Ara Damansara a desirable address
Aliff Yusri 
Maisson represents a case study of Ara Damansara’s past and present
THE distinction between a township and an address is defined by desirability, with Ara Damansara as a prime example of the latter. It is driven by strong central planning by master developer Sime Darby Property.

The enclave also benefits from its location adjacent to more established townships such as Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya.

Its prospects have drawn industry heavyweights such as See Hoy Chan Sdn Bhd, Titijaya Land Bhd, Newfields Land Sdn Bhd and Puncakdana Sdn Bhd, banking on Ara Damansara’s connectivity and organised balance of commercial and residential components.

Property values in the surrounding area have grown accordingly, with high-rise offerings jumping from a median subsale of RM119,700 per unit in Q1 1999 to RM540,000 in the same period this year, according to the Brickz property portal.

While 1999 marked the beginning of Ara Damansara’s conversion and development under Sime UEP Development Sdn Bhd, it would be more than a decade before the township came into its own as a sought-after residential address.

A clear transition can be seen in 2011 property transactions, which saw non-landed prices multiplying four-fold from a median of RM114.68 psf in Q1 2010 to RM456.97 psf in Q1 2011.

The increase is attributed to Sime Darby Property’s re-imagination of the previously overlooked locale fronting Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang as a prestigious township, similar to the adjacent resort community of Saujana, Shah Alam.

Cantara Residences comprise 888 serviced apartment and 13 commercial units in four residential blocks

Target market

Ara Damansara’s target market comprises the upper middle-class segment, with Sime Darby Property interim COO Richard Ng saying that 62% of the developer’s purchasers are made up of married professionals and entrepreneurs.

“The township is surrounded by retail centres, shops, dining outlets, hotels, 
a hospital, an airport hypermarket, and prestigious neighbouring 
golf and country club.” – Ng

“The township is surrounded by retail centres, shops, dining outlets, hotels, a hospital, an airport hypermarket, and prestigious neighbouring golf and country clubs,” he says.

Another factor working in the area’s favour is its good connectivity, with the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang and Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP) providing accessibility to no fewer than four major routes into Kuala Lumpur.

These include the North-South Expressway (leading into the Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway), the Sprint Expressway, the Federal Highway and New Pantai Expressway (NPE).

“Ara Damansara township is also served by two LRT (light rail transit) stations in the Kelana Jaya Line Extension, namely Ara Damansara and Lembah Subang, which provide further accessibility and convenience,” says Ng.

Henry Butcher Research and Valuation notes that the majority of Ara Damansara projects completed in the early 2000’s are priced below RM600 psf, with current launches positioned above this range.

Reapfield Properties Sdn Bhd area specialist Yien Ong says: “Subsale prices are still reasonable compared to nearby residential neighbourhoods such as Bandar Utama and Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

“The launch of the Ara Damansara and Lembah Subang LRT stations last year also attracted younger buyers and tenants to move into the area.

“This rise in demand has led to a corresponding rise in value for surrounding properties, such as Eve Suite and Pacific Place.”

Product mix

“The township has a distinctive geography, with a concentration of high-rise and commercial developments to the south as you enter through Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang.” – Tong

Pacific Place, in particular, has benefited from family purchasers, says PA International Property Consultants (KL) Sdn Bhd director Wendy Tong.

These purchasers tend to be parents seeking accommodation for their children, with LRT connectivity to educational institutions in Subang Jaya and other surrounding areas as a factor.

In terms of product mix, Ara Damansara features a diverse range of residential products, including bungalows, double-storey linked and semi-detached homes, as well as apartment and condominium projects catering for every tier of the market.

“The township has a distinctive geography, with a concentration of high-rise and commercial developments to the south as you enter through Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang.

“As you move north towards the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort, however, you find more open spaces and greenery, where landed properties and gated, guarded communities hold sway,” Tong says.

As the master developer of Ara Damansara, Sime Darby Property has implemented a number of initiatives fostering community growth

As the master developer, Sime Darby Property continues to be a major player in terms of launches in Ara Damansara.

A clear differentiation can also be seen in terms of tenure between Sime Darby Property products, which tend to be freehold, and those offered by other developers in the area, the majority of which are leasehold.

Its upcoming launch, Cantara Residences, comprises 888 serviced apartment and 13 commercial units in four residential blocks, with built-ups from 646 sq ft to 2,124 sq ft and net lettable area of 36,652 sq ft respectively.

The 2.88ha project site, located 500 metres away from the Lembah Subang LRT station, is one of the few remaining undeveloped plots in Ara Damansara.

With a gross development value of RM676 mil, Cantara Residences has seen 91% and 69% uptake in Towers A and B respectively.

It is scheduled for completion in mid-2020. Prices for the residential units run from RM870 psf upwards.

Market segments

While remaining the driving force in the township’s development, Sime Darby Property’s opening up of the area to other developers has resulted in a diverse mix of product types catering for a range of market segments.

“Other notable projects in the township include Ara Hill, which features low-density living with 400 condominium units distributed over 6.5ha,” says Reapfield’s Ong.

Meanwhile, AraGreens Residences offers 5+1 bedroom layouts with built-ups of 2,274 sq ft and three car park allocations, targeted at larger families.

“Finally, Verde @ Ara Damansara has proven popular among working professionals and younger families, with 409 units transacting at an average of RM650 psf.”

One of the developers drawn to the township’s prospects, Titijaya Land, ventured into the area in 2013, purchasing a 2.44ha parcel for future development.

