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Pudu Jail project to include bumi firms

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 7): The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has ordered UDA Holdings Bhd to come up with a new master plan for the redevelopment of its Pudu Jail land to ensure a higher level of bumiputera participation.

UDA chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed on Tuesday said MoF has also directed that the city centre land be divided into three parcels, with two of the plots given to bumiputera developers.

He added that UDA, as the project's master developer, will have to find a suitable way to split the 19.8-acre (8ha) site three ways.

He did not say if the plots will be equal in size.

Nevertheless, Nur Jazlan concedes that more can be done with the land if it were to be developed as a single site as it is not a large tract.

This development confirms a story in The Edge weekly on Oct 24 that the former prison site will be divided into three parcels for redevelopment, diverging from UDA's earlier plans for its last parcel of prime land.

Earlier, UDA had proposed to develop the land with one joint venture partner that would construct a complex comprising several levels of parking space, a public transport hub and a retail mall at a cost of about RM600 million.

In exchange for the retail and public transport hub, UDA would surrender the land rights to its partner to construct high-rise buildings above the complex.

The project, with an estimated gross development value at over RM6 billion, had previously attracted interest from local and foreign companies keen to tie up with UDA.

Its earlier plans had been criticised by rights groups that were concerned that bumiputera contractors would be excluded.

UDA's board was said to be in favour of China-based Everbright International Construction Ltd as its joint venture partner.

But those plans were shelved after MoF directed UDA, which was formerly the Urban Development Authority, to come up with a new master plan.

Nur Jazlan, who is also Pulai Member of Parliament, said bumiputera companies will still be subject to an open tender process to participate in the project.

"We are not looking for contractors. We are looking for investors with the financial capacity to develop the land.

"They have to be financially capable or UDA might as well develop it ourselves!" Nur Jazlan quipped during a press conference after unveiling commemorative stamps for UDA's 40th anniversary.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Awang Adek Hussin said the government is open to allowing bumiputera companies to enter into joint ventures with non-bumiputera companies to develop the bumiputera plots.

"The government is flexible when it comes to joint venture with non-bumiputera companies. What is important is the spirit. The spirit is that there has to be significant bumiputera content," he said.

He also noted that the bumiputera companies involved cannot merely be sleeping partners in the project.

He also stressed that UDA's mandate is to help the bumiputera community and ensure that bumiputera participation in property development is more visible.

"Bumiputera participation in real estate development is currently very, very small. Thus, UDA's mandate is very critical," he said.

Awang Adek declined to provided a time-line for the Pudu Jail redevelopment project, only saying that a committee will be established to "find the most appropriate development model" for UDA.

Market observers opine that UDA cannot afford lengthy delays to its Pudu Jail project as it could face stiff competition from the various real estate projects being planned around the city centre, including the Kuala Lumpur Financial District.

Nur Jazlan (left) and Awang Adek pose with the stamps. Photo: Kenny Yap of The Edge Malaysia

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