Cover Story: The evolution of PJ’s Tropicana

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on June 21, 2021 - June 27, 2021.
The Tropicana locality is mainly anchored by the 625-acre Tropicana Golf & Country Resort and the 409-acre Tropicana Indah (Photo by Zahid Izzani/The Edge)

The Tropicana locality is mainly anchored by the 625-acre Tropicana Golf & Country Resort and the 409-acre Tropicana Indah (Photo by Zahid Izzani/The Edge)

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Take a drive along Persiaran Tropicana on a normal day and you will probably be caught in traffic along the meandering stretch. Apart from those living in the area, many commuters also use the road to get to neighbouring areas such as Ara Damansara, Kota Damansara and Bandar Utama.

That was not always the case. Koh, a long-time resident in the area, recalls Tropicana as being a lot less busy in its early days in the 1990s. “Just like any new developing area, retail and eating options were pretty limited back then. If not at the clubhouse within the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort development, we would take a short drive to neighbouring suburbs’ commercial areas and malls, such as 1 Utama Shopping Centre in Bandar Utama and, subsequently, The Curve in Mutiara Damansara when it opened, or even Sungai Buloh.”

Today, apart from Casa Tropicana, Persiaran Tropicana is lined with new high-rise developments such as Lumi Tropicana and Tropicana Grande, office towers Persoft Tower, Menara Lien Hoe and Bangunan 3M, and modern retail offerings at Tropicana Avenue.

Anchored by the 625-acre Tropicana Golf & Country Resort, the Tropicana locality is an affluent leasehold neighbourhood adjacent to other established suburbs, namely Bandar Utama, Kota Damansara, Ara Damansara and Sunway Damansara.

The Tropicana Golf & Country Resort, developed by Tropicana Corp Bhd (formerly known as Dijaya Corp Bhd) in the 1990s, is a resort-themed development comprising pockets of bungalow lots around a 27-hole championship golf course and a 450,000 sq ft clubhouse as well as semidees and link houses. The bungalow lots were reportedly priced from RM32 psf at their launch in 1992. Today, land in the Tropicana area is priced from RM500 to RM520 psf, according to LaurelCap Sdn Bhd executive director Stanley Toh.

Adjacent to the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort development, Tropicana Corp had also developed the 409-acre Tropicana Indah (also known as Tropicana Indah Resort Homes and previously, Damansara Indah Resort Homes).

According to Hartamas Real Estate Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Desmond Tho, Tropicana was originally associated with upmarket bungalows and semidees before link houses within the golf course enclave and high-rise developments such as Tropicana Grande, Tropicana Avenue and Casa Tropicana were subsequently added. “Tropicana has become a sought-after location and an affluent neighbourhood over the years. It is one of the best addresses in Petaling Jaya and its golf course is one of the most renowned in the country,” he says.

Tropicana’s property landscape has also become more commercial over the years with the completion of office towers such as Persoft Tower, Menara Lien Ho and Bangunan 3M, with the last two having undergone refurbishment, notes LaurelCap’s Toh. “The change is obvious along Persiaran Tropicana,” he adds.

Some new and ongoing projects in the area are Lumi Tropicana by Thriven Global Bhd, Aetas Damansara by MCT Bhd and Tropicana Gardens in Tropicana Indah by Tropicana Corp.

Slated to be completed in 3Q2021, Lumi Tropicana comprises 744 serviced residences and 62 SoHo (small office/home office) units across four towers. Toh notes that units at the 6.4-acre development along Persiaran Tropicana are commanding prices ranging from RM1.13 million to RM3.45 million for units of 862 to 2,218 sq ft.

Aetas Damansara, also located along Persiaran Tropicana, is a 1.765-acre luxury development offering 226 condominium units priced from RM1.97 million, says Zerin Properties Sdn Bhd CEO Previndran Singhe. “The luxury residential development has two towers — 47-storey Tower A and 48-storey Tower B offering four and two units per floor respectively.” The development is slated for completion in 2Q2025. 

As for Tropicana Gardens, the project is located in Tropicana Indah. It is an integrated development comprising five blocks of serviced residences (Arnica, Bayberry, Cyperus, Dianthus and Edelweiss), an office tower and the one million sq ft Tropicana Gardens Mall. While 68% of the mall has reportedly been taken up and 50% of tenants have opened for business, including a 6,200 sq ft Starbucks Reserve, Toh says the entire development is expected to be completed in 2024.

