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Ekovest Transforming The Real Estate Enviroment

Narrowing down on the impact that expressways have on communities and real estate developments

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The Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (DUKE), a major infrastructure development by Ekovest, speaks for itself as a timely creation, if you agree that time is the essence of everything. The creation of the first phase of DUKE in 2009, which spanned a length of 18km, and has a concession period of 30 years, had opened up a new avenue for traffic in the nation’s capital of Kuala Lumpur.

In Malaysia, there are players focusing solely on infrastructure development, and others are focusing on property development, but they generally do not integrate together both disciplines. This is where Ekovest differentiates itself.

Ekovest managing director Datuk Lim Keng Cheng shared, “We are playing the role of not just building and constructing, but also integrating both property and infrastructure developments. The first point of integration is the KL transportation master plan.”

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Ekovest’s development strategies are three-pronged. First, they intercept cars on the DUKE expressway. Then, Ekovest hosts them at their ‘Park and Ride’ facilities, which has ample parking bays, and then leads them to the rail system. Ekovest makes sure that all their expressways are joined together and linked with other highways to encourage motorists to use them.

“I helped the government save on subsidies when I proposed the DUKE, because all the cars will use fuel more efficiently, rather than be stuck in heavy traffic jams with no other alternative roads. I also save the environment, as less CO2 is released, and this is eco-friendly. That is why we feel very proud of this project,” said Lim.

He stated that urban cities in Malaysia, just like the United States, use cars as the main mode of transportation. “I was with a friend in Boston, United States, a city with 1.2million in population. I joined my friend for golf at 6am and after I came back into the city, it was still having a massive traffic jam, even though it was 9.30am already,” shared Lim.

He stated that in Kuala Lumpur alone, we have a population of 3 million people. People will travel by car from as far as Bangi or Nilai in the south, and Bukit Beruntung in Rawang from the north, to Kuala Lumpur city centre to work, even though the distance is 20 to 30km away.

Therefore, developers should not just focus on building highways, but rather on value-added highways, which include linkages to other major highways and the rail system. One such developer who came up with such bold move was Ekovest.

According to research done by Ekovest, the DUKE has helped reduce road usage, caused by motorist on local roads, by up to 30%. Ekovest believes this is happening, because motorists who continued using the DUKE saw how the expressway benefited them, even though they have to pay a toll fee of RM2. It provides a shortcut across the east to the west of Kuala Lumpur. The DUKE consists of the Duta, Ulu Klang, and the Karak links.

Before the conceptualisation of DUKE, motorists had to use the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2) or the inner ring roads, which consists of Jalan Tun Razak and Lebuhraya Mahameru.

This meant that there used to be only two route options for someone coming from Petaling Jaya to Gombak area. Most of the motorists from Gombak would have to use Lebuhraya Mahameru, which is part of Inner Ring Road (IRR), which will then lead them to Jalan Duta and Hartamas areas. It was also the only way to reach premier neighbourhoods like Bangsar.

Now with the DUKE phase 1 completed and accessible to the public, it will not only be an additional choice as a route, but also shortens the distance considerably between various neighbourhoods.  Now, because of the connectivity, even during peak traffic hours, it takes only about 5 minutes to reach Hartamas area.

“There were a lot of challenges to construct DUKE phase one. It was very difficult to construct, but it was the most beneficial for road users. We don’t take road users outside and then back into the city. We give them a shortcut,” said Lim.

One of the major challenges in constructing the first phase of DUKE was to cut through a lot of areas where there were many squatters. Relocating the squatters was really challenging, even though the lands belonged to the government.

However, Lim shared that the easiest way to construct a highway is when the land is empty, so that the highway developer can just cut through thick jungle, much like the North South Expressway.

“Currently, we are constructing the DUKE phase two, which consists of two links,” shared Lim. He pointed that the two links are the Sri Damansara Link and the other is Tun Razak Link.

