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This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on December 10, 2018 - December 16, 2018

The sales gallery of Emerald 9 Cheras stands out in the established neighbourhood of 9th mile Cheras in Selangor with its sleek and modern façade. It had already been opened to the public for two weeks when City & Country met GuocoLand (M) Bhd group managing director Datuk Edmund Kong to get to know more about the 11.8-acre freehold development.

GuocoLand bought the tract, which is located diagonally across from OSK Property Holdings Bhd’s You City and just 400m from the Taman Suntex MRT station, about two years ago. Kong notes that it fulfils the industry’s mantra, “location, location, location” — it has good connectivity and is just eight stops to the Pavilion Bukit Bintang MRT station.

The development will be linked to the Taman Suntex MRT station by a covered bridge. A road will also be constructed after the Batu 9 toll on the Cheras-Kajang Highway for an additional access to the development.

“We are not just looking at a typical residential development. We also are looking at the needs of the residents and how they, especially the young generation, should live. [For example] we can’t keep relying on cars, so public transport is here to provide the connectivity,” Kong says.

“The way we live evolves with time. The trend today is mixed-use developments that come with conveniences, so we have this idea of having office, retail, hotel and residential components. We believe they are important and will bring vibrancy to the development.”


Emerald 9 Cheras

Emerald 9 Cheras, also known as E9, is Guocoland’s second integrated mixed-use development after its flagship development, Damansara City, in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. Kong says the Emerald 9 sales gallery features elements that will be found in the actual development. They include the brick wall design of the office component and spaces to promote community living.

“We want to give buyers a feel of what they will get. With the concept of co-working and co-living, it’s about community living ... we provide interesting corners and spaces in the residential and commercial areas for people to mingle,” he says.

He admits that the role of the developer is getting tougher these days and “gone are the days when developers just build, sell, wash their hands of the projects and move on”. He says they now need to make sure that their projects are a success after their completion.

“Developers are required to give buyers confidence ... creating a successful place together. This requires more thought and effort by the developers. In fact, we will be retaining 20% to 30% of the shops because we believe in our product and we will bring in anchor tenants,” he adds.

Emerald 9, with a gross development value of RM1.5 billion, will feature four serviced apartment blocks, a block of affordable homes, offices, shops and a hotel. It will be developed in two phases over four to six years.

Phase One will comprise two serviced apartment blocks (Towers A and B), offices, shops and a hotel. Towers A and B will offer 339 and 477 units respectively. The units will have built-ups of 650 to 1,050 sq ft and will be priced at below RM600 psf.

There will be 165 offices and 82 shops with built-ups of 500 to 2,000 sq ft. The offices will be priced at RM650 to RM750 psf while the shops, at RM1,000 to RM1,200 psf.

The no-frills 200-room hotel will take up the top six floors of Tower A. Kong says the operator of the hotel will be confirmed before its completion.

He adds that except for Tower A, the other components under Phase One will be launched in the second quarter of next year. The target market is first-time homebuyers, Cheras residents, those looking to downsize their homes and investors.

Phase Two will comprise the remaining two blocks of serviced apartments (Towers C and D) and the affordable homes (Tower E). These will be launched in 3Q2020.


Serviced apartments

Kong says while GuocoLand is adopting the concept of co-living, it is not copying what is being done overseas. “In Malaysia, it (co-living) is not about one big unit with several cubicles and everyone shares the same toilet … this model won’t work here. Instead, we are looking at improving on the concept ... co-living here is about communal living in a conducive environment. Young people want to mix with their friends, so we will have spaces for them to do that.

“This will provide the residents with places to go to other than the gymnasium and swimming pool. We have given a lot of thought to the design of the development. The facilities featured will not be just for appearance and compliance’s sake. We are doing this because we want to make sure that the project is sustainable and we want to see value appreciation.”

He says facilities at Towers A and B, which will include a gymnasium, function room, lounge, swimming pool, wading pool, sunken playground, squash court and indoor play area, will be open round the clock. The maintenance fee is 40 sen psf per month.

Phase Two will have an amphitheatre, runabout lawn, function hall, floating gymnasium, fun slide, barbecue area and elevated jogging track.

The function room and hall will be equipped with kitchen utensils and appliances, Kong says, adding that there will 3.5 acres of public space for the residents.

Meanwhile, GuocoLand’s promotion campaign is receiving encouraging response. According to Kong, a lot of enquiries are coming from Cheras folk and parents looking to buy homes for their children.

“Our selling point is the holistic design and faci-

lities. We are confident [that it will be well received] because of the location and design, which stands out among similar developments in the area. Also, affordability is an important factor. In our opinion, a serviced apartment priced below RM600 psf is affordable in today’s market situation,” he says.


Commercial components

He notes that the commercial component of Emerald 9 will also have a lot of public spaces. The 9-storey block, featuring offices and shops, will front the main road while its rear will face a landscaped courtyard, which can be used for events. This kind of design allows some 80% of the shops to enjoy dual frontages.

Emerald 9 will be GuocoLand’s first development where it will retain some shops to control the tenancy mix. These, Kong says, will be managed and supported by the leasing team of Damansara City Mall.

As the block will be built on a slope, the developer has decided to turn it into an advantage: There will be three ground floors with entrances, so every shoplot will have equal visibility.

For the offices, Kong says there will be 15,000 sq ft of co-working space and the facilities will be for rent on an hourly basis. GuocoLand will be teaming up with an operator to manage the space.

He adds that the sizes of the offices, coupled with the facilities, are suitable for start-up businesses that cannot afford to rent offices in the city centre but need a conducive space that is located not too far away from it.

“This positioning is important because there are professional service outfits such as accountancy firms that want small offices with meeting rooms. This co-working space concept allows office buyers to own the space they need and rent the meeting space and facilities whenever the need arises.

“We will also have various exercise facilities at a rooftop. There will be spaces for office people to mingle — something not offered by many developments. We don’t just build everything and maximise the floor plate ... we carve out spaces to promote interaction. The office component will have 1.5 acres of public space.”

The developer will have a property management app for visitors’ registration for security purposes.

Kong reckons that the challenge facing Emerald 9 is affordability. “That’s the main challenge … we know the affordability level of our target market, so it is whether we can provide the facilities we envisioned given the price range. We know that RM600 psf is attractive ... some developments in the vicinity are priced lower, but the question is, are they offering the same design and facilities as us?

“Emerald 9 is located in a mature area and we believe it will boost the image of the area and be the new icon of Cheras with its offerings. We hope to hold various activities and performances at the courtyard when the development is completed.”


Other projects

Apart from Emerald 9, GuocoLand is also looking to launch landed homes at Emerald Hills in Cheras and Emerald Rawang — both in Selangor — in the first quarter of next year.

There will be 181 units of 2 and 3-storey terraced houses, priced at RM1.2 million onwards, for sale at Emerald Hills.

At Emerald Rawang, the developer will be offering about 300 units of 2-storey terraced houses with the starting price at RM500,000.

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