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The Club brings Bukit Utama together

Built in accordance with Bandar Utama’s 1988 township master plan, the 4-storey, RM45 million clubhouse The Club opened in January this year, complementing the nine phases planned for the Bukit Utama Condominium Commune in the township in Petaling Jaya.

Of the nine phases, Phase One — called 1 Bukit Utama and consisting of 586 units — has been handed over to the owners and is occupied. Phase Two — called 9 Bukit Utama and comprising 1,000 units in three 40-storey condominium blocks — is currently under construction. It is expected to be completed by end-2010.  

During a tour of The Club recently, Bandar Utama’s director Datuk Teo Chiang Kok tells City & Country that Bandar Utama is currently 70% completed. He expects all nine phases of the Bukit Utama Condominium Commune to be completed within the next 10 years.

“Bukit Utama is planned as an integrated community. For instance, each phase of the development will have separate access to The Club,” says Teo, who is also a director at See Hoy Chan Holdings Group, the developer of Bandar Utama. “Residents will be able to cycle, walk or even use the shuttle buggy service (residents are even encouraged to own a buggy) to The Club via a dedicated private route. This, he adds, develops community feeling among the residents.

Since its opening two months ago, The Club has recorded over 600 registered members. “Priority is given to residents of our nine condominiums and Bandar Utama residents, but we are also getting enquiries from residents of Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kota Damansara and Damansara Perdana,” Teo says. The membership fee is on an annual basis. The fee ( which includes golf) for Bukit Utama Condominium residents, for example, will cost RM1,800 + 5% tax per annum.

The Club has a gross built-up of 574,141 sq ft. The facilities include a nine-hole golf course with night golfing, squash, badminton, futsal and tennis courts, a gym and an Olympic-size 50m swimming pool, all available on a user-pay basis. There is also a Chinese restaurant, a café and a ballroom. This concept is unique for a central clubhouse and is aimed at keeping service charges for Bukit Utama condo residents to a minimum while allowing members to choose facilities suitable to their lifestyle without the burden of paying for those they do not need, Teo explains.

Service charges depend on such factors as the facilities provided by the developer within the development and the cost of maintaining the property.

Sometimes, residents feel they are “paying for nothing” or are not “maximising the use of the facilities” yet are obliged to pay the fixed monthly service charge.

Teo says: “We conducted a survey and found that generally, there is a sense of dissatisfaction with paying service charges for facilities that are not commonly used. Yes, service charge is needed to maintain the property, but not all residents will use all the facilities available.”

This is not to say the Bukit Utama condominiums will not have their own facilities. “We identified the main facilities required — swimming pool, tennis courts and children’s playground. These will be available at each condominium. However, we are empowering our residents and members to choose additional sports facilities at The Club on a user-pay concept,” Teo explains.

Boasting green features such as rainwater harvesting for landscape irrigation and the use of composite timber instead of solid timber, The Club’s roof is also designed with deep overhang shadings to reduce the heat load on the building. The Club is aiming for at least 1,000 members within a year and Teo believes 3,000 is easily achievable.

Commenting on the impact of The Club on the Bandar Utama community, Teo says while every facility complements the surrounding developments, it is premature to foresee its impact on the values of the properties in Bandar Utama. Historically, Teo says, 2-storey link houses launched in 1991 for RM178,000 are now worth RM650,000 and 2½-storey link houses are valued at around RM900,000.

Metro Homes Sdn Bhd director See Kok Loong agrees that it is too early to predict the impact of The Club on the surrounding developments in Bandar Utama. “Short term, we might not see the value increase but in the long term, I believe it will definitely boost the properties there,” he says. “Bandar Utama appeals to a lot of people as the location is still one of the best. The only drawbacks are security, parking space in front of the houses and to some extent, the design of the houses,” See adds.

The Club’s concept is good as residents have an option in what facilities they would like to use and therefore, reduce maintenance fees, he adds.

Value of Bandar Utama properties have increased over the last decade (see table on Page 2). See says the areas that appreciated more may be the older phases. “BU 1-4 remain attractive because of their proximity to amenities and the Chinese school. Their prices continues to appreciate over the years,” he explains. BU 7 and 10, he says, are the newer developments that are setting price benchmarks for 2-storey terraced homes.  

See predicts the price of landed homes in Bandar Utama to remain stable and strong as new supply of such properties is going to be limited. “Prices dipped during the last recession in 1998, but they recovered from 1999 onwards,” says See.

Teo says part of the British School of Kuala Lumpur’s foundation and primary school campus will also be temporarily based in The Club (lower ground level) this month. It will be a temporary location for 350 to 500 students. Meanwhile, the developer has submitted for approval the building plans of the primary and secondary schools for the British School of Kuala Lumpur next to Kolej Bandar Utama.

The developer says it is experiencing good times despite the economic downturn: “There is no shortage of construction materials and the price of materials and labour is lower.”

It successfully obtained MSC Malaysia Cybercentre status for two zones — Bandar Utama City Centre and Bandar Utama Technology Park — and is in the midst of constructing a 25-storey office block opposite One World Hotel in Bandar Utama, known as 1, First Avenue. However, it is the practice of the developer to name the office building after its anchor tenant, as previously done for the IBM and KPMG towers in the area.

Another building — One Techpark, which was previously known as the Sony building in Bandar Utama (Bandar Utama Technology Park) — has 130,000 sq ft of net lettable space after two floors were added to the original five. Teo says 30% of One Techpark has been rented to MSC-status companies, with rents ranging from RM4.50 to RM5 psf.

When asked how much income he expects to generate from The Club, Teo candidly replies: “If the membership fees can cover the operational costs, I would be very happy.”

He says The Club was built primarily as a service to the community.

Surely, this is good news to those in need of a quick-fix game of golf, among other sports facilities, after a long day at the office? Based on the fee structure for walk-in guests — RM31.50 nett for nine holes on weekdays (not inclusive of buggy fees and night levy) — why not?

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 744, March 2-8, 2009.

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