Monday, August 1, 2011

The Phoenix Plaza, Cheras

Many of us must have been wondering as what is to become of the Phoenix Plaza in Cheras as it stands forlorn amidst the busy Cheras crawl. About five months ago, passerbys noticed that some renovation work were being carried out and despite the large signboard on display facing the main highway, nothing much was mentioned, except it was to be turned into a hotel. Finally, the mystery is solved.

The Phoenix Plaza shopping mall in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, is undergoing a RM150 million makeover. Malaysia Land Properties Sdn Bhd (Mayland) plans to reopen the 16-year-old complex with a new name and concept.

Phoenix Plaza first opened its doors in December 1994, but closed down in August 2005. Located at the 10th kilometer of Jalan Cheras, the building has been a landmark for all the wrong reasons. Traffic to the mall gradually dwindled due to what Mayland has identified as accessibility problems. An inexperienced management was one of the other factors that contributed to the failure of the mall.

Mayland, which has Hong Kong-based tycoon Tan Sri David Chiu as its major shareholder, acquired the mall, with its 880,000 sq ft gross floor space, in 2008.

The developer proposes to rename the mall Cheras Central Shopping Mall and it will have a hotel attached to it, Mayland director Andrew Chiu tells City & Country.

He adds that the road system around the complex has improved a great deal in the last few years, with the widening of Jalan Cheras into a six-lane highway, the building of a flyover for motorists to make u-turns and a flyover at the Taman Len Seng turn-off providing smoother access to the mall.
“We will be revamping the mall externally and internally to ensure that it caters for today’s customers. We are improving the floor configuration to minimise ‘dead’ corners and adding new lifts, escalators and travellators to improve vertical transportation.

“There will probably be a cineplex on the rooftop, a bowling alley and maybe an indoor amusement park. We will also have a gourmet supermarket in the basement. We will focus on bringing in tenants who fit into our concept of a suburban family mall, with priority given to those not yet represented in the Cheras area. A 300-room hotel will be added as well,” says Andrew.

“With all these changes, we are now looking at a net lettable space of 450,000 sq ft for the retail component.”

The mall will be designed to suit the modern urban family with amenities and conveniences that today’s shoppers expect, such as fashion, household, entertainment and F&B outlets.

The number of parking bays will be increased from 931 to 1,600 by reconfiguring the car park and acquiring the open car park next door.

The developer is looking at a population catchment of 1.6 million within a 20-minute drive from the mall.

Besides tapping the group’s property development and hotel management experience (under the Dorsett Hotel Group), Mayland is also banking on its experience in managing its suburban mall, Hartamas Shopping Centre in its flagship Plaza Damas integrated commercial development in Sri Hartamas, to manage the revamped Phoenix Plaza.

Andrew says the location of the mall in the heart of Cheras gives it an edge as well.

Plaza Damas
Mayland has carved its name in the Malaysian property scene by introducing the studio living concept in its high-rise serviced apartments and condos at its flagship Plaza Damas development. It is being developed in four phases with an estimated GDV of RM2 billion. Plaza Damas 1 was completed in 2002, and Phase 2 in 2005. Both phases comprise shopoffices that are fully occupied.

The company launched Plaza Damas 3 in 2008, with the next and final phase to be launched at a later date. Plaza Damas 3 is a three-block, eight-storey commercial development on a 5.5 acre-tract with a GDV of RM700 million. The development consists of the Hartamas Shopping Centre, 72 units of shopoffices and 595 units of serviced apartments with prices from RM900 psf. Andrew says the shopoffices were sold out on the launch day while the serviced apartments are 80% taken-up.

“By the end of this year, we will hand over the shopoffices and beginning 1Q or 2Q, we will hand over the serviced apartments, which is way ahead of schedule as the development was supposed to be completed by 2012,” Andrew says.

Plaza Damas 3 has a clubhouse with a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, gym and a multi-purpose hall.

Phase 4, to be called Cosmopolitan, is set to be the tallest building in the development with its 27-storey serviced apartment tower. A third of the building will house a hotel. “The tower will face the new Istana Negara. It will be the tallest building in the area with amazing views,” he says, adding that Mayland has already obtained the development order (DO) but is still mulling the launch date.

He adds that a sky bridge will link Phases 1 and 2 of Plaza Damas with Phases 3 and 4, located across the road, to create a truly integrated development with a mix of residential, offices and shops.

