lama, were well received.

Since then, UOA has been kept busy by its latest township development — the 60-acre Bangsar South. If the name sounds a bit unfamiliar, it is because many know the area as Kampung Kerinchi in Kuala Lumpur.

After acquiring the leasehold site some four years ago, UOA embarked on a rebranding exercise, which included advertisements on billboards, to get its project recognised as Bangsar South. Bangsar South is within Kampung Kerinchi and near Pantai Dalam and access to the development is from the Kerinchi exit off the Federal Highway.

Khor standing in front of The Horizon boutique offices which still have two blocks for saleSurrounding Bangsar South are affordable housing projects in Kampung Kerinchi such as the Vista Angkasa apartments, Kampung Kerinchi and Sri Angkasa flats. Other developments nearby in Pantai Dalam are the Pantai Panorama and Pantai Hillpark condominiums.

Since mid-2007, the developer has given the Kampung Kerinchi area a face-lift by widening the main road leading into the area into three lanes, building pedestrian walkways and carrying out landscaping works. The developer has also upgraded the bus stop at Putra LRT’s University stop and built a food court for the traders who used to operate stalls by the roadside. It took a year to complete all of this.

UOA envisions the integrated self-contained Bangsar South township becoming a sought-after address, thanks to its strategic location between Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

Apart from The Horizon, The Park Residences and The Village property gallery, the project also comprises The Sphere lifestyle mall and The Vertical office towers. Half of the 60-acre project comprises commercial components and the other half, residential. With a gross development value of RM4 billion, Bangsar South is scheduled for completion in 8 to 10 years, and will have a population of 200,000.

Although the township has not been launched officially, the first phase of The Horizon boutique offices were completed with certificate of fitness for occupation (CFO) issued last month while the first two blocks of The Park Residences condominiums are slated for completion by the first quarter of 2010.

Also completed is The Village property gallery, a 3-storey building with 35,000 sq ft that houses Bangsar South show units as well as a gallery on the ground floor which showcases UOA Group’s development projects. A convenience store, an art gallery and several food and beverage (F&B) outlets have taken up space at The Village.

The developer is planning to unveil The Sphere, a 2-storey boutique mall with a net lettable area of 80,000 sq ft this month. The mall will be kept for recurring income. A supermarket retailer has been confirmed as the anchor tenant while the rest of the space will be leased mainly to F&B operators to cater for tenants of The Horizon offices. The developer also has plans for an international school, a clubhouse and a hotel.

Little Bangsar?
Viewing Bangsar South as a natural extension to the nearby Bangsar hot spot, UOA Holdings’ general manager David Khor believes the township will eventually catch up with its more popular neighbour judging from the take-up rates of Bangsar South’s property launches.

Some 24 blocks of Horizon boutique offices are to be developed over two phases. The first phase of 14 blocks of 10 and 11-storey offices with an average gross floor area of 55,000 sq ft was priced at RM650 psf, with a maintenance fee of 15 sen psf, when it was opened for sale two years ago. Of the 14 blocks, only nine blocks were put on the market while the developer kept the remaining five blocks for recurring rental income. Of the nine blocks for sale, Al Batha Group from the Middle East bought three blocks for a total of RM131.35 million, reflecting foreign investor confidence in the township, the developer says.

The Village property gallery at the entrance of Bangsar SouthAt presstime, two blocks are not sold and these are priced at RM33 million and RM38 million respectively, or about RM700 psf.

“Our purchasers like our concept as our boutique offices allow you to have naming rights when you purchase them. This makes it more unique than conventional shop-offices,” Khor explains.

On the developer’s plans for the five blocks it has retained, one is occupied by the group while another has been leased out. The remaining three blocks are awaiting MSC-status certification.

“We are gauging market demand through the first phase and we see it as a success. Our offices are priced affordably for business corporations that want to own their own building. In fact, we have one confirmed tenant for one of the MSC-status buildings once the certification is approved,” Khor says. There are a total of 1,400 parking bays to serve the working population here.

Meanwhile, the first two blocks of condos at The Park Residences, totalling 470 units, have achieved a 70% take-up rate since its soft launch in mid-2008. According to the developer, it managed to sell up to 50% of the units in the first three months. “That was the period the local economy was more affected by the global financial meltdown. Yet we managed to sell our units, which reflects buyers’ confidence in the Bangsar South development,” Khor says.

According to the Draft KL Structure Plan 2020, two LRT stations have been proposed within Bangsar South. Accessibility via several highways, including the Federal Highway, New Pantai Expressway and Kerinchi Link, is also good. Upon the completion of Bangsar South, says the developer, The Sphere lifestyle mall will be upgraded to cater for the entire population there.

New phase of development
Coming up in the second phase are another 10 blocks of boutique offices of between 13 and 20 floors.The developer says this phase will incorporate green features and will have a total floor area of 1.5 million sq ft. This phase will also feature a central park. The developer has submitted building plans for approval to City Hall Kuala Lumpur.

This phase was planned and designed after incorporating feedback from purchasers as well as market demand. “Some of our potential buyers didn’t buy into the first phase as they wanted higher buildings with larger floor plates. We plan to start construction work in August,” adds Khor. 

The township will see about 2,600 upmarket residential units housed within six blocks of The Park Residences condominium and a block of serviced apartments called Cypress. The first two blocks of condo, with sizes of between 1,200 and 2,100 sq ft, are targeted at families. When they were opened for sale last year, the units were priced at an average of RM350 psf. Today, prices of the remaining 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom units are priced at a higher RM420 to RM450 psf or from RM600,000. The maintenance fee is set at 22 sen psf inclusive of sinking fund.

Next up will be the Cypress, for which the developer has started a registration exercise. Offering fully furnished units ranging from 678 to 1,250 sq ft, this will be the only serviced suite project in the township. Services such as 24-hour reception and concierge, housekeeping and business centre can be expected.

When contacted, Bangsar-based City Valuers & Consultants Sdn Bhd’s general manager C Y Lim says the Bangsar South development should have its own exit from the Federal Highway to boost recognition.

“To get into the Bangsar South development, one has to drive quite a distance inwards and pass the Kerinchi flats. If the developer creates its own ingress and egress, not only will it be more beneficial for the township, it will also enjoy direct access to the project,” says Lim.

He feels the township is “done up nicely” and is sizeable enough for the type of products it is offering. However, for its commercial products to be a success, the development needs critical mass.

“Bangsar South, which will have a gross built-up office space of more than five million sq ft, is quite a sizeable project and it will need to be supported by residential units. If this development can attract an expatriate market, Bangsar South may play a secondary role to Mont’Kiara with its mix of condos and office offerings,” Lim says.

UOA is indeed making a public statement of intent through its massive Bangsar South development.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 762, July 6-12, 2009

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