October 17, 2017, 6:05 am
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Smart, green futuristic city rises


ISKANDAR. — Malaysia is seeing what could be one of the biggest and most ambitious projects in recent times, a $100-billion 20-year  four-island development of a new city, covering 30,000 square kilometers, mostly rising from the sea.

Forest City being developed by Country Garden Pacificview Sbn Bhd is showing the rest of Southeast Asia how new cities should be built. After all, countries like the Philippines  are already short of land. The Philippines has in fact reclamation projects where commercial estates were, and will be, developed.

Runze Yu, chief strategy officer of Country Garden,  disclosed that Country Garden Group Holdings Company Limited founder and chairman Yang Guoqiang, had the occasion to meet with President Duterte in Hong Kong on the sidelines of an investment forum where the chief executive invited the Chinese businessman to invest in the Philippines.

Country Garden Pacificview is a joint venture between Country Garden Group and the Malaysian-backed Esplanade Danga 88.

“It was a very brief (encounter). President Duterte told my chairman the Philippines welcomes all investors and that corruption in the country (has been) reduced or decreased,” Yu said.

Yu said a Philippine company has also visited Forest City “to get inspired” from the project for a development in the Philippines.

 “The developer came here to see (Forest City). There are followup discussions with the group,” he said.

Forest City is regarded as a role model for massive, urban development projects and Yu has some advice to developers in the Philippines and elsewhere wishing to replicate it even on a smaller scale.

“The number one...partnership is important. If you go to a foreign country, finding the right partner is very critical. The takeaway message here is to work with the very best like what we did,” said Yu.

Yu was referring to Sasaki & Associates which masterplanned the project. Sasaki’s  more than 50-year legacy has been its expertise in incorporating urban development with the surrounding ecology.

In this case, Sasaki used the breakwater and local mangroves in the area to create a park and maintain a coastline that is  adapted to climate change.

 Yu said Country Garden has just started to learn about the Philippine market so that it may be too early to say what the prospects are on  sales from,  and investments to, the country.

Yu said Forest City is taking shape at an amazing speed, with over 5 billion ringgit so far spent since it was launched in March  2015. The amount includes the cost of acquiring the rights to develop the reclaimed site on a freehold arrangement with the government of Johor.

According to Yu, as soon as the environmental impact assessment was approved in 2015, the developers hit the ground running and started reclaiming the property.

After a year, Forest City was launched and by December, Phoenix Hotel opened.

Last year,  some 15,000 residential units were sold while about 120,000 tourists were lured to Johor.

Country Garden has since then moved to accelerate sales and marketing to trigger demand and attract a diversified customer base, most of them from the region.
It opened a
sales gallery in Jakarta and will soon open in Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Taiwan (Taipei), the Middle East (Dubai) and India.

Yu said Country Garden is also putting emphasis on industry and employment to attract “people who will shop, have fun and work here.”

The main island has been devoted to the manufacturing and the three golf courses. There, Country Garden set up the world’s largest industrialized building system (IBS) factory which upon full operation can produce up to 6 million square meters of built up pre-fabricated materials – from walls,  to stairs and balconies --  for use mainly of Forest City’s building requirements.

At the three reclaimed islands, Forest City will have tourism, residential and commercial developments.

Yu said Forest City is funded by private money, with the financial muscle of its Hong Kong-based  partner Country Garden, one of China’s leading integrated property developers,.

The company last year issued its first Islamic bonds, the proceeds of which would finance Forest City ‘s development.

“The beauty of Forest City is that because it is developed in phases, it is sold in phases. It sounds humongous but it is safe financially speaking. You develop the land and move to the next stage and recycle the money,” Yu said.

Another plus is that the company is receiving tax incentives from the federal government.

“As a green developer, we enjoy big deduction on corporate taxes,” said Yu, adding that this would attract other developers not only from China but other companies from the region.

Ventures in education and tourism enjoy zero corporate taxes in the first five years.

