Pudu Jail site lures developers

KUALA LUMPUR: UDA Holdings Bhd has received an encouraging response from developers for its proposed transformation of the former Pudu Jail site into a mixed development, dubbed Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC).

Group managing director Ahmad Abu Bakar told The Edge Financial Daily that 24 top developers had attended the concept briefing last Monday and shown keen interest. The briefing was followed by a visit to the 7.85ha site.

The group is waiting for the developers to submit proposals for the joint development of the land.

“Those who are keen to participate are given two months to submit the RFP [request for proposal] documents,” said Ahmad, adding that BBCC’s gross development cost is estimated at RM3 billion to RM4 billion, while its gross development value (GDV) could reach as high as RM7 billion.

“If the RFP shows us better alternative plans which could give us higher returns, we wouldn’t mind using their concept,” he said.

UDA has certain criteria that must be met by the developers who want to jointly develop the project.

“They must have a strong track record of having completed at least RM3 billion worth of projects in the past, and with revenue of at least RM500 million a year. Their finances must be strong.

“We are going to have one main partner to work with us at the top, and below we can have special purpose vehicles to do the other developments, whether it’s the hotel, office or condominium,” said Ahmad.

According to the 7.85ha site’s master plan, the former prison will be converted into an iconic mixed development project which will include eight towers consisting of a hotel, office towers, shopping complex as well as commercial and residential blocks.

Ahmad said UDA’s committee members have worked for almost a year and a half to come up with the master plan which will also include a transit hub.

“We want an iconic building. It’s going to be green and it has to be energy-efficient. It is going to be an interesting place, plus it’s the last big piece of land in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

The master plan for BBCC with an estimated GDV of up to RM7 billion was submitted to Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur in March and the group is expecting approvals by the end of the year or early next year.

While most of the development components would be sold, Ahmad said UDA is keen to retain the ownership of the shopping complex and the parking bays as these could generate recurring income for the group.

In terms of the project’s architectural concept, UDA is considering keeping the iconic Pudu Jail gate by incorporating the structure in its designs. According to Ahmad, the consultants are tweaking the design to blend in the structure.

On a separate project, UDA has been in talks with several parties on the proposed redevelopment of the Bukit Bintang Plaza (BBP), which houses the group’s head office.

“Ideally of course we want to redevelop this [BBP] because it is within the golden triangle. It is high time we do something better here,” said Ahmad, adding that the BBP has been around since the 70s.

BBP was initially slated for demolition to pave the way for a mass rapid transit (MRT) station underneath the building. However, due to the building being attached to Sungei Wang Plaza, it will most likely not be demolished.

Ahmad said he does not mind the integration of the MRT station below BBP as it will increase traffic into the shopping complex. As the construction will take a few years, citing safety reasons, the group is considering reallocating its head office.

“If it gets worse, we can move out of the building and later we could convert the building into service apartments, hopefully with the MRT below, too.

“Initially, the MRT is supposed to integrate with us but now a box station is being built in front. But in the future there is still a possibility to integrate with the station when we redevelop this building”.

Ahmad said there has been talk that the Bukit Bintang station will be the last to be built and the construction of the MRT will take three to four years to complete.

UDA meanwhile, will launch six projects simultaneously on Oct 5 in Terengganu, Perlis, Penang and the Klang Valley, which have an estimated GDV of RM184 million.

The properties offered by UDA in these areas range from shop offices to semi-dees and bungalows with a price tag from above RM500,000 each.

For these launches, there will be a 100% bumiputera allocation for the commercial units and 75% for residential units.

Currently, UDA has pockets of land all over the country of slightly less than 1,000 acres (400ha). The group is considering selling some of the smaller parcels or jointly developing them with other developers. This will enable the management to concentrate on the bigger land parcels that it owns, said Ahmad.


This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 30, 2013.



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