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City & Country: An unpolished gem

Old Klang Road or Jalan Kelang Lama is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Kuala Lumpur. Completed by the government of the British Federated Malay States a century ago, the 11.2km road used to be the only trunk road linking Kuala Lumpur to Port Klang.

Until a few years ago, traffic jams and flash floods were synonymous with Old Klang Road. Each time the skies opened up, the 4½ mile would be knee-deep in water, says iProp Realty Sdn Bhd’s managing director Victor Lim, who works and lives there. He remembers too the terrible traffic congestion in years past.

These problems, however, have been solved by widening the road, completing several new highways and deepening Sungai Kerayong, which flows through the area.

Old Klang Road straddles Kuala Lumpur in the east and Selangor in the west. Lining both sides is a mix of old shops and new commercial buildings being used as, among other things, used car showrooms, temples, car workshops and warehouses.
Photo by Lee Lay Kin
Often, Old Klang Road is used casually to describe the areas in the road’s vicinity and not just the road itself. If all the land on both sides of the road — from Seputeh near Mid Valley City in the east to Bandar Sunway in the west, and bordering the Klang River/New Pantai Expressway (NPE) in the north and the Kuala Lumpur-Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas) in the south — were added up, it would come up to 2,200ha or about 5,436 acres, says Landserve Sdn Bhd’s managing director Chen King Hoaw.

With a population of some 230,000 people, the housing areas in Old Klang Road include Seputeh, Taman Desa, Taman Shanghai, Taman Lian Hoe, Taman Continental, Kuchai Entrepreneur Park, Taman Overseas Union, Kampung Pasir, Taman United, Taman Gembira, Taman Manja, Taman Desa Ria and PJS6 of Bandar Sunway. Places like Taman Desa, Overseas Union Garden (OUG), Bukit Jalil and even parts of Puchong are within a 10km radius of Old Klang Road, observes Chen.

It is worth noting that the commercial developments in the Old Klang Road area are not as vibrant as the residential projects. In fact, the number of high-end homes in the area has multiplied over the last few years, in turn boosting its image, Henry Butcher Marketing Sdn Bhd’s COO Tang Chee Meng tells City & Country.

Among the new projects are Taman Halimahton (comprising 2 and 3-storey terraced houses priced from RM700,000 to above RM1 million), Saville Residence (serviced apartments priced above RM400 psf), Danau Villa (lakeside 3-storey link homes of above RM1 million), One Desa Condominium (above RM400 psf) and [email protected] Condominium (above RM400 psf).

The Old Klang Road area that is closest to the Kuala Lumpur city centre comprises mostly middle to upper-middle-income neighbourhoods such as Taman Halimahton, the Jalan Jugra/Jalan Banting area, Taman Desa and Taman OUG. The other end of the road is populated by lower to middle-income neighbourhoods like Taman Medan and Taman Petaling Utama as well as industries, Tang says.
One of the many car workshops along Old Klang Road. Photos by Lee Lay Kin
Landserve’s Chen, meanwhile, tells City & Country that high-end developments, such as detached houses priced above RM4 million and condos above RM500,000, have performed moderately well in Old Klang Road while medium-cost units have enjoyed brisk sales.

“For instance, some 80% of the [leasehold] 1120 Park Avenue units in PJS2, priced from RM162,000, were sold within two months of the launch in December last year. Clearly, the leasehold title is not much of a concern.

“Location, accessibility, proximity to workplace, affordable pricing and investment potential in terms of capital gains and rental returns seem far more important,” he comments.

There is no doubt that residential property values in the Old Klang Road area have been steadily trending upwards, as Landserve’s research proves (see chart). Chen attributes the good response to 1120 Park Avenue to its strategic location, good accessibility and the rising affluence of neighbouring areas.

The prices of 2-storey terraced houses in Taman Overseas Union have risen about 80% while similar properties in Taman Seputeh, Taman Desa and Happy Garden have gone up 120%, 132% and 150% respectively over the last 15 years (1995 to 2009).

A 2-storey terraced home of 1,540 sq ft and above in the Old Klang Road area fetches at least RM450,000.

Chen expects the positive trend to continue in tandem with demand for properties in the Klang Valley. He sees more potential for property development around Old Klang Road, particularly in areas like Seputeh, Taman Desa, Kuchai Entrepreneur Park, Taman United, Taman Gembira, Taman Overseas Union and Taman Yarl.