“We saw Ara Damansara’s potential to become a commercial hub, which would in turn increase rental demand – one of the most important considerations for investors,” says Titijaya Land executive director Charmaine Lim.

“Road widening is crucial to cater for the increasing number of vehicles due to a growing population.” – Lim

The parcel became the site of H2O Residences, comprising 1,357 small office home offices and serviced apartment units in four 15-storey blocks, with built-ups from 449 sq ft to 1,052 sq ft.

Uptake for the RM784 mil project is 70%, with Blocks A and B anticipated to be ready by October and mid-2018 respectively. Construction of Blocks C and D is set to complete by year end.

Once ready, H2O Residences’ distinctive facade, inspired by interlocking ice-cubes, is set to be a notable landmark in the township.
Price points

Price points for the project reflect Ara Damansara’s upscale outlook, ranging from RM950 psf upwards.

“Ara Damansara is considered a growth hotspot in the Klang Valley, particularly in the mid to high-end range. Working professionals and small family units are our primary target segments.

“However, road widening is crucial to cater for the increasing number of vehicles due to a growing population,” says Lim.

Maisson, a RM850 mil high-rise development comprising 1,247 serviced apartments located on Jalan PJU 1A/3, represents a case study of both Ara Damansara’s past and present.

Formerly a luxury condominium project named Platinum Damansara, the project was discontinued in 2007 by developer Dataran Mantin Sdn Bhd amid the wider economic downturn.

Taking the reins in 2014, Newfields Land turned the abandoned development into a success story, with a 99% uptake rate despite the challenges associated with such developments.

Offering existing purchasers the choice of opting out if they desired, Newfields Land completed the project in July last year, way ahead of contractual completion in March this year.

The project is now fully handed over to its buyers, with prices ranging from RM660 psf to RM850 psf.

Maisson’s turnaround can be attributed to greater demand for residential properties in Ara Damansara as the township’s connectivity and amenities matured, and initiatives by Sime Darby Property as master developer.

This includes the piloting of a “safe city” programme in 2009, which established a 24-hour surveillance network with closed-circuit television cameras linked to the local police station.

The township’s bustling commercial centres are also frequently cited by residents and developers as a pull factor.

Nightlife destination

Oasis Damansara, a 34.4-ha commercial hub built in collaboration with the Sime Darby Brunsfield Group, has become a popular nightlife destination.

It has establishments such as Rakuzen, San Nae Deul, and Tom, Dick & Harry’s to offer a varied dining experience.

The hub also incorporates business, residential and lifestyle components through Oasis Corporate Park and Oasis Square Serviced Apartments, as well as its upcoming Oasis Rio mixed development and Oasis Autonexus automotive one-stop centre.

While the commercial outlook remains rosy for Ara Damansara, the oversupply of retail and office space in the Klang Valley has affected nearby operators, such as HeroMarket Nova Saujana.

Launched in March last year, the retail chain closed its Saujana outlet after less than 16 months, despite prime frontage along Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang (also known as Jalan Lapangan Terbang Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah) opposite Citta Mall.

Analysts attribute the closure to accessibility concerns, citing the absence of convenient ingress from Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang and an awkward access route from inside Saujana proper, as well as parking availability issues.

“While HeroMarket faced challenges, Village Grocer at Citta Mall and Jaya Grocer in Evolve Mall continue to do well, indicating the potential for commercial products in Ara Damansara proper,” concludes Ong.

From plantation to popular township

PRIOR to its rise as a popular residential enclave, Ara Damansara was part of Pilmoor Estate owned by Sime Darby Bhd.

Seeing its potential as a property asset, the group applied for conversion and development of the area through its wholly-owned subsidiary Sime Pilmoor Development Sdn Bhd in 1995.

Following Sime Darby’s merger with Golden Hope Plantations Bhd and Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd in 2007, development of the area continued under Sime Darby Property Bhd.

PA International Property Consultants (KL) Sdn Bhd head of research Evelyn Khoo says growth during Ara Damansara’s early days was driven by proximity to Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport.

As road links to surrounding areas developed, it also benefited from the development of the nearby Tropicana Golf & Country Resort.

Today, Ara Damansara is a destination in its own right, encompassing numerous commercial hubs among its diverse pull factors, such as Oasis Damansara, Citta Mall and Evolve Concept Mall.

The township is surrounded to the east by the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), to the south and west by Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang and to the north by the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort.

For retirees and the health-conscious, Ara Damansara offers proximity to a nearly unparalleled range of healthcare facilities.

These include the Ara Damansara, Subang Jaya, Tropicana and Universiti Malaya medical centres, all of which are less than 30 minutes’ drive away.

Sporting enthusiasts and socialites can also leverage on the nearby Saujana Golf & Country Club, which includes premiere hospitality facilities at Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur, as well as Tropicana Corp Bhd’s golf and country resort to the north.

Khoo notes that the only elements missing from the Ara Damansara formula are nearby educational institutions and more diverse retail stores.

The Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur in Saujana caters primarily for families of Japanese expatriates.

“Also, while Oasis Damansara serves as a nightlife hotspot, Citta Mall and Evolve Concept are primarily neighbourhood experiences,” she says.

“A wider, more upscale mix of retail options would position the area as a shopping destination as well, with a concurrent increase in footfall and population.”

In total, Ara Damansara spans 280.3ha, with 97.91ha developed directly under Sime Darby Property.

Once complete, the township will encompass 4,638 residential and 164 commercial units under Sime Darby Property alone.

Of these, 4,022 residential and 151 commercial units have already been launched to date. 

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 245.