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‘We are creating a lifestyle’

   
The Edge Malaysia, City & Country, April 22, 2002
Stories by Sreerema Banoo

Enthusiastic and passionate about YTL Land and Development Bhd’s 294-acre Sentul project, Tan Sri Francis Yeoh who is managing director of YTL Corp Bhd (YTL Land and Development is a subsidiary of YTL Corp) bares his thoughts on the challenges and prospects ahead.

Taking over from Taiping Consolidated
“When it [Taiping Consolidated] was under Section 176, I had known [former chairman of Taiping Consolidated, now chairman of YTL Land and Development Datuk] Sulaiman [Manan] for a long time so he thought I would be a good partner. All things being equal, he knew of my dreams to create an Orchard Road of sorts. So when he was in trouble, he came to see me and asked if we could do something together. Because of the long-term interests of the shareholders of Taiping Con, I committed to do both. One was to take over the hotel and shopping complexes [and the other] was Sentul Raya.

The Sentul project and urban renewal
Sentul means we are going to claim one chunk of real estate in the city and turn it into a fantastic green lung and a park and a fantastic environment for people to live in the city.

From the point of view of the potential, I love it. As you know, we can turn even a red light district like Bukit Bintang into Bintang Walk with trees. Pangkor Laut, voted by Condé Nast as the second best island in the world, is all trees and we did not touch those two-million-year-old forest trees. [And now] in the midst of the city, there is the potential of building a park.

As I looked at the micro details of Sentul, I realised that Sentul is the microcosm of Malaysia’s best. It is Petaling Street, Kampung Baru and Sentul itself put together. If you try to look at the colours and the energy, it is there. All it needs is to be reshaped and revitalised like all things... like Bukit Bintang before Bintang Walk.

We are creating quite a lifestyle [in Sentul]. If you look at the coffee shops, shops selling spices, dim sum joints... the commercial development will be oriented more towards that kind of life.

On the Sentul address
I love it. Sentul is a tree and I love it. I don't have this stigma thing [about the address]. If I see it as a hindrance I won't call it Sentul East and Sentul West. To me, it is strange to find anything yucky.

Scrapping of golf course causes furore
I don't blame them because most people think golf course homes are more valuable than non-golf course homes, unless you explain to them that a park home is much, much more valuable than a golf course. The only thing is there is no precedence. No developer wants to give a park for people... [land] is too precious.

Putting the past behind
I am very excited now that we have solved the past [problems]. Yes, most of the issues have been resolved. What can be resolved has been resolved. If it cannot be resolved, what can we do? We owe it to people to explain it.

It will take time. I think what they want to know is if YTL is committed to this property. There is no doubt that YTL is committed to this and we are not running away from this project and we are going to commit to this park concept.

Quite a number of people who bought properties have put their money in the new properties and we are giving them a 10 per cent discount.

Our track record so far is that everything we do, we give value. Pantai Hillpark was launched at RM112 psf, at its peak it went to over RM400 psf. Today it is back to RM200 psf to RM300 psf... but it is two to three times higher [than the launch price].

It is the same with Bintang Walk, once you put in the trees, after six months you see the rents start to improve, people start to reinvest... at least RM200 million to RM300 million of new investment has come into Bintang Walk.

It takes a while, but when people see it and feel it... when it is palpable, people will come along.

Future Sentul
I think I would be over-optimistic if I. said it will become like Central Park... probably more like SoHo New York. People are younger and more vibrant. We like to look at it as a very exciting property.

So we hope with Sentul, people will come back and live in the city. The city will be more vibrant if there are more people living in it.




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