Nestled in relative solitude near embassies, private clubs and bungalows in the Ampang district of Kuala Lumpur stands the exclusive Raintree Residence, on Jalan Wickham.
Known as Raintree Terrace before it was refurbished, the low-rise apartment development comprises only 12 units. Its French-inspired design gives it a timeless appearance, but the years had been unkind to it and the property was in urgent need of a makeover. Its owner, developer Mulpha Land Bhd, decided to do just that in 2007. Today, the newly renovated, renamed and refurbished apartment block is ready to receive tenants.
Purchased by the developer in 1995 for RM9.2 million, this nearly three decades-old freehold structure is only one of the several projects it has in the Klang Valley. The others include a boutique, gated and guarded development in Bangsar’s Medang Tanduk called Bangsar Enclave, which comprises seven strata bungalow homes for a gross development value (GDV) of RM70 million, and Menara Mulpha, a RM450 million, 23-storey Grade A+ office tower with retail outlets on Jalan Sultan Ismail.
Building plans for Bangsar Enclave have been submitted for approval while those for Menara Mulpha are being prepared for submission. Menara Mulpha, which has about 270,000 sq ft of lettable area, was designed by New York architects Kohn Pederson Fox. The office tower is expected to be launched in the first half of 2010, while Bangsar Enclave is expected to be launched in 4Q2009.
The Second Board-listed Mulpha Land has another development in Bukit Tunku, comprising eight villas at a GDV of RM110 million. The development order application is being prepared for submission, says CEO Lai Meng.
In Johor, the company is developing Leisure Farm where its Pinggiran Bayou Village Homes clinched the International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci) Prix d’Excellence 2008 award in the Best Residential Category.
Mulpha Land’s parent company, Mulpha International, is Malaysia’s largest real estate investor and developer in Australia, owning assets such as integrated residential resort development Sanctuary Cove in Queensland, the five-star Hayman Great Barrier Reef resort and the InterContinental Sydney. Therefore, compared with these large projects that it has in its stables, it seems incongruous that Mulpha Land would focus on a relatively smaller product for recurring income, as all 12 units at Raintree Residence are for rent only.
The original intention, says Lai, was to sell off the entire property, but due to the current economic downturn, it has decided to lease out the property instead.
The units here have been available for rent since March this year.
Ronn Yong, general manager of Mulpha International’s property division, says there were interested buyers for the property but the interest dried up when the crisis worsened. Nevertheless, the developer hopes to sell the property en bloc eventually when the time is right. The current asking en bloc price for the property is RM34 million.
The renovation period
Besides sprucing up the jaded terraced homes, another reason for the renovation, Yong explains, is to reduce the maintenance cost as the building has power guzzlers, such as huge 3ft air-conditioning units and wasteful energy designs, like single-switch lighting that turns on all the lights even in areas where there is sunlight. Mulpha considers itself one of the first developers to go “green” before many others followed suit, adds Yong.
Prior to the renovation, existing tenant contracts were not renewed, thereby allowing Mulpha Land to gut the premises and refurbish all that was necessary, also with the environment in mind.
The idea of recycling materials on site as much as possible was adopted. For instance, when certain walls in the lobby were taken down and it was discovered that the stones used had previously been cut into rough squares, they were reused as wall features and garden art.
The lobby was also completely redone to provide a friendlier and more soothing atmosphere. Before, it had a dark and moody ambience complemented by what Yong describes as “Wong Fei Hong” marble flooring. This dated look was removed and the walls were taken down to allow more natural light in. The new design also redirected natural air flow into the lobby area, eliminating the need for air-conditioners and fans, which reduces energy consumption. Only the gym, administration office and guard house are air-conditioned.
Decks extending out from the lobby were also built for residents to enjoy the greenery. They were purposefully designed to give one a feeling that the inside and outside were one large area.
Practical additions like two-zone security measures (there was only one previously), double-layer waterproof roofing and disabled-friendly ramps, among others, are also included to ensure that the residence is safe, easy to maintain and user-friendly.
The units were also reorganised for a better use of space. In the past, all the apartments faced the Raintree Club, which was directly opposite the residence. However, this was before the Petronas Twin Towers were built, which meant the best views were from the maid’s room, quips Yong. To rectify this, the designers opened up the back area so that everyone could enjoy the majestic view of the city.
The entire renovation took over a year and cost RM8 million.
Raintree Residence unveiled
The property is currently open for viewing. Monthly rent rates for the corner duplex penthouses are RM16,900 while the intermediate ones are going for RM16,400. Each of the four duplex penthouses has five bedrooms, ranging from 3,643 to 3,742 sq ft.
The other eight units on the first and second floors are smaller at 2,047 sq ft, with four bedrooms. Rent rates range from RM8,200 to RM9,700 depending on their location. The minimum tenancy period is one year, and each unit comes with an optional Raintree Club membership.
Having been transformed from a tired-looking old dame into a classy lady, the Raintree Residence has caught up with the times and should exude exclusivity for some time to come.
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 752, April 27-May 3, 2009
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