Tuesday 30 May 2023
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This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on November 7, 2022 - November 13, 2022

If Ipoh were a colour, it would be white — reflecting the white marble from its quarries, the white coffee served at its famed restaurants, and the many white colonial buildings spread across the town, in particular the impressive railway station, also dubbed the Taj Mahal of Ipoh.

“It is how we got the inspiration for the project name — the Ipoh White Times Square,” says Team Keris Bhd (TKB) director Yuen Yin Fong, in an interview with City & Country in Kuala Lumpur. Also present is Exsim Development Sdn Bhd head of corporate communications Michelle Siew, the representative of the joint venture partner for the 10.5-acre mixed-use development. “We wish for this project to be an iconic landmark of the city, exuding elegance, with a touch of old-world charm but equipped with modern facilities. It’s an idea that will be further interpreted in the development through its architectural design, lifestyle facilities and sustainable landscape concept,” says Yuen.

She adds that the site is just a stone’s throw away from the Perak Turf Club, overlooking greenery and with a mountain range as the backdrop.

“TKB has owned this land for a long time. We have been waiting for the right time and right partner to develop it together because this site is very precious given the million-dollar view. We are unlikely to find another large plot of land overlooking a turf club with a mountain range as a backdrop in this part of Malaysia. On top of that, the site is very strategically located. It is surrounded by amenities — you name it, [it is] within a 15-minute driving radius from the site. The town centre is a mere 3km away,” Yuen points out.

Yuen (left) and Siew aim to make Ipoh White Times Square an iconic development that not only serves tourists, but also caters to the needs of the locals (Photo by Low Yen Yeing/The Edge)

TKB is a home-grown Perak brand that has developed 59 projects and delivered over 38,000 units since it was incorporated in 1991. Apart from residential units, it is also a well-known builder of a diverse range of properties, including shopping malls, commercial buildings, bus and taxi terminals, hotels and gas stations, all of which are tailored to the needs of the surrounding community.

In 2019, Yuen and Siew, who had been looking to enter the Ipoh market, met at a business event. The two like-minded women soon set up a meeting to discuss the possibility of a joint venture. And the rest is history. 

“The entire process, from exploring the possibility to confirming the joint venture and signing the deal, all happened within a few months. We signed the deal in January/February 2020, right before the first national lockdown, or this project would have been launched already,” Siew says with a smile. “But the good thing is, the lockdown gave us more space and time to conceptualise the design, [determine the] market positioning and rethink the entire master plan while observing the market changes. I would say the master plan caters to the current market demand in the post-pandemic era.”

Ipoh White Times Square will be developed over four phases. The development consists of serviced apartments, SoHos and an estimated 140,000 sq ft of retail space. For the retail space, the developer plans to bring in not only brands that the local market desires, but also the vibrancy and place-making elements from Kuala Lumpur and other states.

“The master plans of Phase 2, 3 and 4 are either pending approval from the authorities or still being finalised, so we cannot share more details at this point of time. What is certain is that we will strive to make this an iconic product that not only serves the tourists, but also caters to the locals’ needs. We intend to bring in sophisticated brands, especially from the F&B industry, into our retail component to enhance the lifestyle experience, as well as to differentiate ourselves from those that are already in the market,” Siew explains.

A show unit for The Stallionz (Photo by TKB and Exsim Development)

The Stallionz 

The first phase of Ipoh White Times Square will be officially launched in November. Sitting on a 2.75-acre plot, The Stallionz is a 12-storey tower comprising 424 SoHo units. It will also have six exclusive retail lots, which will be owned and rented out by the developer. The gross development value of the phase is RM190 million.

The units will have a standard built-up of 650 sq ft and there are two layout designs to choose from. Both layouts will have two bedrooms and one bathroom, as well as a balcony that overlooks either the Perak Turf Club or Ipoh town centre. The average selling price is RM630 psf.

Facilities will include a sky pool, wading pool, Jacuzzi, sky gym, sky lounge, sky garden, yoga area, games room and co-working space. The maintenance fee will be 55 sen psf, inclusive of sinking fund.

