Well past its laidback days, Shah Alam has plenty to offer, say developers.
SHAH Alam has grown over the years from an oil palm plantation nestled between Klang and Petaling Jaya to be Selangor’s capital city. Of course, there is still room for improvement in the continuing development of Shah Alam.
With that in mind, StarMetro organised a roundtable forum with three major developers in the state capital as well as a representative from the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda), to discuss the future of this vibrant city.
The panellists were Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) general manager Azlan Md Alifiah, Sime Darby Property senior vice-president Mohd Salem Kailany, I-Berhad deputy chairman Datuk Eu Hong Chew and Rehda youth chairman Sam Tan, who is also managing director of Ken Holdings Bhd.
The discussion was moderated by The Star executive editor Brian Martin.
Martin (BM): Compared to 10 years ago, property prices have gone up steadily in Shah Alam. Is there still room for the property market to grow and prices to increase?
Tan (ST): I think we should always look at property in the long-term view. Shah Alam offers people a chance to own landed houses and we see the profile of people coming to Shah Alam from Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur, everyone’s moving outwards. Over the years it will steadily increase with that demand, and transaction figures can show that.
One of the important things to also think about, from Rehda’s perspective, is that although property prices are going higher, Selangor should show a perception that they welcome foreign investment.
Although the majority of homeowners in Shah Alam are Malaysians, I think it is also good that we have places like i-City, an international tourism hub, and we want to increase activities around the area. However, the recent policy of a threshold on foreign buyers sends a very unfriendly signal to foreign investors. But in the long run, I believe the property market will develop because Malaysia has a young population and after starting a family, they will move to a home of their own.
BM: How fast is the property market growing in Shah Alam, in comparison to other cities and townships?
ST: I don’t have the actual figures but I can say that Shah Alam offers more landed properties. If you look at Petaling Jaya and Subang, I doubt there is any space available for landed properties, it’s mainly high-rises.
BM: When you compare prices of landed properties in Shah Alam and Petaling Jaya, there are some quality buys in Shah Alam, do you agree?
ST: Definitely. When we (Ken Holdings) launched our landed homes three-and-a-half years ago at RM380,000, which was freehold as well as gated-and-guarded, everything in Subang Jaya at that time was above RM600,000. Of course, various parts of Shah Alam still have to be developed, it is not as developed as Subang Jaya, so you will see the disparity in prices.
BM: The borders of Shah Alam have expanded in the last few years, with new areas having made it into the city’s boundaries. It was once known as a bumiputra enclave but today, it has become a thriving cosmopolitan. Should Shah Alam be rebranded to increase its potential to become the next PJ?
Mohd Salem (SK): Sime Darby has been present in Shah Alam for 20 years and seen it grow from an administrative city. Yes, by virtue of being an administrative city, it started out with a predominantly bumiputra population, but from recent developments in the market, the profile of buyers are more mixed now. It does not need rebranding, it needs to embrace the evolution of a city, which Shah Alam has shown.
BM: Azlan, would you agree with Salem’s view that there was no need for rebranding and that it was about Shah Alam embracing its identity?
Azlan (AA): In the very early days, it was more like an industrial area, then as Shah Alam started to develop, especially with the advent of Bukit Jelutong and i-City, we can see a change in the makeup of the state capital. This is a natural progression. It is no more the laidback Shah Alam of yore, it is very dynamic now.
Things are changing in Shah Alam but I would say the core of Shah Alam will still be the administrative centre but there will be more of a mixed population.
BM: We have a number of new projects for public transportation and infrastructure namely the LRT3 line passing through this city as well as bus hubs that are being redeveloped. Is there still more room for improvement?
AA: We are very excited about LRT3, there will be stations near the stadium in Section 13, in the city centre in Section 14 and in i-City in Section 7. Our biggest area of development is Section 14, the city centre, where we are embarking on a revised masterplan. We are in discussion with the Land Public Transport Commission to ensure the LRT3 station is beneficial to the developments there.
BM: Datuk Eu, I’m sure that infrastructure and transportation are also concerns for i-City. In Shah Alam, there’s a RM7mil integrated bus terminal in the works, which moved temporarily from Section 17 to Section 13. Would that be something that would assist i-City as a premier destination in Shah Alam?
