City & Country: Village facing winds of change

AS a government-linked company seeks to avoid a protracted legal tussle with villagers over the redevelopment of 300-year-old Kampung Tanjung Tokong on Penang island, a local property stalwart is eyeing development opportunities in the village.

Ideal Property Group has entered into a joint venture with UDA Holdings Bhd, the landowner of the historical village, to develop a RM1 billion luxury condominium on 10 acres of leasehold land in neighbouring Tanjung Pinang. The area comprises spacious landed homes in gated compounds, notably Straits Quay, which is touted as Malaysia’s first retail marina by its developer Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O).

But Ideal Property is also eyeing land in Kampung Tanjung Tokong, a quaint fishing village that local historians and non-governmental organisations have described as one of the last living examples of Malay heritage. The village sits in the Tanjung Tokong neighbourhood, which has been seeing much development of late.

“Tanjung Tokong is like PJ State, it is full of old houses,” Raine Horne International Zaki + Partners director Michael Geh tells City & Country.

Neighbouring Tanjung Pinang, meanwhile, comprises mostly landed homes but these are located inland. Most of the seafront is occupied by luxury condominiums with prices ranging from RM800 to RM1,500 psf, Geh notes.

In the highest tier is E&O’s The Andaman at Quayside, comprising 548 units of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom condos with built-ups of 914 to 4,847 sq ft. It is worth noting that much of this 21-acre site is devoted to recreational facilities, including a waterpark with a variety of pools, water slides and “islands”, and a seven-acre park, amid tight security.

Other projects, including Marinox Sky Villas, which was jointly developed by UDA and Masmeyer Development Sdn Bhd, are priced closer to RM800 psf, as will be Ideal Property’s condos.

In an email to City & Country, Ideal Property chairman Datuk Alex Ooi says the proposed Tanjung Pinang project will comprise 968 condos in two 30-storey  and two 40-storey blocks. Built-ups will range from 1,200  to 1,400 sq ft. The project is expected to be approved by October and launched in December.

However, sources say that as part of the joint venture with UDA, Ideal Property will build 550 units of 800 sq ft low-medium-cost apartments for the roughly 500 families who reside, or used to reside, in the village. The estimated construction cost is about RM70 million. The apartments are part of UDA’s settlement offer to the villagers with the remainder to be satisfied via an undisclosed sum of money.

Construction of the apartments is scheduled to start this month. UDA, it is learnt, intends to hold a press conference to announce its plans. At press time, UDA had not responded to questions on the matter.

Currently, nine families are embroiled in a legal battle with UDA, which sued them for failing to vacate their homes, prompting the families to countersue. “It was treated just like another eviction, but it is not just like any other case,” Yusmadi Yusoff, one of the lawyers representing the families, tells City & Country.

He says the crux of the issue is that the very purpose of the land alienation, which was done over four decades ago, was meant for a village, as stated in the land title. “From our point of view, any form of development must be in the spirit of heritage and culture,” he says. The lawsuit went into case management in September last year.

Sources however say UDA is optimistic that a settlement will be reached soon, which explains the plan to start building the apartments this month.

They also say that depending on how quickly Ideal Property delivers these units, UDA may allow it to develop eight acres of land in the village.

“Ideal Property and UDA are quite confident that the families will accept the compensation and move out within a month,” says a source.

UDA was mandated with the development of the village following a visit by second premier Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. The construction of low-medium-cost apartments, commercial properties and other facilities was done in stages from 1980 to 1995, when the local village association objected to what it deemed to be development that failed to preserve the village’s rich history and character.

However, under the tenure of Razak’s son Datuk Seri Najib Razak, a development plan was drawn up in consultation with the villagers, NGOs, state authorities and other stakeholders. Then in June 2012, UDA and the local village association signed a memorandum of undertsanding on a RM165 million plan that comprised 1,200 houses with built-ups of 800 to 850 sq ft and an estimated value of RM300,000.

There are also plans for a shopping centre, community centre and recreational centre. A heritage village called Kampung Warisan will also be built as a means of preserving local heritage.

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on May 5 - 11, 2014.


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