City & Country: Mixed views on Sg Besi airbase redevelopment

It is just a matter of time before the estimated 400-acre Sungai Besi Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base in Kuala Lumpur (picture) is redeveloped, considering its substantial size and strategic location that’s only a 15-minute drive from the KLCC area.

A recent report in The Edge Financial Daily quoted sources as saying the Cabinet has given the mandate to a consortium to develop the site into a multi-billion-ringgit Islamic financial centre. It is learnt the Cabinet has agreed in principle to entrust the task of redeveloping the airbase to a consortium that includes 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Real estate consultants, meanwhile, offer mixed views over the kind of development that should come up on the site.

Traffic congestion in the area is an issue and any development must take this into account, they point out.

Caryn, from Cheras, would know. She uses Jalan Sungai Besi daily to get to her office in KL Sentral and is caught in a constant traffic jam at the U-turn junction in front of the RMAF site.

‘The junction is where motorists coming from Jalan Tun Razak take a U-turn at the overhead bridge along Jalan Sungai Besi (in front of the Chan Sow Lin area) to get to the opposite direction. These motorists then usually turn into Jalan Istana and the congestion continues until the turning into Jalan Lapangan Terbang Lama,” she adds.

Given the traffic congestion, Zerin Properties chief executive Previndran Singhe favours a low-rise business park.

“Obviously most developers wouldn’t go for low rise ... they definitely want to go high rise. Traffic is something they need to look at, which is why they shouldn’t go high rise. If you ask me, this plot has a nice hill on it so I would suggest something very niche like a Silicon Valley with nice boutique-type offices of 12 to 15 storeys and lots of open space, facilities and greenery.

“Rental could be around RM5 or RM8 psf,” he offers.

Previndran  also suggests high-end condominiums at the rear and hilly portion of the site, closest to Seputeh.

The development can leverage on the Kelab Golf Angkatan Tentera golf course located next to Taman Bukit Seputeh to offer a residential component with a golf course view.

According to Previndran, residential land bordering Seputeh is going for about RM215 to RM220 psf while the nearby site, where Mah Sing Group Bhd’s Southgate commercial development is currently seated on, was priced at RM251 in 2007.

On the proposed Islamic Financial Centre, Previndran says it will take more than building structures to establish a successful Islamic financial centre.

“Well, everybody wants to have an Islamic financial centre so it has to be different. it is about the policy and regulations, the incentives and whether we can get Islamic financial expertise and top-notch people to come in.

“At the end of the day, it is how you manage and execute it that are most important,” he reasons.

VPC Alliance Sdn Bhd managing director James Wong, on the other hand, thinks an integrated high-rise mixed residential and commercial development, similar to Mid Valley City, is suitable for the site considering its easy accessibility.

Wong is all for high-rise integrated developments on the site, including condominiums, office buildings, hotel and serviced apartments. These can be developed in phases.

“They should go for high-rise mixed development. Of course the traffic is a problem but when I say integrated development, it will be something like Mid Valley City, where you would need to have an integrated transport system to bring people in and out and have multiple entrances and exits. They need to have a good master plan,” he adds.

Wong also expects the consortium that will undertake the redevelopment project to invite private developers to take part.

With this project, adjoining areas like Chan Sow Lin area will be ready for redevelopment next. With another 20 years to go on the lease, Zerin Properties’ Previndran thinks the government will just let the lease expire before it undertakes any projects.

“It was reported many years ago that the area will be redeveloped into an integrated high-end logistic park with low-rise buildings because it is  very close to all the highways,” he adds.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 807, May 24-30, 2010.

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