He adds that Tropicana Gardens’ serviced apartments are priced from RM957 to RM1,556 psf.

Another ongoing development is the Tropicana LRT station on the LRT3 Bandar Utama-Klang Line. “The Tropicana station will be located near Menara Lien Hoe and the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), and this project is expected to serve Tropicana and the surrounding areas by 2024,” says Previndran.

In terms of the outlook for the area’s property market, he says it is expected to remain bright in the medium to long term. “The integrated development concept and enhancement to connectivity, such as the MRT and upcoming LRT3, will be key factors that appeal to potential buyers and investors.”

Tho shares a mildly positive view of Tropicana’s property market over the medium to long term. “Prices have been holding rather steadily over the years even though they are deemed to have reached their peak within the township.

“With the opening of Tropicana Gardens Mall and with the MRT station in Tropicana, we see this as an added value and enhancement to the area. With the addition of newer high-rises in the area, the tenant demand is rather strong as it is now able to attract the younger crowds and potential home purchasers from other areas,” he says.

Active transactions, slight dip in median transacted prices 

According to Toh, there was a slight decline in the median transacted prices of residential properties in the area over the last 10 years. “In general, the residential market’s average pricing in 2011 was RM1.5 million. It rose to a peak of RM3.2 million in 2015 before gradually declining to RM1.8 million in 2020. The average price per sq ft increased from RM280 in 2011 to RM620 in 2013, before a slow decline to RM500 psf in 2020.

“Analysis of the data reveals that large residential properties in the area such as bungalows saw prices falling more than the smaller residential properties such as terraced houses, townhouses and condos.”

Median prices of transacted commercial office space in Tropicana saw a similar trend, albeit at a sharper decline starting from 2016, he says. “Median prices of commercial property transactions in 2013 hovered around RM1.3 million and slowly rose to about RM1.75 million in 2016 before declining to about RM520,000 in 2018.  This demonstrates that demand for big office space in the area has fallen while smaller office units still command a great deal of interest.

“In terms of per sq ft prices of commercial properties, they grew from RM400 in 2013 to RM640 psf in 2016, before a slow decline to about RM600 psf in 2018,” says Toh.

Transaction-wise, Tropicana’s residential property market has done well over the past 10 years, says Previndran. “Tropicana Golf & Country Resort recorded 144 transactions from September 2011 to May 2020, comprising bungalows, semidees, terraced houses and townhouses. Based on transactions from July 2019 to May 2020, it had a median residential property price of RM2.3 million, compared with RM1.5 million in 2011.”

Casa Tropicana saw 275 transactions from January 2009 to March 2020 and the median price, based on transactions from April 2019 to March 2020, was RM612,500, compared with RM340,000 in 2011, according to Previndran.

At Riana Green Condominium, there were 295 transactions from December 2012 to November 2019, and the median price, based on transactions from December 2018 to November 2019, was RM610,000, compared with RM520,000 in 2012, he says.

At Tropicana Grande, there were 104 transactions recorded from November 2010 to January 2020, and the median transacted price was RM2.4 million, based on transactions from May 2019 to January 2020, compared with RM1.65 million in 2010.

According to Previndran, the serviced residences at Tropicana Avenue saw 70 transactions from February 2012 to November 2019, with a median price, based on transactions from January 2019 to November 2019, of RM620,000, compared with RM510,900 in 2012.

As for the commercial property market in Tropicana, Previndran says it has been similarly active over the past decade. “Offices and shops at Tropicana Avenue recorded 66 transactions from November 2011 to July 2020, and the median transacted price, based on transactions from March to July 2020, was RM860,000, compared with RM562,900 in 2011.”

At Merchant Square, there were 34 transactions of offices and shops from November 2012 to February 2020, and the median price was RM550,000, based on February 2020 transactions, compared with RM595,000 in 2012.

Tropicana Golf & Country Resort saw 20 transactions of office units from October 2013 to September 2018, and the median price was RM538,000, based on transactions from October 2013 to September 2018, says Previndran.

LaurelCap’s Toh notes that average asking prices for bungalows in the area are generally between RM4 million and RM7 million, whereas those for  terraced houses range from RM1 million to RM2 million, and for serviced apartments between RM700 and RM1,000 psf.

“As for commercial properties, retail lots are seeing asking prices of RM1,300 to RM1,700 psf whereas those for offices are between RM450 and RM600 psf.”