Andrew, the 21-year-old son of David, has been a director at Mayland since February. The poetry and literature-loving man did his A-levels in the UK and studied engineering at Warwick University. Early in 2008, he embarked on a “soul-searching” mission in Hong Kong, composing music and playing the guitar in pubs before becoming a real estate agent for a year.

He later joined the family business, Far East Consortium International Ltd (Mayland is a unit of Hong Kong-based Far East Consortium International Ltd) before joining Mayland.

He says he owes everything he knows about the property business thus far to his father, who “has been telling me all about property ever since I could speak. When it comes to property, he’s my greatest teacher”.

Andrew’s sisters Winnie, Wendy and Josephine also work for the company.

He says Mayland works hard to tailor each of its developments to the different needs of its customers. “For example, if a customer wants something more extravagant, we will direct them to Regalia, and if they want something more serene, we will show them the Royal Regent.”

Regalia is a RM650 million freehold luxury serviced apartment project in Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. It consists of 1,130 units housed in three blocks. Launched in 2008, it has a take-up of 80%.

Among Regalia’s unique features is the sky pool, located on the topmost floor of the building — level 35 — with a sky lounge and a view of KLCC.

It houses a five-star restaurant and spa facilities and offers uniformed chauffeur services to residents, and concierge and personal butler services.

Royal Regent
The Royal Regent is located in Jalan Kuching. It is the third phase of Mayland’s freehold 20-acre Sri Putramas development. Situated on a 2.5 acre-site, it is scheduled for completion in 2013, with a GDV of RM430 million. The entire development comprises 654 units of serviced apartments.

“The typical unit is about 860 sq ft to 2,190 sq ft. Then we have the duplexes which are around 1,600 sq ft to 3,300 sq ft,” says Andrew, adding that prices are from RM350,000 to RM1.5 million, or RM450 psf with a maintenance fee of 35 sen psf.

“The RM350,000 units are all gone ... we sold 60% of the units within a week of the launch on Aug 19,” he says. The development will have about 1,200 parking lots.

He describes the Royal Regent as a classy serviced residential development with amenities suitable for young professionals and families such as a swimming pool, gym, sauna, tennis court and mini-market. There is also a 1.5-acre private park.

The Royal Regent will have about five units per floor.

The first and second phases of Sri Putramas were sold out and completed in 2005 and 2007 respectively.

Mayland is known for building small units. Andrew explains that the company sells smaller units with lower purchase prices so buyers can have a “minimum entry price for a premium location”.

“We come from Hong Kong, where we don’t really believe that luxury, extravagance or exclusiveness can be defined by units per floor. As a developer, we want to provide the best lifestyle and a good mix of customers. No matter how many units per floor, we look at maximising the space inside through thinking out of the box,” he says.

Andrew discloses scant details about the final phase of Sri Putramas, expected to occupy the last 2.5 acres in the area.

“Phase 4 may have about 400 to 500 units. It’s the final piece of land in the series. Its design will be more elegant with bigger units,” he says.

On the peak-hour traffic crawl on Jalan Kuching, Andrew assures that Mayland plans to construct a dedicated exit lane with direct access to Jalan Duta, Jalan Kuching and Jalan Segambut through the Segambut roundabout. In fact, the developer is looking to expand the series into the nearby Segambut area, which is also seeing major redevelopment.

Moving forward
The Mayland Group has established itself in Johor with the Palazio serviced apartment project in Mount Austin. Now, the group is looking to expand to Penang. Andrew is “jealous” of developers such as Mah Sing, S P Setia and Bolton, which already have a presence there.

“In Johor, we want to grow bigger. We’re trying to get into Penang, looking at a few pieces of land and a few good deals,” he says, adding that he hopes the company will be able to conclude something in Penang in the next one or two years.

He says the group currently has over 400 acres of land scattered across the Klang Valley, Putrajaya and Johor, which will last at least 30 to 40 years. These include land owned by Land & General Bhd, in which Mayland is a major shareholder. It has established a joint-venture company with L&G known as Elite Forward Sdn Bhd.

Elite Forward is currently developing The Elements @ Ampang, a freehold serviced apartment project comprising 1,040 units spread over 41 floors. There are 12 units per floor served by four lifts. Built-ups range from 610 sq ft to 1,460 sq ft. Expected completion is 2014. L&G and Mayland are also planning to develop townhouses in L&G’s flagship township Bandar Sri Damansara, “probably around 100 units”. Mayland, Andrew says, is also buying a three-acre site in the KLCC area, but he declines to give further details.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 837, Dec 20-26, 2010


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