City&Country: Changes for a better Heritage

Running the residential component of an 8.5-acre mixed development “like a hotel” while overseeing the development of a neighbourhood mall is a challenge that Sally Wong relishes. Wong, the director of Heritage Lakeside Developments Sdn Bhd, was brought in by the Clearwater Group in mid-2008 to transform The Heritage development in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, into a unique niche development that provides value-added facilities for residents and tenants.

The Heritage, formerly known as The Mines Heritage South Lake, is nestled within 200 acres of lush greenery.  It comprises three components — The Heritage Residences (apartments), The Heritage Village (retail component) and The Heritage Tower (office component). It was completed by the then Mines Resort Bhd (now known as Bluwater Developments Bhd) at end-2007. The Clearwater Group then acquired the developer for about RM350 million in mid-2008.

In total, the leasehold development comprises six blocks of buildings — one office tower and five apartment blocks, along with a two-level retail podium below the residential component. The 8-storey Heritage Tower, with 135,000 sq ft of space, is fully occupied by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education.

Apartment with hotel facilities
Wong, 50, was hired by the group’s founding member and managing director Dian Lee to run The Heritage Residence “like a hotel” by providing hospitality services and facilities.  The idea was to have a unique selling point to boost sales of the completed residences.

“After we took over the project, we decided that we should focus on customer service. We doubled the security — one at the entrance and another at the lift — because we emphasise safety and security,” says Wong, who has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality sector.

The developer also gave the building a facelift and spent RM3 million to upgrade the facilities to hotel standards. That includes the 100,000-sq-ft common facilities area called 7th Heaven, on Level 7 of the residential block. The gym was extended, an extra escalator put in at the retail podium while the interior design was given a makeover, based on Peranakan heritage designs.

Facilities on 7th Heaven include a swimming pool, saunas, gym, café, snooker and pool tables, children’s playroom, table tennis, BBQ area and launderette.

There is also a mini rainforest with real animals in the making, on which the developer spent some RM1.5 million.

The Heritage
This residential component offers 842 units with built-ups from 484 to 1,500 sq ft, with a penthouse duplex of 5,752 sq ft.  Three blocks of about 500 units were opened for sale at prices from RM350 psf for non-lake view units, and RM400 psf for lake views during the launch in 2007.

Currently, units are now priced at RM380 psf for non-lake view units and RM460 psf for the lake view units. The developer launched a campaign called “18.88% Package” in the middle of last year which ran till the third quarter. At press time, 93% of the four blocks of apartments have been sold, compared with a 20% take-up rate when the project was completed in 2007.

Wong says the buyers are mostly investors, with 37% foreigners and the rest local, while the tenant profile is the opposite. About 80% of the tenants are foreigners — mostly students at the nearby higher education institutions who come from the Middle East, Korea, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom, India and Pakistan.

The 18.88% Package is a progamme that guarantees rental returns of 18.88% for three years.

Says Wong, “First-time buyers in 2007 were under a two-year guaranteed rental return programme which expired last year. We then provided this new package for the remaining unsold units (except for Block D which is going for en bloc sale).

“We provide a one-stop service — we help the buyers rent out the units and manage the tenancy. They don’t need to look for tenants… We have a waiting list of about 100 people. We are quite fussy about tenants. If existing tenants create problems, we won’t renew their yearly lease agreement,” she adds.
An indicative monthly rental of a studio unit of 484 sq ft is RM1,300 to RM1,600; while a two-bedroom unit is RM2,200 to RM2,700. The management fee is about 7%.

Under this one-stop leasing service, the management of The Heritage also provides one-time housekeeping service, which means the apartments will be cleaned before the new tenants move in. A daily housekeeping service is available upon request. Also, tenants can pay rentals at the front office.  
“Our focus is on customer service and we have found that buyers are willing to pay for the service and facilities we provide,” she notes.

En bloc sale
Wong says the developer is looking at en bloc sales for Block D residences. “We want to go for en bloc sale for Block D because it has the best investment value. We are currently in talks with three parties. We might also reserve it for our own investment… We are keeping about 10 apartment units in other blocks for guest hospitality,” she adds.

The project’s residential component comes with a 4-storey car park of about 1,100 bays.

Heritage Lakeside Developments also plans to launch a one-of-a-kind family and child enrichment focused neighbourhood mall called Heritage Village this year. It has brought in Glenn Doman Centre and Critterland play gym from the United States in the retail podium that offers over 160,000 sq ft.

Glenn Doman is a centre featuring an innovative and provocative method of learning, while Critterland is a 10,142-sq-ft air-conditioned indoor fun and adventure playground for children. 

The management aims to make the retail podium a new lifestyle stop for residents as well as people in the surrounding areas and the Heritage Village boasts several restarants, including Pladib Thai Fusion restaurant, Noodle Village and Riverside Café.

With various changes by the new management and a fresh concept, Heritage Lakeside Developments intends to make The Heritage a prominent landmark in Seri Kembangan. The prospects look promising so far.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 795, Mar 1 - 7, 2010

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