“However, price growth will be limited by competition from new launches in the Klang Valley. Property buyers and investors are looking for chic and modern housing developments within a gated community that offer modern designs, security and other features commonly found in today’s residential areas.

“Projects such as 1120 Park Avenue and Saville Residence have entered the area at prices that are at least 50% higher than the older ones. The same is also true of shopoffices,” he says.

Old Klang Road is linked to Jalan Syed Putra, Jalan Puchong, the NPE, the Salak Expressway, Jalan Kuchai Lama and the Federal Highway, providing its residents with alternative routes to KL city and other parts of the Klang Valley.

“There is also a proposal in the Draft KL City Plan 2020 to build a local bus terminal in Taman Gembira as well as a new LRT line [linking Pantai Dalam and Desa Tun Hussein Onn] which will traverse Jalan Gembira and Jalan Sepadu after passing Desa Petaling and Salak South,” says Tang of Henry Butcher.
Developed by GuocoLand (Malaysia) Bhd, Commerce One was completed in April last year
Commercial property market

On the commercial property market scene, Old Klang Road has been relatively quiet compared with neighbouring areas such as Petaling Jaya and Bandar Sunway.

Save for the nearby Mid Valley Megamall, one of the biggest malls in Southeast Asia (completed in 1999), the area has not seen any big-scale or significant commercial developments despite its strategic location midway between Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

Chan, who has been staying in a 2-storey shophouse on Old Klang Road for more than 50 years, says the area only saw new developments after the road was widened about eight years ago. The 63-year-old tailor says this is because of a lack of large development tracts in the area and the fact that most land is privately owned. “This area has not really heated up in terms of commercial property development,” he tells City & Country.

Says Chen of Landserve: “Over the years, property development on both sides of the road has either been pocket-sized or located at a distance from the thoroughfare. Freehold properties are mainly found in the eastern half of the area while developments in the western half are all leasehold.”

The Old Klang Road area is mature but lacks a catalyst to spur the growth of commercial real estate, says Lim of iProp.
“Commercial projects on Old Klang Road are mostly scattered and small. Some do not even provide car parks [like 3rd Mile Square] and tenants in some offices are not doing well. This, in turn, affects the property’s value,” he tells City & Country.

Cultural taboos do not help the situation either. “I was trying to sell a piece of land near Mid Valley City in Taman Halimahton a few years ago but found it difficult because a temple is located nearby. A prospective buyer planning to put up an office development on that site pulled out for the same reason.”

The Pearl Point mall is one of the earliest commercial complexes in Old Klang Road. The 3-storey landmark opened in 1994 with a gross floor area of 200,000 sq ft. Operated by Orion Project Management Sdn Bhd, the 23-storey Pearl International Hotel, with 512 rooms, opened above the mall in 1997.

There are two commercial developments near the mall — Plaza Prima and Wisma Teoh Chin Kee — which house furniture showrooms, a nightclub and offices.

Old Klang Road boasts a number of commercial centres, comprising mainly shopoffices, including 3rd Mile Square, Kuchai Entrepreneurs Park, Kuchai Business Park and Kuchai Maju commercial centre, says Henry Butcher’s Tang.

Besides Pearl Point, the other shopping centres here are OUG Plaza/Citrus Park and Pasaraya Besar Central, he adds. “A Tesco outlet will be opening in Metro Centre which is taking shape at 4th Mile, Old Klang Road.”
Metro Centre, which is taking shape at 4th Mile, Old Klang Road, will feature a 5-storey retail podium and three blocks of serviced apartments
Metro Centre, which is being developed by Aston Villa Sdn Bhd, will comprise a 5-storey retail podium and three blocks of serviced apartments with 714 units. It is located diagonally on a former squatter area opposite a wet market.

While this commercial project is exciting and laudable, it will not go very far in lifting Old Klang Road’s low profile in the near term, says Landserve’s Chen. Still, it may spur redevelopment in areas occupied by squatters and old shophouses near the wet market.

“More landowners and developers might follow suit by redeveloping their sites and transforming the area into a thriving commercial belt. Otherwise, change will be on a piecemeal basis and slow, and Old Klang Road will continue to exist as it is — a trunk road for KL folks.

