KUALA LUMPUR: FOREST City in Johor will have an integrated public transportation system that can provide seamless travel for residents and visitors, while protecting the environment.
It will likely incorporate light rail transit, electric vehicles and water taxis, and have links to the proposed high-speed rail (HSR) network connecting Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
“We have a mass public transport plan for Forest City and we are studying the best modes of public transportation,” said Country Garden PacificView Sdn Bhd (CGPV) executive director Datuk Md Othman Yusof.
In an exclusive interview with the New Straits Times Press group, he said the integration of road, rail and water transport in Forest City was necessary due to the strategic importance and scale of the development.
“One of the earliest things we built here was a transport hub that included a bus terminal. We are expanding from there to provide convenience to the residents and working population in Forest City,” he said.
Othman said as Forest City was a sustainable low-carbon city development, CGPV wanted to increase the use of electric-based vehicles and have fewer cars on the road, thus the need for proper network integration.
“The size of the transportation hub will depend on the requirement in Forest City. We are planning for it to be linked with the planned high-speed rail (HSR) network.
“There will be seamless travel. People in Forest City can head for either the Kuala Lumpur city centre or Singapore with ease,” he added.
Othman said CGPV was also planning to build a ferry terminal to connect with Singapore, which is two kilometres away from Forest City.
Future plans to attract more tourists to Forest City and Johor include developments in Gelang Patah, which will house three golf courses and luxury villas.
“The first golf course will open in May 2018. We are investing almost RM400 million to develop it,” he said.
Launched in 2014, the US$100 billion Forest City mega-project is administered by CGPV, a joint venture between Guangdong-based Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, China’s third largest homebuilder, and Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian company.
Touted as the “eco-smart city of the future”, Forest City was envisioned by Sultan of Johor
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, as “a balanced development where the people of Johor will benefit”.
CGPV seeks to attract diverse multinationals from the retail and hospitality sectors, including investors and property companies for the development of eight key industries in Forest City.
The eight industries are education, e-commerce, foreign investment, tourism, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions), entrepreneurship, financial services and retirement destination.
The company is setting up show galleries in the Middle East, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and Taiwan to attract global investors and home buyers.
'A township that supports futuristic urban lifestyle'
Question: What are you developing currently?
Answer: There are a lot of activities happening right now on the first island, which is our Phase 1 development.
We are building 20,000 apartment units. We have also started building our first international school here, which is private American boarding school Shattuck-St Mary’s, and the Industrialised Building System (IBS) factory. Phase 1 of the IBS factory will be completed in May next year and opening is in August.
We have opened the duty-free shops on the business strip next to Phoenix Hotel, and it is attracting a lot of tourists.
The checkpoint with the Customs Department is currently running. This year is also quite important as we did the ground-breaking of our iconic building, Carnelian Tower. The 45-storey building will be completed by 2020 and is currently the tallest tower in Forest City.
Q: What is the Shattuck-St Mary’s development all about?
A: CGPV is investing RM935 million to build the institution in three phases. It will offer pre-school to high school syllabi, according to the American curriculum.
Q: How many IBS factories do you plan to build and what would be the investment?
A: We are looking at setting up six factories to cater for Forest City. The investment for this will be RM2.6 billion.
Q: Why is Forest City focusing on IBS?
A: The IBS is developed using European technology. Although slightly costlier, it is a faster way of producing things. In the long run, it will be cost effective, especially when you build in bulk.
When we look at the requirement historically, we have had a very good kick-start as we sold 17,000 apartment units in one year. Obviously, we need to turn that into sales, so we will need to build those properties in three years, and IBS is the best method to get it done.
Based on our extensive experience in building hundreds of townships in China, we have seen that IBS creates a safer, more efficient work environment, and achieves a faster project completion while reducing overall costs. Our goal is to create a world-class, sustainable township in Southeast Asia that supports a futuristic urban lifestyle. Our development’s custom-designed features are holistic and sustainable, and we are committed to becoming a role model for green and smart living.
Q: What benefits can the Forest City project derive from IBS?
A: We have the volume. IBS can give you very good quality and better time frame but the cost is a bit higher. In the long term, it will be much more cost effective because of the scale of the development. Forest City is too big, so IBS is the best method.
Q: Will there be any landed properties on the island?
A: For now, we plan to have around 200 buildings once the whole development is completed. They will include residential, office, shopping malls and data centres.
Q: What is the first island about?
A: The first island is a development comprising a total of 1,100 acres. So far, we have reclaimed 700 acres, or 60 per cent, and work is ongoing. What we have here is Phoenix Hotel, apartments, our sales gallery, and show units.
Q: When will Forest City be fully developed?
A: With the current economic situation, we are anticipating 20 to 30 years. At the moment, we are reclaiming based on our need. In the future, we might change the way we develop things in Forest City. We may reclaim all the land first and then build.
Q: Forest City will have its own education hub. Will it be competing with EduCity in Iskandar Malaysia?
A: We are not competing with anybody in Johor. In fact, we are riding on the growth in EduCity and also Legoland. EduCity also needs a development like Forest City, so we are complimenting each other. We have our own market and our product offering is wide.
Q: There are some concerns regarding the local property market. A recent Bank Negara Malaysia report showed that Johor was the worst hit. Are you concerned?
A: We have the same concern. The Forest City demand cannot be constrained only to Malaysia. Last year, we sold 17,000 apartments to people from 23 countries, including Malaysia.
From day one, we were sure Forest City is an international project and not just domestic-focused.
In Johor, we see a lot of young graduates who need houses under RM400,000. On the other hand, foreigners are looking for (higher-end) houses and that creates another market. As long as you are providing products better than your peers, you can still sell them.
Q: Malaysia is facing a residential property glut, including Johor. Why are you still building?
A: Forest City looks more towards the global market. We always look at our project as the catalyst for Johor.
When you talk about a glut in the market, there is always more supply than demand. In Forest City, I don't anticipate there would be an oversupply situation. I don't think that will happen.
We are targeting a working population of more than 200,000 in Forest City by the end of the development and they will need houses to stay in. As I said, more than 90 per cent will be Malaysians. If you look at this kind of demand, you can't say there is an oversupply.