THE old Kuala Lumpur has rich topographical details and among the most charming is the old coffee estate on Weld Hill, now the busy street called Jalan Raja Chulan, which extends 2 to 3 kilometres.
Among the buildings in Jalan Raja Chulan from early 1990s that are still standing today are Muzium Telekom and St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
The St Andrew’s church was built in 1917 and opened its door in 1918. In its early days the colonial building was also known as the International Church of Kuala Lumpur because of the large number of expatriates who worshipped there.
Muzium Telekom, formerly known as the Central Battery Manual Telephone Exchange was built in 1928. There were plans in the early 1980s to redevelop it into a multi-level telecommunications complex but it didn’t take off.
Another landmark that still exists in Jalan Raja Chulan is Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve (now known as KL Forest Eco-Park) which was gazetted in 1906 with a land area of 17.5 hectares.
According to history, Bukit Nanas was the site of a fort in the 19th century. Pineapples (“nanas” in Malay) were planted all around the fort to discourage attackers, hence the name Bukit Nanas (Pineapple Hill) today.
Bukit Nanas is one of the oldest permanent forest reserve in the country and the only remaining tropical rainforest in the heart of the Kuala Lumpur city centre. Although the size of the forest reserve is smaller now (9.3ha) as some land was used to develop KL Tower and for other purposes, it is still a popular spot for nature lovers.
The KL Tower, one of the tallest telecommunications structures in the world (at 421 metres), was opened in 1996. During its construction, builders took special care to construct a retaining wall around a 100-year-old jelutong tree (Dyera costulata) in the forest reserve. The tower was moved at a cost of RM430,000 to avoid harming the monumental tree.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Jalan Tengah off Jalan Raja Chulan/Jalan Sultan Ismail was home to St Mary’s School, a missionary school established in 1912. It used to offer kindergarten, primary and secondary education. History reveals that the school building was closed in 1942 as it was used as a military hospital by the Japanese Army. The school reopened in 1945 after the Japanese Army retreated from Malaya towards the end of World War II.
In 1995, St Mary’s School was relocated to a 3.64ha site at Taman Intan Baiduri in Selayang when the Lion Group bought the school’s land to develop a residential project. The new school in Selayang was built at an estimated cost of RM33 million.
In 2007, the Lion Group and E&O Property Development Bhd announced that they would jointly develop the school site involving 1.63ha through a company called Mergexcel Property Development Sdn Bhd. Mergexcel is a 50:50 joint venture between Ribuan Imbangan Sdn Bhd (a wholly-owned subsidiary of E&O Prop) and Lion Courts Sdn Bhd (a unit under Lion Industries Corp Bhd).
Mergexcel had in May 2006 acquired the 1.67ha freehold land from The Synod of Diocese of West Malaysia, the original owner of the St Mary’s school and the land, for RM103.4 million. The former St Mary’s school land was originally purchased by the Lion Group from The Synod of the Diocese of West Malaysia.
Approvals were received in 2007 to develop St Mary Residences featuring three 28-storey towers housing a total of 657 apartment units, a three-storey parking lot for 719 cars and retail podium. The estimated gross development value was about RM1 billion.
In June 2009, months after the 2008 global financial crisis, St Mary’s Residences was launched. The developers offered mostly 1,000-sq-ft units selling between RM900 and RM1,200 per sq ft. The price has appreciated by 20 to 30 per cent today.