JB city centre plays catch-up

New developments to the west of Johor Baru’s city centre may have stolen the thunder in recent years, but the centre of town is defined to capitalise on its prime location and growing transport links becoming a residential and business hot spot. Within the last of a four-part series on Iskandar Malaysia, Lee Xin En looks at plans in the pipeline for the town centre.

Johor Baru’s city centre is well known to many Singaporeans as an energetic, low-cost shopping and eating destination just throughout the Causeway.

But the precinct, using its haphazard streets and ageing malls, is showing its age – and lags behind slick new neighbouring areas like Iskandar Puteri and Danga Bay.

This really is set to alter next couple of years, as plans to rejuvenate the region have now been emerge motion, you start with the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD).

The RM20 billion (S$6.48 billion) plan, launched in November 2015, aims to transform the town centre into an international business district over the following decade by improving infrastructure.

Last Tuesday, the very first public infrastructure project to improve accessibility through pedestrian bridges was unveiled.

A 268m link bridge will connect JB Sentral railway station and bus terminal Princess Cove to Persada Annexe, an extension of the existing Persada Convention Centre, that is part of Coronation Square. Construction has not yet begun, but the bridge is expected to be be completed and operational by the finish of next year.

A flyover will even stretch from the Tebrau Corridor, an up-and-coming area east of JB city centre into the town, connecting it to IIBD and Coronation Square.

The jewel of the IIBD is the upcoming Coronation Square, that will have six towers and will be produced by Coronade Properties. With a gross development value of RM3 billion, the project will feature two office blocks, two condominium and serviced apartment towers, a resort and a tower for medical suites.

Construction started in January on three of the towers: the medical suites tower, one office block and one residential tower, estimated to have 480 high-end units.

A Coronade Properties spokesman said the business has “robust financials” and is optimistic about sales, regardless of the perception of oversupply in Johor. The firm is indeed bullish that it’s building the residential tower even before selling any unit – mainly given its prime location in the heart of the town centre.

The spokesman added that even with Iskandar Puteri’s growth, “there’s no issue with having two city centres “.”Logically, when you yourself have linkages to cities, these gateway cities tend to do well… the standard city centre has been around for quite a long time, and it’s opportune for it to be revitalised,” he said.

While one developer is building an international business district, another wants to create Johor’s new central business district.

Mainboard-listed Astaka Holdings launched its RM5.4 billion development One Bukit Senyum in 2013, which it expects to complete by 2021. Located at the crossroads of the Tebrau expressway and Jalan Lingkaran Dalam in the town centre, the development will house Johor Bahru City Council’s new headquarters, an office building, a five-star hotel, a shopping mall and residences.

Its first phase of development is residential: The Astaka, comprising two towers that will be 65 storeys and 70 storeys tall, includes a total of 438 units and will soon be completed next year. Significantly more than 300 units have now been sold; Singaporeans make-up 55 per cent of buyers.

While most are bullish on the town centre’s prospects, some projects have had to alter course amid the rapid changes in the region.

Rowsley, a strong controlled by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, has tweaked its plans. Its Vantage Bay project was in 2015 repositioned from the residential, office and retail project into a healthcare hub.

Mr Ho Kiam Kheong, Rowsley’s executive director and managing director for real estate, said the firm is dealing with Thomson Medical on the healthcare project.

Meanwhile, Rowsley opened a cluster of food outlets and a pharmacy at Vantage Bay last November which includes helped “to earn some recurring income from the rental of space to tenants”, he said.


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