1Borneo, Kota Kinabalu

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 February, 2008, 12:00am

First came the supermarket, then the hypermarket, the supermall and the megamall. Now, in a corner of Malaysia, a shopping colossus is being born. Welcome to the XXL sprawl of the 'lifestyle hypermall'.

Christened 1Borneo (below left and right), the mall will open in April in Sabah, in the north of Borneo. The development covers more than 9 hectares near Sabah's capital, Kota Kinabalu.

Michael Chen, head of Sagajuta Creatives and Communications, which is part of the group developing 1Borneo, describes it as 'almost a city'. The retail metropolis will contain more than 600 outlets, including doughty contenders such as Egg Tart King and the mainstream megabrands of fashion and catering: adidas, Nike, Esprit, Levi's and FCUK, plus Wagamama, Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald's and Starbucks. The Disney Store has crept in too.

The mall's amenities will include an Oceanarium and Discovery Centre (hosting more than 500 marine species), four hotels, a handicraft and cultural centre, a spa-and-fitness complex, a bowling alley, a cineplex and a dining zone.

And that's not all. Shoppers may be tempted to blow their cash in Autocity, which will stock the latest models, packed into a 3,250 sq metre showroom and 3,000 sq metre warehouse.

The landmark will be worth at least M$4 billion (HK$9.6 billion), according to Chen. He casts the hypermall as 'the missing link' in Borneo's commercial and touristic identity. Until now, Malaysian Borneo has relied on protected natural attractions to generate tourism. The mall, which is the size of 28 football fields, may change all that without exacting a heavy environmental cost.

According to Chen, 1Borneo was built on a stretch of bare rock and did not require the destruction of jungle or mangrove. Its presence may contribute to changing the region's image, which Chen says is one of 'people swinging through trees'.

Rather than relying on vines, visitors will be able to use a range of transport options. Those with the budget of a maharajah might choose for their helicopter to land on the hypermall helipad. Alternatively, you may take the shuttle bus that will run from Kota Kinabalu's main resorts and the city centre, or the hovercraft that will whisk shoppers over from the waterfront in 15 minutes.

Chen believes backpackers, who are increasingly common on Borneo's streets, will be followed by the middle class and the super rich. But long before then, a platinum credit card might come in handy at the extravagant 1Borneo. See www.1borneo.com.