There will be road-widening works along Jalan Tun Razak, near Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) and Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL). Then there is the flyover to Bulatan Pahang. One will come into Jalan Pahang and connect to the existing DUKE at the Jalan Pahang area. the Bandar Sri Damansara link  starts from where the MRR2 in Bandar Manjalara, Kepong. With a total length of 16.4km, it will have a three lanes designated flow from each point.

The added value is that once the DUKE phase 2 is completed, it will help connect motorists from one end to the other end of MRR2. DUKE phase 2 will not only served to reduce traffic jam and time to reach your destination it will also help NKVE in the sense that it runs parallel with the NKVE.

“Ekovest has actually sponsored the Klang Valley master plan. We have engaged traffic consultants to look at how we can solve traffic problem in Klang Valley and Kuala Lumpur,” shared Lim. He added that Ekovest asked the consultants on how, as a developer, it can integrate these highways with public rail network.

“We realised that there are areas lacking if we just continue to build highways only and if there are MRTs without integration with road infrastructures. We want to have a holistic transport master plan that is sustainable in the long run,” mentioned Lim.

He said that one of the reasons why Ekovest managed to convinced the government and obtained government approval for the construction and development of DUKE phase 3 was because they showed how this integration and sustainable elements can co-exist.

One of the many methods was where Ekovest proposed to build the ‘Park-and-Ride’ facilities along DUKE at points where it connects with the rail system. This meant that for someone who is staying in Shah Alam can drive along DUKE and park at one of the ‘Park-and-Ride’ facilities, then travel into the city without driving.

“I think the problem is that, for most people staying in the Klang Valley, the traveling time between their homes and the rail networks might take 15 minutes or more, and then they have to wait for their trains when they reach the stations to bring them to their destination, so the proposal will provide flexibility for residents using the DUKE,” shared Lim.

Once DUKE phase 3 is implemented, it is going to have its own traffic management system where it will be able to channel vital information to motorists, such as which ‘Park-and-Ride’ has the most available parking lots, and real-time reports of traffic conditions for routes that one has to take, to travel to city centre.

“The unique thing about this ‘Park-and-Ride’ facility is that this will be the first in the country to connect to a high capacity expressway, because most of the ‘Park-and-Ride’ facilities now can be accessed via local roads,” pointed Lim.

For example, one would need to come out from the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) or New Pantai Expressway (NPE) to go to a local road to access the facilities.

Presently, Ekovest has proposed 10 stations, and the first ‘Park-and-Ride’ facilities, under Ekovest phase 1 of the DUKE highway proposal, is being constructed. The first ‘Park-and-Ride’ facility, where construction is underway, is at the KTM Segambut area, and will have up to 4,000 parking lots to begin with. It is being built concurrently with the DUKE phase 2 project and expected to be completed by end of next year.

“This ‘Park-and-Ride’ facility is being built underneath our toll plaza, so we have to make sure we construct the DUKE 2 and the ‘Park-and-Ride’ facility at the same time, or else the facility will not be able to serve the function we intended it to be, as there is already an existing KTM Segambut station there,” shared Lim.

According to Ekovest’s research, the current existing DUKE is already serving 130,000 motorists on an average daily basis. Although the data shows that the numbers peak during weekdays and drop a little during weekend, it is still a favourite among motorists during festive period to commute to Kuala Lumpur.

Therefore, the DUKE and its alignment are good, not just for the vicinities located along the highway, but also outside of KL.

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Collaborations with developers

“If you have lands that are served by a highway or an expressway, your plot ratio will go up automatically. For example, for the existing DUKE, we got a couple of developments proposals. We also got our own Ekotitiwangsa,” shared Lim.

He stated that without DUKE, these projects won’t be launched, because there is no way you can cater for the density of the crowd that the developments bring. Any major developer can get a project approved, but it will be for a very low plot ratio, like 1:3 as an example.

Lim highlighted, “Once an expressway comes in, the plot can shoot up to a ratio of 1:6. This enhances value for developers. Ekovest wants DUKE to be the catalyst for the next phase of Kuala Lumpur’s development.”

