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MetroCity to enhance development in Kuching
20 July 2013
Chong Kia Hoi (CKH) Realty Sdn Bhd`s decision to develop the MetroCity project, worth over RM1 billion in gross development value, at Matang would certainly give the local property market a huge boost in the next five years.

Managing Director Chong Kia Hoi said this at a press conference held Thursday in CKH Realty Sdn Bhd`s office at Palm Road here to brief the media on the progress of the MetroCity mega project and an overview of the development in the State.

He added that the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) development has been gaining momentum and attracted foreign investments worth RM3.75 billion so far with more projects likely to take off soon.

"Sarawak, as one of the nation`s main regional development areas under the 10th Malaysia Plan, will see more funds being allocated and channelled into the State to sustain continued development in all sectors," said Chong, adding that such developments would mean more greater need for workers` accommodation, housing, offices, retail facilities and other related amenities.

When asked why CKH`s projects seem to be centred in and around Kuching city, Chong said that they chose Kuching as it is the State`s capital and will continue to lead the Sarawak market despite the SCORE projects shifting attention and investment focus towards the central area of Sarawak.

"In terms of commercial shops, Kuching leads with over 1200 units under construction for 2012 followed by 702 units in Miri, 545 units in Sibu, 485 units in Bintulu and 321 units in Samarahan ," he added.

To a question whether CKH had any plans to expand to other cities in the state, Chong disclosed thar for the time being, CKH would focus on developing MetroCity as Matang`s new township for the next five years.

"However, if opportunities arise elsewhere, we would consider but our main focus would still be Kuching," he said.

Meanwhile, he also noted that prices of commercial properties in Kuching have been on the uptrend mainly because of rises in building material costs as well labour cost. He also lamented the difficulty in getting workers in the building construction sector.

"Literally, workers are calling the shots now. They are demanding for a better working environment and higher wages," he said.

"In addition, occupational health and safety compliance means additional costs for the developers in the provision of safety equipment and fittings to ensure a safe working environment for their workers," he explained, adding that this has also caused construction costs to rise by 25% now than 5 years ago.

Chong explained that material prices are also increasing, while diminishing supply of land in prime areas like MetroCity, which is less than 5km from the city centre has caused land prices to shoot up astronomically.

He also admitted that the demand for residential and commercial properties has also increased as a result of population growth, foreign investments, rural-to-urban migration, and rising standard of living.

The lower rates now being offered by commercial banks also helped to stimulate growth in demand for real estate investment.

Speculative activities are present but somewhat less extreme when compared to other thriving cities in Malaysia, he said when asked whether speculation was also a factor driving prices of commercial properties in Kuching.

"One of the reasons is that Sarawak`s property ownership laws are quite stringent while another could be the hike in Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) by the government to curb speculation in the property markets."

Chong explained that banks are also quite stringent in their financing of commercial properties, especially if it is the borrower`s third commercial property.

"A case in point is the purchasers of our MetroCity commercial shops. Close to 90% of the 250 units sold to date have been to owner-occupier or self-proprietors," he said adding that the India Street group of merchants are a prime example, having invested over RM50 million in MetroCity shops.

"Most if not all of them will be operating their respective businesses and trade at MetroCity in the near future and we are confident that MetroCity`s commercial district will be vibrant and bustling with activities upon completion."

This augurs well for everyone, be it investors or business owners, especially with the recent announcement of building a third bridge to connect Petra Jaya and the city centre by Infrastructure Development and Communication Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong sometime last month.

"That announcement (of the third bridge project) is certainly good news for residents and business owners in Matang and Petra Jaya in general as Housing Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg recently commended the project as it would provide an alternative route for commuters and divert traffic away from Satok Bridge."

"Matang is an area with the fastest economic and population growth and building the new bridge is part of the government`s master plan to improve traffic and public transportation flow," said Chong.

The third bridge project, which would include the building and expansion of surrounding link roads, will link MetroCity all the way to Jalan Stephen Yong, Batu Kawah and passing through Jalan Stapok.

"This ties in well with our ongoing roads and infrastructure works including the upgrading of Jalan Matang Lama into a 46-metre wide four-lane carriageway with signalised junction. The government has also completed several similar projects at Jalan Matang, Jalan Kubah

Ria, Jalan Tun Rahman-Jalan Matang, Jalan Pusat Pentadbiran Persekutuan and Jalan Masjid Baru Matang," added Chong. "All these mean excellent accessibility to MetroCity as Matang`s new township."

As part of CKH`s Corprate Social Resposiblity, CKH will construct a RM20-million Matang Central building for a transit for all urban transportation public buses on a 2.7-hectre piece of land at MetroCity.

"We are investing significantly in the construction of new roads, boulevards and walkways while upgrading existing main roads on the northern and eastern boundaries of MetroCity. Situated in the heart of the township is Matang Sentral, an integrated city area transit bus terminal for which we are awaiting final endorsement from the authorities before commencing construction works."

Chong said that Matang Sentral complemented the state government`s effort to reduce traffic congestion through the promotion of public transportation to the public.

"Another component of MetroCity is in education which we recently signed with UNITAR International University with regards to our urban college site, which is approved for a 6-storey education/college building," said Chong.

"Besides the college site, we have a site approved for a kindergarten and another 4-acre plot of land approved for educational purposes and we feel that this site is suitable for a private international school to complement the two existing international schools in Kuching."

(Taken from the New Sarawak Tribune)

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