Johor Baru residents are facing exciting times ahead as their city is being transformed from its hodge-podge landscape of uneven development today into a world-class metropolis of tomorrow.
Last November, in conjunction with his 57th birthday celebrations, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar officially launched the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD) at the Persada Johor International Convention Centre. Johor Corporation (JCorp), as master developer, plans to turn the 101ha IIBD site into a “metropolis of international standard”.
Simultaneously launched was a mixed-use development called Coronation Square, the first project under IIBD, with a gross development value (GDB) of RM3 billion, to be completed in 10 years. It comprises six towers (a hotel, a hotel with residences, an office, high-rise medical suites and two serviced apartment towers) and a mall with an estimated gross floor area of 80,000 sq ft. It will be yet another landmark in a city now mushrooming with other mega landmarks reaching for the sky.
This new IIBD master plan is now on public display at Komtar JBCC until July 3. According to JCorp president and chief executive, Datuk Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim, Johor residents are invited to see the plan for themselves and give their views on four major issues — business, green, heritage and connectivity. “We want Johoreans to play their role and be part of this development,” he had said.
In respect of land use, IIBD will not be dominated by its commercial area (51 per cent) because there is also significant room for green and open spaces (21 per cent), institutions (14 per cent), residential areas (nine per cent) and parking spaces (two per cent).
Kamaruzzaman said the cost of the IIBC transformation plan ranged from RM20 billion to RM25 billion. No deadline has been set for the completion of the entire transformation plan. The area covered by the IIBC is bordered by Jalan Ayer Molek (in the west), Jalan Tun Sri Lanang (in the south), Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (in the east) and Jalan Seri Lalang (in the north).
The transformation plan will bear in mind the “rich tapestry of heritage and culture which reflects Johor Baru’s rich history dating over 150 years”, said Kamaruzzaman. Steps will be taken to safeguard, preserve and conserve the old parts of Johor Baru city, allowing for a beautiful blend of the old and new.
He assured the public that JCorp would continue to engage with all stakeholders, including the Johor Baru City Council, Johor Economic Planning Unit and Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) to ensure the smooth implementation of the project in the years ahead.
Johor Baru residents have long endured their city of haphazard narrow streets with old shophouses, and in recent years, dotted by newly-built structures such as Komtar, JBCC and City Square.
An attempt by the authorities to beautify and upgrade the dirty and smelly Sungai Segget a decade ago met with limited success. In late 2013, the reopening of Sungai Segget was undertaken through the JB Transformation blueprint of IRDA, in collaboration with the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB). Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.
Not many Malaysians know that Johor Baru was formerly known as Tanjung Puteri or Iskandar Puteri.
Founded in 1855, it was renamed “Johor Baru” in 1862, becoming the capital of the Johor sultanate and its administration centre. Modern development came during the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar. Johor Baru was granted city status on Jan 1, 1994.
Nik Ramly (not his real name), a city planner who knows a great deal about the IIBD transformation plan, told me recently that the IIBD was envisaged as a liveable city in the same class as Vancouver, Sydney and Newcastle of England.
It is planned to be a smart city, integrating the features of a people city, a green city, a connected city, a knowledge city, a business city and a creative city. It is a city not of brick and mortar, but a city with a soul, “the soul of Bangsa Johor”, he said.
Within its 101ha site, there will be a retail district, financial district and cultural district, with sufficient room for a new commercial development, lifestyle development, transit station, waterfront, high street and health hub. Existing landmarks, such as Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim, will be preserved as heritage sites.
The IIBD site lies in the heartland of the much larger MBJB, measuring 21,468 ha. The latter is within Flagship A (one of the five Flagships of Iskandar Malaysia), consisting of the JB City Centre, JB Central Business District (now transformed and renamed as IIBD), JB Conservation & Heritage Zone, and Danga Bay.
Iskandar Malaysia, established on Nov 8, 2006, has an even larger area, 2,217 sq km in size. It is administered by IRDA under the IRDA Act 2007 (Act 664).
In short, IIBD’s future development must take into consideration various legislation and instruments already in place. These include (other than Act 664) the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172), the Local Government Act 1976 (Act 171), the Johor Structure Plan, the MPJB Local Plan, and two Comprehensive Development Plans (CDP 2006-2025 and CDPii 2014-2025) prepared under Act 664.
MBJB is the local authority under Act 171 and the local planning authority under Act 172.
Whether IIBD will be made a distinctive legal entity in the future remains to be seen.
Salleh Buang formerly served the Attorney-General’s Chambers before he left for practice, the corporate sector and, then, academia