Last week, Country  Garden
signed  memoranda  of  understanding (MOU) with  21 
companies to further its vision to be 

regional destination for businesses, residents and visitors 
from around Asia Pacific.  

These  ageements signify these companies’  intent to  establish  a  presence

in  the  development . These all  tie in  with Forest City’s commitment  to  develop  eight  key  industries : tourism  and  MICE,  healthcare,  education  and 
training,  regional  headquarters,  near-shore  finance,  e
-commerce  service  base  in  Asean, 
application  of  emerging  technologies  and  service  center and  sectors  related  to  a  green  and 
smart city.  

These companies include :

Foshan Hospital for traditional Chinese medicine venture;

Malaysian Healthcare Tourism Council for medical tourism; Focus Adventure for eco-tourism; Glyken Group for bird’s nest museum; Nashwork for flexible work space, among others.

Following December 2016’s MOU with Malaysia’s Celcom Axiata Bhd to develop a network infrastructure, Country Garden also over the weekend announced a strategic collaboration with PCCW Global that will advance its smart city aspirations for Forest City.
Under the agreement, PCCW Global will provide an energy-efficient data center that will enable Forest City with a future-proof digital framework. Businesses and residents be able to access a portfolio of best-in-class integrated communications solutions, as well as smart energy, transport and utility management services that are environmentally friendly and protected against physical and cyber threats. 

Also over the weekend, Forest City unveiled the design of its landmark building, groomed to be the second most iconic in all of Malaysia after Petronas Twin Towers,
The building will be located in the heart of the development’s commercial area on Island 1.

 Its façade will feature the vertical greenery distinctive of Forest City, and offer 270-degree views of the ocean. Situated close to the monorail stop, central medical district and the marina, the landmark building is a mixed-use development that will include offices, duty-free shops and customized conference centers when completed in 2020. 

Strategically located near the geographic and economic centers of Southeast Asia, Forest City is ideally positioned to become a new global cluster of commerce and culture. Designed to foster a seamless live/work lifestyle, it aims to attract financial institutions, high-tech research and development facilities, headquarters offices, and a variety of creative industries that will establish an innovative and sustainable employment base for the region.

 The development’s mixed-use approach to city building also makes Forest City an ideal destination for a new generation that seeks to live in a compact and walkable metropolis that offers a variety of civic, cultural, and recreational amenities set within a lush, tropical landscape that offers unparalleled ocean views.

 Future residents and visitors are also efficiently connected to the larger region through  multiple forms of public transportation - including a light rail transit system and extensive ferry network that links to anticipated extensions of Singapore’s MRT and to Malaysia’s planned high-speed rail line to Kuala Lumpur - connect Forest City to the world.

One of the most significant features of Forest City is the symbiotic relationship between development and the natural environment. At the center of the four islands lies the Seagrass Preserve – a key ecological feature of the region that celebrates Forest City’s commitment to embracing and enhancing the environment. 

In addition to the extensive ground-level parks and waterfront trail system, Forest City will have an infrastructure podium which would create the world’s largest green roof system. The podium parks provide native habitat zones, filter and cleanse stormwater, and provide recreational opportunities in an entirely automobile-free public realm. 

By blending water recreation, golf, upscale accommodation, specialty F&B, duty-free retail, artistic and cultural activities, Forest City aims to become a regional, or even international tourist destination. With 650 meters of shoreline in the commercial district, shoppers can easily enjoy seaside recreational activities should they prefer to take a break from shopping. Forest City will soon boast an all-terrain dirt-track for four-wheel drive adventures, luxury camping facilities and other unique activities combining road and sea options for recreation, fun and sporting adventures. 

Tourists can visit Forest City via yachts and can also island-hop to the famous Kukup island and TanjongPilai while taking in sights of the surrounding mangroves around the development. Forest City will also be a base for artistic and cultural activities, with museums and galleries opening to provide a space where creativity and ideas can be shared and enjoyed.

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