The DUKE 2 is going to have direct access into Ekovest’s property developments. This is an infrastructure and property feature that we have not seen much in Kuala Lumpur. The whole development called the KL River City has eight acres of land with a 2.2km length of river-front development that Ekovest is aiming for the government to master plan. Three acres of land will be used to develop Ekotitiwangsa. It will consist of residential serviced apartments and commercial products.

Ekotitiwangsa involves all the components one would expect to find in stylish living, where work and play converge seamlessly. There is an elevated rooftop green sanctuary that forms part of the KL River Centre, and commercial developments that offer retail, dining and entertainment experiences, raising the benchmark for urban live-work-play environment.

Ekotitiwangsa is a gem encapsulating three unique towers of 696 units of freehold serviced apartments, perched above podiums of trendy retail space. It faces KL River City, Genting Highlands, Titiwangsa Lake and Kuala Lumpur City Centre.

Providing a captivating yet rare abode in the city that only the privileged few can possess, each serviced apartment unit ranges from 820 sq. ft. to 1340 sq. ft. and are designed to optimise the natural light.

Amenities including a wading pool for children to have fun with water and infinity pool for residents who just love to swim, Jacuzzi pool to relax after a long day, gymnasium to keep yourself fit, multi-purpose hall for functions, laundry for your clothing and barbeque area to just get to know your neighbours better, and many more that will definitely help to provide residents with an abode that exudes comfort.

Ekotitiwangsa is located just 5km from Kuala Lumpur City centre, within walking distance to LRT Ampang line and monorail, and is linked to proposed future development of the KL River Centre, as well as major travelling routes such as DUKE, DUKE 2, Jalan Pahang, MRR1, Lebuhraya Mahameru, MRR2 and Sentul link.

It is conveniently located close to medical facilities, colleges, schools, shopping, as well as the serene and picturesque Titiwangsa Lake and recreational park.

“The take-up rate is very good. We have a discussion with our top management where we are talking about one block that we do not want to sell, but even when we want to sell, the price will be double when it completes because not easy to have this development,” commented Lim.

He shared that, “Imagine you are fronting the river, but the ambience is like KLCC. You are going to have fish inside. We are taking natural water; we treated these ponds for sediment to come down before it comes.  Sustainable infrastructure very important.”

“Every great city has a river going through it. For example, London has the Thames River, but Kuala Lumpur has yet to have one, even though we have the KLCC twin towers. That is why the idea of the River City project where Ekotitiwangsa will be located was mooted,” said Lim. He shared that is also what the government wants to achieve, a life-line that goes through the city centre.

Under the River of Life program, Lake Titiwangsa will also be upgraded. The Government will spend up to RM1 billion to beautify this River of Life which flows until Mid Valley City.

Lim stated that the water quality of the river will be better. It is safe for water sport activities such as kayaking, even though they have heard of complaints that the colour turn into ‘teh tarik’ colour, but in actual fact, it was not caused by pollution but by mud and slide after rainstorms, due to the mud going downstream into the river.  He said that even now, the Gombak River has many fishes, but they couldn’t thrive because they get washed down by the storm water.

“We have also proposed a double decker river system where we would have low flow on top, and storm water will actually go down through a tunnel, similar to the smart tunnel concept, so with this innovative and creative method, we hope we can mitigate the fact that some of the muddy water will actually flow down, and then this top flow of about one meter depth water will be maintained and be pleasing to the eyes,” shared Lim.

The whole project will take 5 year to complete, where Ekovest has been given a completion dateline by DBKL.

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Friendly advice

“I always say that you don’t over commit, but this is the best time to buy property if you can afford it, because developers are giving discounts. When it is a booming time, you will have no choice but to buy at a higher price. Especially with the current situation of the currency, one should take the advantage to buy,” shared Lim, who mentioned that he does not share the negative sentiments of most property consultants in Malaysia regarding the property market.

In his own personal view, the government spends a lot of money on building new infrastructures such as MRT 1, 2, and 3, and expressways such as DUKE.

“The market was a little bit over-heated in the past, but it is the right time for people to invest as it is correction time for the market and is not crashing as speculated,” shared Lim.

 

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