Property
A vision city emerges in Penang
Joseph Wong 
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The excitement over the RM13 bil Aspen Vision City (AVC) in mainland Penang, being jointly developed by home-grown Aspen Group and Ikano Pte Ltd, is growing among consumers and the state’s populace.

The unveiling of the township project kicked off with the opening of the 4.8ha Central Island Park in October, located just after the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge (Second Penang Bridge) in Batu Kawan, with the developer promising that the pace of implemention will ensure the project will soon become a reality.

Aspen Group’s 99ha flagship master city mixed development project is on track and will soon be completed, says its president and Group CEO Datuk Murly Manokharan.

For example, the commercial component, Vervea, is expecting to obtain the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC) in December this year while the first IKEA store in the northern part of Malaysia will open its doors in 2019, two years ahead of schedule.

Christian Rojkjaer, managing director of IKEA Southeast Asia, says it is likely to open even earlier, on March 14 from the earlier March 28.

With the first phase of AVC, which includes the Central Island Park, Vervea shop office and IKEA Batu Kawan store, nearing completion, Murly says the development, being the third satellite city in the state, has to look carefully into its future transportation needs as this feature will be a focal point for the project.

AVC is one of the largest integrated mixed developments in the region, primed to be the nexus of northern Malaysia.

As the master developer, Aspen has already attracted Vittoria Financial Centre, Columbia Asia Medical Centre, Viluxe Designer Bungalows, a business hotel, an international school and office towers, along with a transportation hub to the development.

Approvals from the federal authorities for the RM8.4bil Bayan Lepas light rail transit (LRT) are expected to be obtained and this will see AVC boasting an LRT station on site, possibly the first outside the Klang Valley.

 

Island-mainland LRT route

“The site has already been chosen,” he tells FocusM, confident that it is not a matter of if the station will be built but when.

The state and federal governments are finally seeing eye-to-eye and the advent of an LRT line serving the mainland side of Penang will be a boost for AVC, he says.

An observer says mapping out the transportation requirements of such a big development is crucial as more of AVC’s component blocks are completed, else it could become a “transportation nightmare” for residents, shoppers and visitors alike.

AVC is directly linked to the island by the Second Penang Bridge and the rest of the country by the North-South Expressway. The population growth could also prove to be an important factor in the development of the project.

Batu Kawan itself is about 6,000ha and is estimated to have a population of 60,000 once it is fully developed, says Murly, pointing out that the masterplan has already mapped out the transportation needs.

“With the unparalleled connectivity and first-class infrastructure and amenities, AVC will be readily connected to the entire 6.5 million population in the northern region of Malaysia.

“With all the key catalysts and the investments from various business partners and key industry players, it is able to bring in ample job opportunities, tourist presence, economic advancement and investment opportunities.

 

Added investments

“Located at a prominent locale of Batu Kawan, AVC offers an edge to home buyers and property investors as well as the various businesses that will be blossoming in this appealing destination.

“We believe all the commercial activities in AVC will create a new vitality and further stimulate the already vigorous economic activities in the state,” he says.

Murly says over 2,000 units of residential units have been planned for AVC and to date about 1,200 homes have been delivered with over 80% sold.

The price range of the properties during the launch was between RM400,000 and RM600,000.

 

The joint venture partners have invested RM105 mil in the first phase of the Central Island Park project.

That includes the land cost and softscape such as flower plants, shrubs, trees, flower beds and landscaping.

They will invest another RM45 mil for the second phase of the park in the next five years, he says.

Murly points out that with the opening of the park, people are already using it for recreational activities.

“We are getting phone calls from people asking if they can use the park for wedding photos,” he laughs.

Rojkjaer says the same is true for IKEA with requests from various quarters asking if they could take a study tour of the work site.

“We have taken a number of people on such tours as this helps build a good rapport with the community,” he says.

IKEA Batu Kawan, with its 433,000 sq ft of space, will offer well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them, he says.

The showroom will feature dozens of inspirational room settings, a market hall to provide everything from cookware to candles and a restaurant that will serve the store’s signature Swedish meatballs.

A feature will be a supervised children’s play area to give parents the time to shop with everything in the store available to be taken home the same day, he says.

Christian Olofsson, shopping centre and mixed-use development director of IKEA Southeast Asia, says the shopping centre, which will be integrated to the IKEA store like all its other outlets, is progressing on track.

“We have a name for the shopping centre which will be revealed at a later date. It is a name in Swedish whose meaning will be synonymous with Batu Kawan,” he says.

The IKEA in Mutiara Damansara is integrated with the recently rebranded IPC, while IKEA in Cheras is allied with MyTown Shopping Centre and IKEA in Johor with Toppen Shopping Centre.

“The shopping centre in Batu Kawan will be connected to the other mixed developments in AVC, making the journey from home to shop to offices and other lifestyle amenities as convenient and seamless as possible.

“IKEA Batu Kawan and the shopping centre will become a real community hub – a meeting place that provides a fun day out for the many people of northern Malaysia,” says Rojkjaer.

 

Marriott AVC

Marriott AVC has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Marriott International, appointing Aloft Hotel as the hotel operator for AVC.

Aloft Hotel in AVC will be the first international branded hotel in Batu Kawan offering 308 rooms within a 30-storey tower. The hotel is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2023, says Murly.

Catering to modern travellers and holiday makers, the amenities and facilities of the hotel include a swimming pool, fitness centre, meeting rooms, ballrooms, restaurants and bar, says Marriott International (Asia Pacific) development director Andree Susilo.

The four-star hotel will be sited in a mixed development and integrated with Vogue Lifestyle Residence, Vogue Piazza and office suites, he says.

It will also have direct access to the regional integrated shopping centre and IKEA Batu Kawan.

He notes that the hotel can also tap into Batu Kawan’s industrial zone as there is no upscale hotel in close proximity as yet. FocusM



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 310.