IWH paves way in Johor Bahru for waterfront city of the future
Having the distinct advantage of being near high-growth areas such as Bangalore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo, Iskandar is one of Malaysia's key regional economic corridors. The thriving metropolitan area possesses immense potential to aid the country's transformation agenda and enhance the public's quality of life.
Fulfilling its civic duty and contributing to the government's comprehensive development programme, master property developer Iskandar Waterfront Holdings (IWH) spearheads the transformation of the Johor Bahru waterfront, a key area in one of the five development projects in Iskandar. IWH envisions the Johor Bahru waterfront as an integrated business, commercial and residential centre in Malaysia.
Johor Bahru is the main gateway to and from Singapore. The state capital of Johor, the area is bustling with various activities from different sectors such as financial, retail, commerce, hospitality, tourism, manufacturing and food processing.
"Because of its strategic waterfront location directly overlooking Singapore, we are developing this site for its potential to become the high-growth centre of the future. Investors joining us in this transformation stand to gain from the unlimited potential of this unique site," says IWH executive vice-chairman Lim Kang Hoo.
Building on the strength of public and private partnerships, IWH takes advantage of rivers and seas to create an exciting living and working environment.
Historically, waterfront properties were central to trade and commerce, but as other forms of transport developed, business hubs were built further inland and farther from the water. This paved the way for water-fronting residential developments that offer a new lifestyle frontier for purchasers.
Real estate growth in Asia in the past years has revived interest in waterfront redevelopment. This upward trend has inspired IWH to maximise the use of prime waterfront land in Johor Bahru and cultivate it into a destination to rival top waterfront developments in cities such as Sydney and Cardiff, and even one of China's high-growth economic centres, the Pearl River Delta.
IWH aims to build a waterfront destination that will attract local and international interest. The waterfront development stretches across more than 1,600 hectares and comprises two areas: Danga Bay in the west of Johor Bahru and Tebrau Bay in the east of Johor Bahru.
"It is a new economic zone that opens up vast business opportunities to people from all walks of life," Lim says.
A strategic partnership among Lim, Johor state government entity Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) and the federal government entity Iskandar Investment paved the way for the establishment of IWH. Danga Bay, formerly known as Lido Beach, was part of an earlier reform programme under KPRJ in 1995. The onset of the 1997 financial crisis hindered the firm from completing project development.
The Danga Bay area today has been rehabilitated into a prime location for integrated waterfront living. Occupying a 182.11-hectare stretch of waterfront land for Phase 1 and more than 485 hectares for Phase 2, Danga Bay is Johor Bahru's first and largest mixed residential-commercial development.
Aside from residential and commercial establishments, there are dedicated sites for an international finance and commerce centre, an exclusive international yacht club and a transport hub connecting Johor Bahru, Singapore and Batam.
There will also be a Venice-inspired riverfront development for leisure, entertainment and business activities. In the Bund area of Danga Bay, buildings will showcase Malaysia's rich history and heritage.
Designed to be the premiere lifestyle destination, Danga Bay also features attractions such as leisure activities and a selection of international dining choices, the popular Danga Bay Convention Centre and plans for a Xintiandi concept dining complex.
Tebrau Bay is the focus of the third development area. With direct access to the major Eastern Dispersal Link expressway, Tebrau Bay serves as the northern gateway to the waterfront city. It will also feature a mix of corporate and lifestyle facilities.
Tebrau Bay will be home to the planned marina basin modelled on Sydney's Darling Harbour.
"What we aim to develop is an integrated reference city which involves tourism, financial, residential and commercial facilities. It's a mix of everything, like what you see in any waterfront city in the world," Lim says.
The massive waterfront development valued at HK$353.05 billion will be launched in phases over a span of 25 years. Promising to be a great venue for knowledge exchange and industry collaborations, the development has attracted the interest of investors and developers alike. IWH determines the size of the land per investor or developer, depending on their capacity to undertake a project.
"Aside from urban planning for the waterfront city, our role is to also bring in investors and developers from all over the world to cultivate a cosmopolitan environment," Lim says.
Locally, IWH has teamed up with Tropicana Corporation on a HK$6.94 billion high-end mixed development project in the eastern corridor of Johor Bahru. The joint venture project will pave the way for the construction of shopping malls, hotels, specialist hospitals, hypermarkets and schools.
IWH also inked a heads of agreement with developer CapitaLand and Singapore's state investment arm Temasek to jointly acquire and develop land in Danga Bay for HK$1.94 billion. In the joint venture, IWH holds 40 per cent, CapitaLand at 51 per cent, and Temasek, 9 per cent.
"We want to attract different investors and developers for the different locations in Iskandar waterfront," Lim says.
International firms have expressed interest in the waterfront developments as well. Danga Bay has attracted many international developers, one of which is Country Garden. Recognised as one of China's biggest property developers, Country Garden has acquired 22.26 hectares of waterfront land in Danga Bay valued at HK$2.2 billion. Country Garden's land acquisition is the first and biggest investment to date by a mainland Chinese company in Zone A of Iskandar.
Country Garden has already embarked on township developments in Kajang and Rawang in Malaysia in 2012 and sees the move to Iskandar as a way to extend its property products to a wider range of customers.
IWH is optimistic that the entry of Country Garden will bring in more investors and developers from Guangzhou, Shenzhen, the rest of the mainland and Hong Kong. To date, IWH has observed an influx of property investors - for commercial, residential and hotel buildings - coming in from the mainland.
The company has also teamed up with one of Australia's leading property developers, Walker Corporation, to develop an exclusive, fully gated residential estate modelled on the Hope Island Resort on the Gold Coast called Senibong Cove. Occupying more than 84 hectares of waterfront land, the development will offer 2,000 cluster homes, semi-detached homes, bungalows, apartments and condominiums.
IWH is open to more partnership opportunities with local and international companies to further develop signature projects that will define the emerging waterfront city.
"Given the magnitude of the project, we're not looking for any specific investor or developer," Lim says. "What we want are partners who can bring in multinational companies here to add value to us and also the existing partners."
Business hub of the future
Given the cosmopolitan touch of these renowned developers, IWH is bullish that multinational companies will locate in the waterfront development to capitalise on one of its best-selling propositions: proximity to Singapore without exorbitant real estate prices. IWH also offers tailor-made incentives for companies per industry.
With the planned construction of a metro rail transit line between Singapore and Johor Bahru by 2019, the waterfront development would be an ideal location for companies to manage businesses between the two bustling economic hubs.
"This economic zone is booming and attracting migration from Malaysia and the region. We see many talented Malaysians leaving for Hong Kong and Singapore but with this development, they are all coming back. We brought back the brains," Lim says.
As an additional bonus, the government grants a preferential flat tax rate of 15 per cent for returning Malaysians working and living in Johor Bahru and Iskandar. These workers can avail of the incentive by applying through their employers.
"We want to attract companies and subsequently, their employees to find a home in the new Johor Bahru. There is something for everyone here," Lim says.
Iskandar Waterfront Holdings (IWH)