He expects property prices in the area to hold steady over the next five to 10 years. “However, in the long run, prices are likely to decline, mainly owing to the leasehold tenure that expires in 2090, the affordability, traffic congestion and the [changing] preferences of the new generation,” he says, adding that a decline in prices is common for leasehold properties when they have 40 years or less remaining.

According to Previndran, the average asking price for semidees and bungalows in Tropicana Golf & Country Resort ranges from RM400 to RM1,600 psf, whereas that for terraced and townhouses is from RM450 to RM800 psf. At Tropicana Grande, the average asking price range is RM750 to RM1,000 psf, whereas that for Casa Tropicana is from RM430 to RM700 psf and for Tropicana Avenue, RM800 to RM1,000 psf, he adds.

Meanwhile, the average asking price for shops and offices at Merchant Square ranges from RM350 to RM570 psf, he says.

“Tropicana is now a vibrant and trendy area, with a mix of properties of varying price tiers — from high-end residences such as bungalows, townhouses and luxury high-rises to terraced houses and low- and medium-cost apartments — complemented by robust commercial developments,” says Previndran.

Tropicana Gardens, one of the new offerings in the area, comprises five blocks of serviced residences, an office tower and the one million sq ft Tropicana Gardens Mall (Photo by Zahid Izzani/The Edge)

Sought-after, reputable location 

According to Toh, Tropicana’s appeal mainly lies in its location and affluence. “Also, the accessibility to the NKVE and Persiaran Surian as well as Ara Damansara and the Tropicana Golf & Country Club attracts many homebuyers. The LRT station will be a huge catalyst for the investor market and will drive demand, as many small families and young adults would want the luxury of convenience,” he remarks.

In addition, the ample amenities in the vicinity, such as malls, hospitals, educational institutions and commercial areas, also bode well for Tropicana, says Previndran. “The area boasts excellent connectivity to the Sprint Expressway, Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP) and Penchala Link, on top of the NKVE. It is also an attractive area due to its accessibility to the MRT and upcoming LRT3 station,” he adds.

Moreover, the product offerings in Tropicana often come with features that are sought after by investors and homebuyers, such as the facilities, quality and security, notes Previndran.

“This area is a mature neighbourhood and is considered a well-planned township. On average, within a 10- to 15-minute drive are major malls, medical centres, schools and commercial areas,” says Tho.

According to him, properties in Tropicana that are currently popular in the market are Tropicana Grande, Tropicana Avenue, Tropicana Gardens and Aetas Damansara.

“Completed in 2012, Tropicana Grande enjoys good demand even until today. It comprises four residential towers with typical unit sizes ranging from 2,200 to 3,600 sq ft,” he says.

“Adding to the appeal of this project is that it sits within the golf course enclave, and offers good views and privacy as units come with a private lift lobby. In the subsale market, prices are averaging RM900 psf while rent is around RM3.50 psf, depending on the furnishings.”

Completed in 2015, Tropicana Avenue is a mixed-use development comprising residential towers that sit atop a two-storey retail podium. Residential units range from 650 to 1,600 sq ft whereas office suites are 680 to 1,100 sq ft, according to Tho.

“The development caters for people who like to have basic conveniences at their doorstep. The current rent for both the residential and office suites is RM3 to RM3.50 psf, depending on the furnishings, while prices in the subsale market are RM900 psf and RM800 psf for the residential and office suites respectively,” he says.

Tho adds that the residential towers above Tropicana Gardens Mall (Dianthus, Cyperus, Bayberry and Arnica) are faring relatively well. “The demand here is relatively strong, as the project is quite new, and there is the convenience of having the mall below and direct easy access to the MRT. Rents are RM3 to RM3.50 psf, depending on the furnishings, whereas prices in the subsale market are RM1,000 psf on average.”

As for the newly launched Aetas Damansara, Tho says the scarcity of new condos offering large unit sizes in the market, on top of views of the golf course, makes the development an appealing one to a segment of buyers. 

Like the residents of many established neighbourhoods, those in Tropicana have had to contend with traffic congestion during peak hours owing to the limited number of ingress and egress. “The traffic congestion in the area needs to be rectified by opening up more access roads or with a road-widening exercise,” says Toh.

“[The traffic congestion] can also be mitigated with shuttle bus services to the nearby LRT/MRT stations and covered pedestrian-friendly walkways to encourage people to walk, instead of driving to nearby amenities in the Tropicana area,” says Previndran.