EU: We planned i-City as an urban centre during a point when many were sceptical that high-rises could work in Shah Alam. We see the LRT as something beneficial that could further enhance i-City. We are beside the Federal Highway so the benefit is not just from the LRT but also the BRT. With the LRT to the north and BRT to the south, we would like to think that the transit traffic will go through i-City.
One of the challenges we, as an MSC Malaysia Cybercentre, face in trying to market i-City to call centres and business outsourcing companies is that they need public transportation.
The LRT will remove their concerns so we see that benefitting people who have bought offices for MSC purposes.
This will also benefit tourism development. Right now 90% of the people come (to i-City) by cars. There are coaches but the volume is very small and we hope the LRT can provide alternative transportation because the problem we face at the moment is lack of parking space.
If the LRT can ferry more people to our theme park, we can benefit from that.
GETTING THE RIGHT FIT
BM: As one of the newest developers in Shah Alam, you mentioned that i-City is now more well known as a tourist destination than a mixed commercial property development. Do you think that’s the way forward for new developers, as an MSC, knowledged-based and shopping centre?
EU: We examined so-called abandoned projects and noticed a pattern. We reckoned that if the projects were considered part and parcel of other activities, then the potential for their success would be greater.
When we started in Shah Alam around 2002, the challenge was to create a different economic activity that could spur the economy and so we thought that if we had the MSC, we could encourage the setting up of offices and establishment of tourism industry which could increase the vitality of this place.
BM: Based on personal feedback, friends say what is lacking in Shah Alam is the liveability. They have to venture out to Klang, PJ and Subang if they want certain types of food or entertainment. Do you think that is justified and something they have to look at in the future?
AA: These are local guidelines we as developers have to live with. If you want the kind of entertainment like in Sri Hartamas or Bangsar, it may not be possible. But if you are the type to enjoy family entertainment, the choices are there. Shah Alam as a state capital needs to have certain characteristics that might apply to the city centre but when it comes to the suburbs, it may be slightly different.
SK: The idea of liveability is different for everyone. If you talk about the best of both worlds there are shortcomings in Shah Alam but from the aspect where you value things such as jogging tracks, cycle paths, greenery and lakes, those are things you get in this city. If you ask me, Shah Alam has a lot of positive things which are not available elsewhere and by virtue of that, Shah Alam has its own identity that is unique and what residents are proud of.
BM: What do you think is the role of the local authority in enabling Shah Alam to move forward?
SK: The role of local authority is important. They understand the requirements of developers, look at the guidelines available and suggest things that make it easier for us. In our 20 years experience in Shah Alam, we have had good cooperation with not only the city council but also had a lot of engagement with residents and political leaders here.
BM: Before we end our forum, I would like to invite our panellists to share some final thoughts.
AA: PKNS is going to use the model of Shah Alam for our new development in Cyberjaya, Science Park 2. We can see there is not much room for growth and urban redevelopment in Petaling Jaya but there is a lot of room in Shah Alam. The growth of Selangor shall be in Greater Shah Alam.
EU: If I were to advise someone on growth opportunities, I would ask them to look at how many developers there were in a place. Today, a lot of the big property developers are in Shah Alam, which was not the case 10 years ago. The number of new players coming into Shah Alam will continue to grow and I think this is the best indicator for Shah Alam.
SK: It is our duty as a developer to look at the communities around us and these are the values you can find in abundance in Shah Alam. As Shah Alam continues to grow bigger, I think it will retain its positive values and with that, it will also create its own identity. Now we are talking about a population of 650,000, but soon we will be talking a million or two, the city will grow.
ST: We would like to applaud the forwardness of former mayor Datuk Mohd Jaafar Mohd Atan for his approach. He enabled us to do more innovative things in our development (Ken Rimba), such as removing the tarmac in the sidelanes and backlanes because we wanted to build the first green township and it had to be fully integrated. By removing things like the tarmac, we create areas where people can walk and jog. This in turn creates security and allows neighbourhood engagement. There is a bright future for Shah Alam, we are looking forward to it.