“The used-car yards, old plank houses and shops, car, furniture and electrical item showrooms in temporary structures, cottages, temples, wet market, car workshops and warehouses that have characterised Old Klang Road for almost half a century now will continue to exist side by side for decades to come,” observes Chen.

Area plan required
Chen believes a special area plan involving Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Petaling Jaya Municipal Council and Subang Jaya Municipal Council is needed to integrate the future development or redevelopment of Old Klang Road.

“Perhaps Old Klang Road’s history as the Klang Valley’s first major road built in 1905 and some of the historical buildings and structures along it can be exploited for tourism and commercial purposes.

“For instance, the first 22-mile railway line built in 1886 linking Kuala Lumpur and Port Swettenham [now Port Klang], to replace horse and buffalo-drawn wagons and boats transporting tin ore and other goods on the Klang River, has enormous historical value. Timber sawmills and rubber smokehouses which exist till today can also be turned into museums featuring these commodities,” he tells City & Country.

Old Klang Road resident Chan concurs. “Before the road was widened, small businesses like us could still survive. Now that many squatter homes have been demolished to make way for road upgrading work, the population is smaller. We have to see the response to Metro Centre.”

Chan is renting a 2-storey 20ft by 80ft shophouse located near Metro Centre for RM4,500 a month. He was paying a mere RM488 back in 1970. The rent for the now 50-year-old property was raised to more than RM2,000 in 2000 before reaching its current rate.

Another commercial project, dubbed Commerce One, opposite Pearl Point is being developed by GuocoLand (Malaysia) Bhd. The 1.15-acre leasehold project will be completed in two phases.

Phase 1, comprising nine blocks of 5-storey shopoffices, is sold out and was completed in April last year. With built-ups of 5,480 to 17,300 sq ft, these were priced from RM1.4 million to RM5.7 million.  It is fully sold.

The developer is planning a 22-storey office tower with a gross development value of RM90 million under Phase 2. This phase will offer 19 office suites, with built-ups of 500 to 1,700 sq ft, from Levels 9 to 22. These have an indicative selling price of RM200,000 to RM700,000.

The ground level will be a retail podium while Levels 1 to 7 will consist of parking space. Level 8 will house the management office, business centre, meeting rooms, fitness club and office suites.

According to iProp’s Lim, the ground floor of shopoffices on Old Klang Road can easily fetch rents of RM3 to RM5 psf while the upper floors are going for RM1 to RM2 psf.

For example, the asking price for ground floor retail space at Commerce One is RM6 psf while the office space above is going for around RM1 psf. The rent for ground floor retail space at the nearby 3rd Mile Square is RM3.40 psf. The office space above is going for RM1.70 psf.

Thanks to improved accessibility and the emergence of better quality developments, Tang expects the Old Klang Road area to be a popular choice for investors.

The property prices here are still reasonable compared with those in neighbouring townships such as Petaling Jaya, says Henry Butcher’s Tang.

He is positive about the area following the road-widening, recent launches of high-end products with contemporary designs and redevelopments like the Metro Centre.

Landserve’s Chen, meanwhile, describes the semi-detached and detached houses that the agency is marketing [on behalf of the owners] in Happy Garden and its surroundings as “very interesting”.

“For instance, 2-storey semi-detached houses with a land size of 3,200 sq ft and a built-up area of about 2,800 sq ft are going for RM800,000 onwards. We see upside potential in these houses. Some are good buys,” he notes.

He adds that serviced apartments with a floor area of 950 sq ft in Kuchai Avenue are up for sale at about RM260,000 or RM274 psf. These were launched at RM180,000.

Developed by Akisama Enterprise Sdn Bhd, Kuchai Avenue was completed only recently and purchasers are expected to take possession soon, Chen says.

“In March 2010, developer Kuchai Land Sdn Bhd soft-launched a condominium project in Happy Garden. These freehold units have a floor area of 1,200 sq ft and are now priced from RM358,000 or RM298 psf. We were informed that about 60% of the units have been sold.

“A 1,500-sq-ft serviced apartment in Saville Residence was recently sold for RM540,000, which works out to RM360 psf. Units of 1,230 sq ft are also available. Owners are asking for about RM500,000 or RM400psf,” 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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