UOA building 'forest retreat' in Segambut

SURROUNDED by the established areas of Mont'Kiara, Kepong and Desa ParkCity, Segambut has long been regarded as the poorer neighbour. But that image is fast changing.

Segambut has attracted the interest of developers in recent years with the upgrading of existing and building of new infrastructure in the area.

One developer that has strong confidence in Segambut is UOA Development Bhd. It is ready to put its money where its mouth is with its latest project, Scenaria @ North Kiara Hills. Nestled in the green hills of Bukit Segambut, the 10-acre project — with a gross development value (GDV) of RM600 million — offers 937 condominiums in two towers and 44 three-storey linked villas.

UOA had acquired the Scenaria site for RM55 million in 2011.

To take advantage of its natural surroundings and to differentiate itself from other projects in the area, the development will have a forest retreat concept.

"We will dedicate about two acres to create some sort of forest retreat where you can find picnic spots, treetop bridges, camping spots, tai chi/yoga areas and a jogging track," says UOA general manager Eugene Lee.

A preview of the first tower, which will have 469 condos, was held for existing customers and associates in late December. Priced at RM650 psf onwards, 60% of the condos have since been taken up. Lee expects all the units to be sold in the next three to six months. The second tower will be opened for sale after that.

"We have eleven 2,000 sq ft penthouses, but we have kept the condo sizes at 1,019 to 1,330 sq ft to make them more affordable. Quite a lot of our buyers are young families from Kepong; they are our target market. I think our concept appeals to them and most are buying for their own use," Lee says.

As for the villas, UOA is holding back their launch until construction has reached a certain stage and a showroom has been built. While prices have not been finalised, Lee says the villas will cost RM1 million onwards.

"The built-up ranges from 3,600 to 3,800 sq ft. The price will be comparable to similar developments in the area, which is closer to RM1 million. We know villas are much sought-after and many people have registered their interest. We have a good brand name ... it's another reason why we have confidence in Scenaria."

New access

There will be two entry points for Scenaria, one of which will be a new access road to Desa ParkCity and Kepong. The Desa ParkCity link had been talked about for a few years, but nothing came of it because a parcel of undeveloped land stood in the way. UOA decided to acquire it last year.

"The three-acre plot is two parcels away from the Scenaria site. We plan to introduce an access road to Desa ParkCity and develop the plot. We hope to open up Kepong a bit more with the new road," says Lee.

"It will take only about five minutes to reach Desa ParkCity from our development once the road is constructed. Besides, if you go towards Taman Sinar, the proposed Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE) extension will have an exit less than 300m away from Scenaria."

UOA is no stranger to Kepong. Among its developments there are Taman Megah Kepong and integrated business hub Kepong Business Park.

Lee believes Segambut's improving connectivity has played a key role in the development of the area in recent years.

"In the near future, you can get to Ampang in 15 minutes without traffic. To head to Mutiara Damansara and Kota Damansara, you can just get onto DUKE. Segambut is actually quite near to the Kuala Lumpur city centre. It's just that in the past, the infrastructure here wasn't good. But now things are changing."

Lee notes that Jalan Segambut is currently being widened — Kuala Lumpur City Hall is widening a 4km stretch from the KTM Komuter bridge in Jalan Kuching to Mont'Kiara in two phases. The first phase, from the bridge to the SPPK Segambut intersection, began in 2011.

A good year

In FY2012 ended Dec 31, UOA achieved total sales of RM1.7 billion, double that in the previous year. The company also received The Edge Malaysia Notable Achievement Award 2012 and was listed in Forbes Asia's 200 Best under a Billion list, which honours the 200 top-performing small and medium enterprises in Asia-Pacific.

"Existing projects like Le Yuan Residence in Happy Garden and Vertical Office Suites in Bangsar South are giving us continuous sales. We have also done a few en bloc sales of the Horizon office buildings in Bangsar South, which contributed substantially to our sales in 2012," says Lee.

The last en bloc sale in Bangsar South was that of an 18-storey office block in Horizon Phase 2 that was bought by UEM Group Bhd for RM173.25 million. UOA has about RM3.1 billion worth of ongoing projects, including the RM1.5 billion mixed-use development Kencana Square in Shah Alam and the RM600 million Desa Green serviced apartment project in Taman Desa.

"Looking at the ongoing projects and those we have in the pipeline for 2013, we are quite confident we will be able to achieve the same amount of sales or more in 2013," says Lee.

A preview of the third tower in Desa Green was held recently and more than 40% of the units were taken up. The first two towers, which were previewed in the third week of December, are fully sold.

UOA has a landbank of 120 acres in the Klang Valley. "We will continue to focus on the Klang Valley. We are looking at several parcels and as with most of our developments, these are between 1 and 10 acres. We are also constantly reviewing opportunities in Johor and other states. We would like to explore if the price and location are right," says Lee.

UOA does not discount embarking on another project like Bangsar South, but much will depend on the opportunity and price.

"We will review it if the opportunity arises. There is no hurry; we have enough projects to last us another five to seven years. Including the current developments, we have projects with a total GDV in excess of RM15 billion," says Lee.

This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of Feb 4-10, 2013.

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