The developer is committed to subsidising the maintenance fee by up to 20 sen psf for the first two years after vacant possession (VP), which is expected to be at the end of 2025, in the event of any deficit in the maintenance account. However, the developer will first utilise revenue collection from the car park, co-working space and other income generated to cover the maintenance account expenses.

Clockwise from top left: Artist’s impressions of The Stallionz’s lobby area; the gym; the co-working lounge; and the Hummingbird Garden, which can be used for yoga/meditation (Photo by TKB and Exsim Development)

“It has been made known from the start that The Stallionz is an investment product. In fact, we will be offering packages to help buyers manage and rent out their units for rental income,” Siew explains.

Unlike conventional residential developments, The Stallionz will have a spacious lobby and a proper front counter for guests to check in and out, make travel information enquiries and access services such as luggage storage.

“All these day-to-day operations, including checking in and out, cleaning of the rooms and changing of bed sheets, will be managed by ­Mana Mana Hospitality. The team will work closely with the joint management body or management corporation once it is formed to manage and upkeep the development together in the long term,” she says.

Mana Mana Hospitality, introduced by Exsim, is a fast-growing hospitality property management company. It provides seamless property management to Exsim’s purchasers, with a focus on hospitality buildings and properties.  Its services include check in and out, housekeeping, operations, marketing and property management.

“We will provide a variety of service packages to our buyers to help them manage and take care of their property. It will be like a profit-sharing model. However, it is not mandatory because it is still a stratified commercial development. Everyone has the freedom to do what they want with the unit. Moreover, there are customers who will wish to manage the property themselves.

“However, we will try to convince them to let our team handle the rent as we are providing A to Z services, from listing the property on different short-term rental platforms, to managing the booking, the checking in and out of the guests, and room keeping. By having a single management, it also means better guest management and security, which will add value to the entire development,” Siew says.

To provide a hassle-free property investment experience, all the units in The Stallionz will be almost fully-furnished, with air-conditioners, heater, fully fitted pantry, beds, sofa, even an ironing board and iron.

“We call it semi-furnished even though it is almost fully-furnished because there are some customers who wish to have a more personal touch in their units. We respect that. However, for customers who would rather let us handle all the interior fittings so that the unit is ready to rent upon VP, we will have the upgrade package ready when it is closer to the completion date,” Yuen says.

The Stallionz has been open for sale since early October and the market response has been encouraging, with a 45% take-up rate so far.

“We have yet to officially launch the project and are pushing sales aggressively. We are now [focusing] more on introducing this new investment concept to the local market because this is something new to Ipoh. We want to make sure our customers know what they are buying into,” Yuen explains. 

Ipoh White Times Square is just a stone’s throw away from the Ipoh town centre (Photo by TKB and Exsim Development)

Tourism potential 

When asked about the potential of the investment property market in Ipoh, Yuen says the city has been receiving more tourists than ever since travel restrictions were lifted.

“In the past two years, Malaysians have learnt to appreciate our homeland more and more. People still opt for cuti-cuti Malaysia even though we can travel overseas now. Ipoh has always been one of the top destinations because it is situated in a very good location, between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. There are also two direct flights daily to Singapore from Ipoh’s Sultan Azlan Shah Airport,” she adds.

Yuen says the average charge per night for a short-stay accommodation in Ipoh town centre has been stabilising at RM250 in the past two years, which provides a good rental yield for many individual short-stay operators.

“The Stallionz is targeting the family traveller and business traveller groups, to whom space is crucial. This is why we have a standard unit built-up size of 650 sq ft with two bedrooms plus a living room and pantry, so that the family can stay in one unit comfortably, while the business traveller would have more space to do work,” she adds.

Yuen believes that short-stay accommodations will continue to be in demand in Ipoh as it remains one of the most-visited destinations by local and international tourists. She is also confident that The Stallionz will be well received by the market given its hassle-free package, systematic rental management, good location, and the good prospects for the entire Ipoh White Times Square development, which is expected to be completed in the next five to eight years.

“The Stallionz will be complemented by the other phases, which include the retail components and some place-making elements that we are going to introduce later. Ipoh White Times Square is poised to be a hub and jewellery box that contains Ipoh’s finest combined with Kuala Lumpur’s’ vibrant energy,” Yuen envisions.

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