City&Country: Citta, a new concept shopping mall

In late 1997, when Puncakdana Sdn Bhd first moved into its sales office, built on a 43-acre tract it owns on the western side of Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang in Petaling Jaya, its only neighbour was the Putra LRT depot.

“It was so quiet. Everyday, we would see only two or three cars passing by,” recalls Mah Siew Sian, managing director of Puncakdana.

Today, the site is a thriving commercial and residential area next to Sime Darby’s Ara Damansara. And it is set to become even busier with the opening of a three-level mall called Citta, scheduled for January 2011. Citta is part of the developer’s master plan for the 43-acre site, which will take another 8 to 10 years to complete, says Mah.

The RM280 million Citta is Puncakdana’s first retail project and a joint venture with SEB Asset Management, one of Germany’s largest fund managers. Citta is SEB’s first investment in Malaysia.

There have been some changes and new developments with Citta since the developer last spoke to City & Country in November 2008.

For starters, Puncakdana has dropped the words “strip mall” from its name and dropped similar references. Citta is modelled after the strip malls popular in North America, where retail outlets are arranged in a row in an open-air environment, with each unit fronting the car park. Citta is similar, with an open-air concept and a single row of shops fronting the car park.

However, Mah says, while the mall is modelled after a strip mall, to call it a strip mall would be inaccurate as a strip mall comprises a single, one-storey strip of  shops.

“Citta is much bigger in size than a strip mall. It has three storeys and instead of a single long strip, the structure is curved,” he says.

Citta, which covers eight acres, has a net lettable area (NLA) of 424,000 sq ft. “The mall is expected to be completed by early December, and we will deliver possession to the tenants soon after. That will give them about four to six weeks to fit out the units in time for the opening targeted for Jan 19,” says Mah.

According to Wong Sue-May, centre manager for Citta, the tenant mix has also been tweaked. “Back then [in 2008], the fashion component was only 8%, which to fashion retailers did not represent a complete mall to service the area,” says Wong.

Now, fashion retailers represent 15%, with F&B taking up 26%. The family and children component, which includes household and electrical items makes up 17% of the tenant mix., while convenience comprises 18%. The rest are taken up by entertainment, beautiy and wellness, and others.

Combining the confirmed tenants and those in advanced negotiations, the mall’s occupancy stands at 40%. Mah hopes to achieve another 10% by the time Citta opens its doors for business and 100% occupancy within nine months of opening.The average rental for Citta is RM8 psf.
Mah acknowledges that securing tenants is a challenge as the mall is a new concept.

“The retailers just cannot picture how Citta works, even when we explain the open air, strip mall-like concept to them. With a typical boxed mall, they know what to expect and that makes it easier for them to make a decision. I believe some retailers are taking a wait-and-see approach before they make a decision,” he says.

Among the tenants Puncakdana has secured are Café Barbera, a gourmet coffee place from Italy; Anjappar, a Northern Indian restaurant; and The George and Dragon Pub and Restaurant. This will be the second outlet in Malaysia for all three brands.

“We try to differentiate ourselves from the other malls by selecting different brands and outlets that are not too common,” says Mah.

Also on board are what Mah terms “destination anchors”, such as a 6,000 sq ft children’s enrichment centre, the 25,000 sq ft electronics and home appliances store Harvey Norman, Mcat Box Office (MBO) cinema and a 18,500 sq ft supermarket that offers a product mix similar to Bangsar Village’s Village Grocer.

“The cinema will open only in June or July next year as we originally had no plans for a cinema. We are building the 45,000 sq ft structure on the rooftop for it now. It will be a nine-screen cinema with a 3D hall,” says Mah, who hopes this will be MBO’s flagship cinema.

The children’s enrichment centre is a regional brand catering for children from 18 months to six years old, and this will be its second centre in Malaysia.

“There are parents living in Kota Kemuning, Klang and Subang driving all the way to Bangsar to take their children to the centre daily. The new centre is meant for them, as well as residents living at this end of the Klang Valley,” says Mah.

A competitive market
According to figures from Henry Butcher Retail, the estimated accumulated retail supply in the Klang Valley will stand at 52.71 million sq ft at the end of 2010, suggesting a very competitive and saturated retail market.

However, Mah is not worried as he points out that the area around Citta has a primary catchment of 434,000 people with an average household income of RM8,300 per month, and this is excluding the future office catchment.

“The remaining undeveloped land in the area, ours and Sime Darby’s, will be used for commercial developments. There are also offices in Glenmarie and Subang so there is a big catchment of consumers who will be attracted to Citta,” he says.

Sime Darby is currently developing the 15.78-acre integrated development, Oasis Ara Damansara. The development, with a GDV of RM1 billion, is located just down the road from Citta.

“We are different; Citta has an open mall concept. When we started planning Citta, we asked ourselves how we could distinguish ourselves from the other malls and this is the result,” says Mah.

A major reason why Puncakdana has placed particular emphasis on its F&B offerings and parking is to target the lunchtime crowd.

“Parking needs to be convenient so the office crowd can just drive here, park, eat and go back to work since they only have an hour to spare. We have 1,200 parking bays — 400 bays on the surface and 800 on the lower ground floor,” says Mah, adding that the company also considered the budget of office workers.

“We are taking a pro-active approach by encouraging the F&B outlets to come up with set lunches and they have been very receptive. There will also be an organic vegetarian café serving lunches below RM10 to cater for the office crowd,” says Wong.

Road ahead
Thus far, Puncakdana has completed properties worth about RM500 million in GDV. All its projects, when completed, will have an estimated value of RM1.5 billion.

Its first two developments here were Puncak Seri Kelana, completed in 2002, and Puncak Nusa Kelana completed in 2003. Puncak Seri Kelana comprises 619 condominium units with a GDV of RM95 million, while Puncak Nusa Kelana comprises 468 condos with a GDV of RM90 million.

Sitting on a 15-arce tract is the completed Dana 1 Commercial Centre comprising 152 units of two to five-storey shop offices and Symphony House, a 13-storey office tower sold en bloc to AmanahRaya Bhd for RM96.55 million in 2007. The office tower is leased to Symphony House Bhd for 10 years.

In the pipeline, are five office blocks with a GDV of RM400 million on an eight-acre tract identified as B2, adjacent to Citta.

“It will be a strata development and will be sold on an en bloc basis. We have just finalised the design and we hope to complete the project in about two or three years,” says Mah.

Three more tracts remain, parcel A, C3 and D18 amounting to 6.47 acres — all of which are slated for commercial development.

Mah sees a bright future for Citta. He stresses that the development and population in this area are growing.

“There will be enough market share to go around. Look at Ikano Power Centre, The Curve and 1Utama — they are so near to each other but each is still successful in its own right, and each has its own market,” says Mah.

While he does not foresee that Puncakdana will build another retail development, he does not rule it out completely should a good opportunity arise.

For now, Mah says, “We will concentrate on Citta and make it a success.”

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 829, Oct 25-31, 2010

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