Streetscapes: Memories of Lorong Raja Chulan

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 15, 2019 - April 21, 2019.

Old Malaya houses various restaurants with indoor and outdoor bars

Pavilion Ceylon Hill property gallery

Vida Bukit Ceylon is a nearby development completed in 2016

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Located in the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur Forest Eco Park (formerly Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve) and Menara Kuala Lumpur is a small lane off Jalan Raja Chulan — the less-well-known Lorong Raja Chulan.

To know Lorong Raja Chulan, begin looking at the many landmarks along Jalan Raja Chulan, formerly Weld Street, according to Landserve Sdn Bhd managing director Chen King Hoaw.

“The St Andrew Presbyterian Church, built in 1902 on Persiaran Raja Chulan (formerly Weld Drive) is one of the earliest buildings in this area, and is diagonally adjacent to Lorong Raja Chulan,” he says.

To the north lies the KL Forest Eco Park, which was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1906, and in 1912, the now relocated St Mary’s School was built just a short distance to the east. The former Central Battery Manual Telephone Exchange office in Jalan Raja Chulan, built in 1928, has since been converted into a museum — Muzium Telekom.

“The British Federal Court was located nearon Weld Hill (Bukit Mahkamah) behind the Malayan Banking Bhd headquarters. Apart from these institutional buildings, luxurious residences were also built along Jalan Raja Chulan,” Chen adds.

JLL Property Services (M) Sdn Bhd managing director YY Lau narrates the history of Lorong Raja Chulan. “It was known as Weld Alley, and along it was a Pre-World War Two building that was constructed in 1919, which has been restored and renamed Old Malaya.

“The building was one of the most glamorous residences in the Eurasian community. It was restored in 2015 in order to preserve its Malaysian architectural heritage. The building houses a variety of food and beverage outlets,” Lau says.

The colonial building is a Kuala Lumpur landmark known for its heritage-styled eateries and event space. Within the building, one can find

various restaurants in similar colonial-inspired spaces with indoor and outdoor bars. The outlets include Pampas, Junior Chellapa, Manja, Pintu, Luce and Pier 12 Seafood Tavern offering a spread of international and local cuisines.

Old Malaya founders Datuk Syed Mustaffa Shahabudin and Kana Theva touts the clear view of Menara KL from the premises, which overlook leafy green hills and parkland.

“At Old Malaya, we have designed the restaurants to evoke an elegant and historical atmosphere. We intend to include restaurants that are very passionate about their cuisine and take pride in delivering the best food and beverage, coupled with excellent customer service,” says Old Malaya director Shaheera Shahab.

Other properties — luxurious detached houses of colonial design — in the vicinity are mostly unoccupied or have been abandoned for some time. There are also several parcels of undeveloped land in the area.

There is also a row of eight 2-storey derelict pre-war houses called Serani Row at the junction of Lorong Raja Chulan and Jalan Raja Chulan. However, they were demolished last year for a proposed development China Vanke Co Ltd.

The development will feature six multi-storey towers — two 80-storey towers (936 units), two 66-storey towers (1,548 units) and two 60-storey towers (1,404 units), for a total of 3,888 serviced apartments. The 13-storey podium will include 10 floors of parking bays and three floors of retail lots.

“It is believed that China Vanke bought the land in 2017 for about RM1,600 psf. This land in Lorong Raja Chulan is a zoned commercial area and has a plot ratio of 1:7,” says Chen.

China Vanke’s purchase has been the only property transaction in Lorong Raja Chulan in recent years.

Chen says the average built-up of the properties ranges from 1,000 to 1,400 sq ft. In terms of rent, condominiums near Lorong Raja Chulan range from RM1.80 to RM2.50 psf per month while serviced apartments are going for RM3 to RM4.50 psf per month, giving yield of 4% to 5%.

As it is in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Lorong Raja Chulan has good transport links via Jalan Raja Chulan and the nearLRT and Monorail train stations. The Masjid Jamek LRT Station is in walking distance from Lorong Raja Chulan while the Monorail station at Jalan Sultan Ismail is a 10 to 15 minutes walk.

A neardevelopment is Vida Bukit Ceylon, which was completed in 2016. Upcoming projects in the area include Pavilion Ceylon Hill in Changkat Raja Chulan and Ceylonz Suites in Persiaran Raja Chulan.

Due to the high-rise residences being developed in this area, however, greenery will inevitably be lost in the future.

Going forward, the high-rises will soon dwarf the many existing colonial buildings, some of which are more than a century old.