THE few rows of old shophouses that make up the original town centre of Rawang, Selangor, is now flanked by upcoming developments. While life in the town goes on at a slow and relaxed pace, the constant flow of construction vehicles heading in and out of town is an indication that Rawang — once a popular rest stop for travellers using the old trunk road — is undergoing a makeover.
One developer, DA Land Sdn Bhd, has so much faith in the area that it chose Rawang to start its foray in property development, together with joint venture partner Mahumas Sdn Bhd.
And it appears to have made the right choice. The first phase of its maiden residential development, LakeClub Parkhome, consisting of 222 units of 2 and 2½-storey terraced homes priced from RM280 to RM290 psf, has been 80% sold since the soft launch in early December.
The first phase, spanning 24 acres and located on slightly elavated land, will be officially launched after the forthcoming general election.
The entire development, spanning 76 acres of leasehold land, will be carried out in four phases. It will have a gross development value of about RM500 million and is expected to be fully completed in 2017.
DA Land founder Derek Chew swapped his lawyer’s gowns for balance sheets to become his own boss in 1997 after returning from Hong Kong during the Asian financial crisis. He has never looked back since.
He went through a rough patch in the early years when he was selling building materials and furniture in Batu Caves. But he amassed enough land in the last decade, including 200 acres in Rawang, to embark on his dream of becoming a property developer.
Chew is also the owner of Houz Depot Sdn Bhd, Sunhom Sdn Bhd and Taisun Industries Sdn Bhd.
DA Land was founded some two years ago. Apart from its Rawang landbank, the developer has three acres in Kota Damansara and another three in Kuala Lumpur opposite the SOGO mall on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman that Chew had acquired over the past decade.
The "DA" in DA Land means big in Mandarin. "Although we are small now, we want to be big!" says Chew with a wide grin when City & Country met him for an interview before the Chinese New Year.
So what are some of the biggest challenges he has faced since venturing into the development business? He mulls over the question before replying: "The toughest part is definitely in identifying and acquiring a good piece of land. A lot of planning is then needed to ensure that we have placed the right product suited for the current market’s demands and expectations."
Besides LakeClub Parkhome, the developer plans to launch residential and commercial developments in Rawang in the near future. The land in Kota Damansara and Kuala Lumpur city centre is earmarked for commercial developments.
"The infrastructure and progression of development is now heading towards the Rawang area, with three highways and the widening of the federal roads," says Chew. The entry of hypermarkets such as Jusco, Tesco and Giant in recent years is a sign of their confidence in Rawang, he adds.LakeClub Parkhome
The unique selling point of LakeClub Parkhome is its inverted layout and open green concept — the living room and kitchen face the back of the homes, overlooking a shared green space measuring 30ft or 60ft, says DA Land director Sip Mun Yee. The extra room (or maid’s room) and the toilet are at the front near the entrance instead. Homeowners have the option of breaking the walls of the extra room to create a larger living room extending from the front to the back.
"From our observation, we realised that the area at the back of the homes in most housing schemes is not put to good use," says Sip.
Most buyers, he says, welcome the idea of having their living room face the green space or garden at the back instead of the front of the house.
The green space will be maintained by a management company.
"This is different from the conventional design where the living room traditionally faces the front porch, which often ends up as a parking space anyway," says Sip.
Another unusual feature is that the houses won’t have gates and only have low brick walls separating one unit from another.
"We want to create an open concept where there are less barriers between neighbours so that they can mingle and eventually foster a close-knit community, as seen in kampungs," explains Sip.
Some 11 acres will be set aside for a central park as well as linear parks. There will be a clubhouse with facilities that include futsal and badminton courts, table tennis, swimming pool, gym, tai chi zone, multi-purpose hall and barbecue area. There will even be a pet-friendly zone with its own pool.
The development will be gated and guarded with CCTV and perimeter fencing, and have a small commercial component.
The 2-storey units are priced from RM700,000, and the 2½-terraced homes from RM900,000. The homes, designed by GM Ling Architects, are fully extended, with built-ups of 2,511 to 3,570 sq ft.
All LakeClub Parkhome buyers have to sign a perpetual deed of mutual covenant, which requires them to get approval from the township’s management before they can carry out exterior renovations. This is to ensure that the development retains its overall look.
Sip says there have been many cases where irresponsible house owners renovate their homes with gaudy, over-the-top designs without consulting their neighbours, affecting the aesthetic value of the overall design. Some unfortunate house owners are even reported to have found it difficult to dispose of their homes in the secondary market due to a neighbour’s architectural whims.
Chew says most of the first phase buyers are relatively young, in their thirties and above. Other buyers include upgraders now staying in areas such as Subang Jaya, Selayang, Kepong and Sungai Buloh, some locals from the Rawang and Serendah vicinity, and a small percentage of investors.
Development plans for the rest of DA Land’s landbank in Rawang include a 51-acre commercial development, while the remaining area is earmarked for another residential development.
The developer sees great potential in Rawang and hopes to acquire more land for niche developments there. "We aim to continue to focus our future projects solely in the Klang Valley. Looking ahead, we hope to establish and build a strong brand name," says Chew.
Developers zoom in on Rawang
In recent years, construction hoardings touting new and exciting developments have been coming up in Rawang. The lack of suitable development land in more mature areas closer to Kuala Lumpur have prompted some of the big players to swoop in on any huge land parcels still available on the fringes of Klang Valley.
Escalating residential property prices in the traditional property hot spots such as Petaling Jaya and improved accessibility in the Greater Kuala Lumpur area have tempted more home buyers to set up home in relatively affordable Rawang.
Projects that have sprung up in the area in recent years include Mah Sing Group Bhd’s M [email protected], Emerald East and West by GuocoLand (M) Bhd as well as projects by Hong Bee Land Sdn Bhd and Dolomite Properties Sdn Bhd.
Other developments are Bandar Country Homes by Tanco Properties Sdn Bhd, Regency Parc by Next Fortune Sdn Bhd and Mun Poh Corp Sdn Bhd as well as Saujana Rawang by Glomac Bhd.
A growing number of shopping centres have been set up to cater for the growing population of Rawang. Tesco, Parkson, Giant and AEON Jusco have stores there while a specialist hospital is set to be completed in a few months.
Rawang is part of Gombak district and comes under the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS).
There is good access to Kuala Lumpur city centre via the Rawang Interchange from the North-South Expressway, the Guthrie Corridor Expressway from Rawang South Interchange and the LATAR Expressway.
Alternatively, travellers can opt for the old trunk road from Templer’s Park to Bandar Baru Selayang that is currently being widened, or the trunk road to Rawang.
Along the trunk road are Templer’s Park, Hutan Lipur Sungai Kanching, and the Commonwealth Forest Park — forest reserves and popular spots for jungle trekking and camping enthusiasts.
The Rawang railway station in the town centre serves the KTM Komuter (Rawang-Seremban route) and KTM Intercity train services.
This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of Feb 25-Mar03, 2013.