Centrio - Pantai Hillpark's new buzzword

Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian, executive director of YTL Land

The Edge Magazine, September 11, 2006

A place for the young, hip, and trendy

YTL Land & Development Bhd can safely lay claim to having successfully refurbished the image of Pantai Dalam with its Pantai Hillpark development. It has transformed parts of a once-neglected area into a preferred address located just minutes from Kuala Lumpur's upper-end Bangsar and Pantai neighbourhoods.

Undertaken by its wholly owned subsidiary, Syarikat Kemajuan Perumahan Negara Sdn Bhd, YTL Land has come almost full circle with its urban renewal efforts here, having started out with this 90-acre site in a joint venture with Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) back in 1990.

Currently, another YTL Land subsidiary, Sentul Raya Sdn Bhd, is ready to launch its second last phase here dubbed Centrio. As such, winning the International Real Estate Federation's (Malaysian chapter) Malaysia Property Awards for best residential (high - rise) development for Andalucia is a timely honour, given that the developer will exit from this address over the next three to four years. Andalucia is a condo villa development.

Touted as a place for the young, hip and trendy, Centrio, which is planned over a 3.8-acre site, is a mixed development made up of retail outlets, boutique offices and exclusive habitats (SoHos - small office home offices).

The five blocks of SoHo units sit on top of the podium level that come with full outdoor facilities that include yoga studios, meeting rooms, swimming pool facilities, gymnasium as well as multipurpose common areas that can be used as a relaxation deck, play park or BBQ area. The podium deck sits above the office and retail level of Centrio.

With a gross development value estimated at RMI00 million, sizes will range from 727 to 1, 371 sq ft for the 268 SoHos, 509 to 2, 510 sq ft for the 24 boutique offices and 628 to 2, 281 sq ft for the 21 retail lots. The retail portion of the development would be retained to give it the right tenant mix, says Datuk Yeah Seok Kian, executive director of YTL Land, who adds that it would mostly feature restaurants. A launch of the project is expected in the last quarter.

So far, 2, 000 people have registered their interest for Centrio, with some of them made up of customers of its earlier phases in the Pantai Hillpark series, says Yeoh. "The needs of some of these people have changed, their children have grown, so you find parents wanting their children to stay close to them," he says.

The units, Yeoh adds, are designed to suit the fancies of the young and,trendy. "Those keen on these units would typically be the young and hip, for instance, interior designers and those in advertising agencies. This is based on feedback and on research under-taken on focus groups. They don't need units with 3 - or 4-bedrooms because most of these people are single,"he says.

The SoHo units features a modular design, where all the units are placed in random inter- locking configurations. "It's built like Lego blocks and facade-wise, no two units are alike. There is a lot of variation; for instance, some units come with double - volume space while others with slope gardens or roof gardens.

The lower units have a little garden patch and private car park, and some of these units are L- shaped, so you would be able to enjoy two views from a single unit," he says. All these design elements are the result of research on what people want. "This is from feedback on preferences, and it reflects our buyer profile, which is not the typical home- buyer. Instead, they are more on the artistic side, and they would appreciate something like this," Yeoh explains.

While Centrio marks the second last phase, the final phase covering some 40-acres dubbed Pantai Peak will be made up of some 223 semi-detached and bungalow homes. This is expected to be launched next year.

YTL has changed the landscape of Pantai Dalam with its Pantai Hillpark development

Pantai Hillpark history Pantai Dalam is an address known for its mix of extremes where housing type and resident profile are concerned. At one end, you have the kampung environs and squatter settlements, and on the other, you have Pantai Hillpark, an address known to be popular among professionals, as well as a select number of celebrities and politicians.

In 1990, YTL Land entered into a joint venture with DBKL to develop the 90-acre tract. At that time, DBKL mooted the idea for low-cost homes to be built on land that it owned. But YTL went against the flow of things when it suggested that while some of it could be developed into low-cost homes, there should be some allocation for higher-end development as well due to its strategic location.

"Although the surroundings was made up of kampung and squatter settlements, accessibility is fantastic. We call it the homemaker's Golden Triangle, where you have Pantai, Bangsar and then Pantai Dalam," says Yeoh. YTL went on to build 1,140 low-cost units called Kondo Rakyat in Pantai Dalam to re-house squatter families. The design and concept of these units were superior to typical low-cost flats and were a hit with a ceiling price of only RM25, 000.

When it came to offering its medium to medium high-end range of products however, YTL realised the need early on to stay away from typical products, mainly because of the poor perception of the area. "We knew if we did the cookie cutter-type development, nobody was going to buy. So, we came up with the idea of 4-storey apartments with lifts. We made all the units look different by playing with the windows -some came with French windows, some louvred, some unlouvred - so that buyers would feel their homes are unique.

The first phase was low density, with only 20 units per acre," Yeoh recalls. Pantai Hillpark, with its signature entrance arch, carries a distinct Mediterranean flavour, inspired by the palaces and villas of Moorish architecture in Spain. Yeoh explains the reason for replicating the architecture in Andalusia, a province in the south of Spain, at Pantai Hillpark: "If you went around KL then, you would see many homes with those Moorish arches and so we decided to take it to town.

Tan Sri Francis Yeoh and I went to Marbella and studied the architecture and brought it back here before we launched the first phase in 1991." While initially there was resistance given the address, its competitive pricing and product variation helped sell the products. And apart from selling well, it garnered support by way of repeat buyers for its subsequent phases. In fact, the launch of Phase II in March 1995 was a big hit, where all 747 units were sold out on launch day itself, with eager buyers queuing up from as early as 7am, recalls Yeoh.

Oustanding development.....Andalucia at Pantai Hillpark

Award-winning Andalucia

Made up of 216 condo villas in 12 blocks of 4- to 7 -storeys over a 5.21-acre site, this phase was launched in March 2002 and completed in October 2004. Buyers of Andalucia comprised a good number of repeat buyers of previous offerings in Pantai Hillpark, according to Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian, executive director of YTL Land & Development Bhd. The units offered were the top of the range in the sense that the developer corrected all the earlier mistakes.

"We made sure we didn't repeat some of the past unpopular decisions in designing the homes. For instance, we undertook improvements such as the inclusion of store rooms and powder rooms and the built-ups also got bigger."

As such, the prices also reflected this "improved" product if units in the first phase were pegged at RM 112 psf in 1991, the Andalucia units were pegged at RM350 psf when they were launched in 2002. The target market, Yeoh says, was mainly "professionals with means". In fact, by that time, it was already a popular address among celebrities, politicians and even expatriates. The units with an average built-up of 1,300 sq ft were pegged from RM298, 000 and selling prices for these now are about RM450, 000.

Andalucia won the International Real Estate Federation Malaysia Property Awards for best high-rise residential development. Among its features was the clear delineation of areas for structured vehicular and pedestrian traffic which helped ensure safe access for children to the recreational deck.

The external ground of the ground floor units was fenced up into private gardens and corridors were eliminated in the interior layout to create better living room space. Development and construction methods, community benefits and environmental impact, financials and marketing were the other criteria used in the judging process.

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