SEREMBAN often has an undeserved reputation of being a sleepy hollow which is only “good enough for retirement”.
The capital of Negri Sembilan may have got its boring and “not happening” moniker because of its proximity to Kuala Lumpur.
Thirty minutes is all that is needed to cover the town centre which runs through Paul Street, Birch Road and Lemon Street.
For years, the only high-rise buildings here were the infamous twin 14-storey one- and two-room low-cost Templer Flats.
Built in 1966, they were known for the unusually high number of suicide cases. Some 65 people are said to have taken their lives by jumping from the two blocks.
Seremban folk, however, are proud to live in this “paradise”.
Apart from the first Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and many notable sportsmen, they are also proud of history of several schools the town is famous for, namely St Paul’s Institution (founded in 1899), Convent Holy Infant Jesus (1904), Anglo-Chinese School (1915) and King George V (1923) .
The Malays, who migrated from Minangkabau in Sumatera, have steadfastly held on to Adat Perpatih — a matrilineal system of inheritance and administration.
Seremban, like many other Malaysian cities and towns, was built on the tin-mining industry and commerce along the historical Linggi River.
Seremban, which the Chinese call “Fuyong” till this day, is known for being the capital of a state which has become a economic powerhouse.
Part of the Greater Klang Valley Conurbation, Seremban is now considered an ideal place for the middle income group to live in.
New commercial and residential areas have opened up in recent years, bringing with them a sharp increase in population.
Apart from the old Seremban town, there is now the new township of Seremban 2 and Bandar Sri Sendayan as well as the Seremban 3 and Forest Heights residential areas.
There are now two international schools and several universities here.
Occupancy at the sprawling and newly-opened industrial areas such as Sendayan Tech Valley and Bandar Enstek are also nearing full capacity.
They are home to famous corporations like Coca-Cola, Kelloggs’, Hino Japan, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty − the world’s largest manufacturer of aircraft landing and braking system, and Nippon Kayaku − one of the world’s leading manufacturers of airbag components.
Taking all these into consideration, the Federal Government had in 2012 endorsed city status for Seremban.
(However, the state government has yet to officially make a declaration pending the amalgamation of the Seremban and Nilai municipal councils).
Despite being only one of two capitals without an airport or even an airstrip, this has not been a drawback as both the KL International Airport (KLIA) and KLIA2 are located a mere 30-minute drive away.
Things are certainly looking rosy in this town which is seeing a construction boom.
With landed property becoming increasingly scarce in the Klang Valley, buyers are coming in droves to Seremban and this has caused prices to soar.
In some cases, properties have sold out on the same day they are launched.
The construction of new highways as well as the rail double-tracking and electrification project from Kuala Lumpur to Gemas has also contributed to the rapid development of Seremban.
Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd has also built a massive RM120mil maintenance depot for its Komuter units here, while Plus Expressways Sdn Bhd is currently constructing a fourth lane along the North-South Expressway from Nilai to Seremban.
Bank manager M. Gurubachan Singh 48, has been travelling daily to work in Kuala Lumpur for the past 19 years.
“It takes me about an hour to drive to work on normal days. I have colleagues who travel from Subang Jaya, Ampang and Cheras who take even longer,” he said, adding that the only drawback was the higher toll charges.
Advertising manager Christopher Palanisamy, 37, who lives in Seremban 2 or S2, is happy he bought his double-storey corner unit six years ago.
“I paid RM300,000 and many of my friends in Seremban thought it was too expensive. Today, it is worth RM800,000,” said the father of two.
Apart from the S2 scheme, a massive housing project is also under way in Bandar Sri Sendayan, another self-contained township located along the soon-to be-built Seremban-KLIA highway.
Development, has, however come with a cost. Traffic snarls have become a norm during peak hours as well as weekends.
The narrow roads in the older sector of Seremban can no longer cope with the heavy traffic.
Turning them into one-way streets has only eased the problem slightly.
This has led to the state government to move several government offices, including the courts, administrative offices, district police and Fire and Rescue Services Department to S2. Several will be moving out of the old town, including the Immigration Department.
Also in the pipeline is the soon-to-be launched 8,000ha Malaysia Vision Valley project encompassing the Seremban-Nilai-Port Dickson area.
Apart from new townships, the growth triangle will see the opening up of new high-tech industries as well as research and educational facilities.
By any measure, Seremban can no longer be considered a sleepy hollow especially with the expected opening of more shopping complexes, private hospitals and educational institutions such as Epsom College and Manipal Medical University.