Developers propose themed districts in Indonesia’s new capital


In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, inspects the presidential palace construction site at the new capital city Nusantara in Penajam Paser Utara, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Wednesday, June 5, 2024.(Vico/Indonesian President Palace via AP)

JAKARTA: Local developers are advocating to build themed districts as part of the Nusantara Capital City (IKN) with potential concepts including a Koreatown and Middle East town, in a bid to attract investment for the future capital city.

Real Estate Indonesia (REI), which houses property firms in the country, said these districts could allow the IKN project to replicate the success of Jakarta’s metropolitan expansion through township development surrounding its periphery.

These themed townships would require large-scale land development in Nusantara’s second ring. The first ring is pegged for the Nusantara Central Government District (KIPP) that includes a state palace, the ministries and the House of Representatives.

Rusmin Lawin, REI deputy chair for foreign relations, highlighted the appeal of these themed districts. “The idea is to let people experience the ambiance of their favourite countries without having to go abroad,” Rusmin told The Jakarta Post last Friday.

While the group suggested a township layout for the development plan, the government has only provided some investors with land.

Real estate giants registered with REI like the Intiland Group and Ciputra Group had shown interest in the township project, said Rusmin, who is also the IKN Authority special staffer for regional economic area development and peer regions.

Ciputra Group plans to build a resort within its own plot, Rusmin detailed, while Emirati multinational real estate company Emaar Properties wants to build a business district through collaboration with other property developers.

Emaar Properties, renowned for developing the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, plans to construct a 778m-tall tower for state-owned enterprise (SOEs) within the area, he added.

Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar visited Nusantara in May with SOEs Minister Erick Thohir and the IKN Authority’s former head Bambang Susantono to explore investment opportunities.

After the visit, President Joko Widodo previously claimed Emaar would invest a “substantial amount” in Nusantara and would sign a memorandum of understanding in Abu Dhabi in July.

In mid-June, Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia told lawmakers that the IKN project has yet to see foreign investment despite claims that the planned new capital city has attracted lots of interest, citing unfinished core infrastructure as a reason behind this.

Hendricus Andy Simarmata, chairman of the Indonesian Association of Urban and Regional Planners, cast doubt on the proposed themed districts in Nusantara, arguing that such a concept may cater to middle-class citizens but misses the mark for high-earning expatriates.

While acknowledging the “global city for all” vision, Andy told the Post last Thursday that “themed districts blur the lines of Indonesia’s true identity”.

“Is the IKN heading in that direction? Its path is still unclear,” he said.

The characteristics of a global city should include a large expatriate population, numerous multinational companies, a high foreign-trade balance and the presence of international banks.

He warned the government against accepting the proposal for districts with foreign themes, stressing the importance of considering the long-term impacts on Nusantara’s identity.

Jokowi chose in January 2022 to name the planned new capital city “Nusantara”, which refers to the entire Indonesian archipelago.

“Pursuing competitiveness like Jakarta is very challenging, but the essence of the IKN must be rooted in Indonesian culture,” he said. If not, “What’s the difference between visiting Dubai and the IKN if we lose our cultural essence?”

Rather than a township concept with areas designed to look like foreign countries and regions, Andy proposed a zoning scheme that would embody the actual spirit of Indonesia, reflecting the unique identities of its provinces or ethnicities through local architectural styles and cultural elements.

Building codes and regulations should be anchored in the capital’s philosophy and values, he added, while still being able to incorporate buildings for multinational entities.

“A global city doesn’t mean we should abandon our identity,” he argued.

“Look at Kyoto. Traditional architecture doesn’t deter expats from wanting to live there.

“The same goes for Bali. Indonesia should be confident in the global appeal of our local culture. We must challenge the government to embrace this.”

The IKN Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Melinda Martinus, lead researcher in sociocultural affairs at the Singapore-based think tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute’s Asean Studies Centre said last Thursday that developers in the Greater Jakarta area had attempted to imitate transnational or ethnic-enclave strategies to market their housing projects.

This includes Little Tokyo and Chinatown, but most of these ventures failed because they did not attract enough buyers or visitors to sustain the facilities provided.

“Planners must consider the long-term viability,” she cautioned. “If they fail to attract enough visitors, they may eventually decline and disappear.” — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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