The royal town of Klang in Selangor is an enigma to the uninitiated.
Klang is one of the oldest towns in Malaysia and has a lot of history. For those who do not know, Klang is known for producing tin dating back to the early 15th century.
Area Management Sdn Bhd executive chairman Datuk Stewart LaBrooy has been witness to Klang's growth over the past 64 years, having lived there with his family.
According to LaBrooy, development was slow post-independence as the focus of the new Federal Government was on the creation of Kuala Lumpur as the new capital and Shah Alam as the new state capital.
"Klang was ignored for many years as a result. However, Klang still retains its status as the royal town of Selangor. The big changes came from the completion of the NKVE (New Klang Valley Expressway) in 1990. The NKVE gave the town immediate access to Kuala Lumpur and the rest of the country via the North-Expressway and on the maze of new highways giving Klang the most amazing connectivity to the rest of the country and its infrastructure namely ports and the newly built KLIA in 1998," he told NST Property.
LaBrooy said connectivity was further enhanced with the completion of the KESAS highway in 1996 as it opened a southern link to the town.
He said the development of all these infrastructures led to the establishment of four substantial townships - Setia Alam, Bandar Bukit Raja, Bandar Bukit Tinggi, and Bandar Botanic.
"All these four developments were hugely successful and completed in record time. A total of 4,600ha of mixed development were built and largely completed in under 20 years," said LaBrooy.
Setia Alam, located in the backwater of Meru, Klang was the development of the over 1,600ha North Hummock Estate which turned from oil palm estate to an award-winning township. It was originally part of Klang but was subsequently made part of Shah Alam.
SP Setia Bhd bought the estate from the family that controlled See Hoy Chan Group in 2002 and launched the township in 2004.
Bandar Bukit Raja spans 1,753ha and is a mixed development launched in 2002 by Sime Darby property. Even in soft market conditions, the township remains a popular location for existing investors and new home buyers.
Bandar Bukit Tinggi (BBT) is a 560ha freehold development launched by WCT Holdings Bhd in 1997, which was part of Bukit Tinggi Estate. Over the last 22 years, BBT has transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing townships in the Klang Valley and is home to over 40,000 residents.
Bandar Botanic by Gamuda Bhd comprises 520ha and was launched in 2001. It is the first waterfront parkland township and features double-storey link houses, semi-detached homes, bungalows, shop offices, and apartments.
"These developments created a boom in population in Klang driving new residents from other parts of the Klang Valley with their offering of affordable landed homes for families," said LaBrooy.
"It is also testimony to the purchasing power of the Klang residents as for the first time they were able to purchase homes with the quality of those being offered in more prestigious locations," he said.
Klang remains one of the oldest towns in Malaysia.
LaBrooy said its history predates Melaka but very few people know much about it.
Linked to the port, Klang became a manufacturing and shipping hub. Its population served the new manufacturing facilities emerging in Shah Alam, he said.
"Klang is the fourth largest town in the country but hasn’t been given city status yet. What is missing is a University and a good stock of high-quality office buildings.
"We tick all the other boxes. It has good schools, retail malls but could do with more five-star hotels. Klang is getting popular with tourists and Malaysians who travel there at weekends to take part in the food experience and the heritage trails," said LaBrooy.
LaBrooy pointed out that Klang has the amazing infrastructure, where it is home to five train stations, seven LRT (light rail transit) stations and is the starting point for the KESAS, the NKVE, and Federal Highway.
Klang is also a main connection point for the West Coast Highway, he said.
Klang - the next Petaling Jaya?
LaBrooy thinks Klang could become the next Petaling Jaya or Bangsar South with many modernised high-rise buildings, luxury houses, mega malls and entertainment centres coming up.
"When large tracks of freehold estate land adjacent to the town was made available it was a developers dream location. Many years of small developments led to a huge pent up demand which gave all new launches immediate success.
"Interestingly, a 2010 census showed that Klang population comprised 43 per cent Malay, 27 per cent Chinese and 22 per cent Indian population mix. Klang offers an interesting demographic. There is strong per capita income amongst a balanced and diverse population which is why developers are looking for development land in Klang. However, I hope Klang would be spared a rapid development as it will lose its charm and character," said LaBrooy.
LaBrooy said Klang, just like the older towns of Penang, Melaka and Ipoh, is a community with families who have lived there for generations.
He said Klang is a great town to bring up kids with readily accessible schools and healthcare.
"Klang has a vibrant economy driven by manufacturing and port services and I see it further becoming the location of choice for manufacturing, logistics and port services."