THE real estate landscape in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, is changing rapidly. Property development activities are on an upscale pace, which means more projects will come up in the future.
One of the most exciting developments for the Kota Kinabalu property market is a project by Singapore Exchange-listed property developer GSH Corp Ltd.
The company will develop Coral Bay, which is expected to be the most expensive residential tower in Sabah.
The project will take place in Sutera Harbour Resort (SHR), the country’s foremost premier integrated property owned by the company.
According to GSH chief executive officer Gilbert Ee, the company will launch Coral Bay early this year.
“When we acquired SHR, we also acquired along with it two parcels of land, totalling about 20 acres (8.09ha). The plan is to develop luxury residential apartments for local and foreign property buyers.
“The market today is not like it was seven to eight years ago when at our product launches, they (units) were all sold out. But we feel the timing is right this year as more people are looking at Sabah for a piece of luxury property that is fronting the sea and located within a golf course area. We have everything in SHR so we are quite bullish on the take-up of our residential launch,” Ee told NST Property.
GSH bought over SHR, including the two pieces of residential land, in 2014 for RM700 million from builder Datuk Edward Ong Han Nam. Ong built SHR, which is located about 10-minutes drive from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA), in the 1990s for US$450 million (RM1.85 billion).
SUTERA HARBOUR RESORT GAINING TRACTION
Currently, the 154ha SHR is home to two luxury five-star hotels — the 500-room Pacific Sutera and the 456-room Magellan Sutera. The hotels are complemented by a 27-hole Graham Marsh-designed championship golf course with day and night golfing, 104-berth marina and extensive facilities at Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club.
Ee said there are plans to expand SHR, turning it into Sabah’s most important tourism development and a world-class destination.
The closest example of what will become of SHR in the future is the ocean fronting Sentosa Cove in Singapore which has a lifestyle element, golf courses, five-star hotels and marina.
“SHR was on the market as it was in distress due probably to the financial structure and how it was operating. We took over the property in 2014 and turned it around. We did enough research that made it possible.
“After taking over the property, we set aside an additional RM50 million which we spent over the last three years to upscale all the assets within the resort and refurbish the hotel rooms.
“We even spent a bit of money to upgrade the infrastructure and landscape. For the hotel side, the investment is ongoing. This year, we will allocate part of our revenue for the overall maintenance and upgrading of SHR.
“Sometimes you do the right thing and the rest of the pieces will fall in place. Even during crisis we continue to invest. If we want to do something we really have to be committed. It’s not just about taking care of the land and building. SHR has 1,600 employees,” he said.
According to Ee, the average occupancy for both the hotels combined during peak seasons is 90 per cent, and it is about 65 to 70 per cent during off-peak seasons.
“SHR is finally making money... this is a prized asset for GSH,” he added.
NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN KOTA KINABALU
SP Setia Bhd is developing Aeropod, a 24.28ha transit-oriented hub which is the company’s maiden project in Kota Kinabalu.
Aeropod is the largest integrated development in Kota Kinabalu. It comprises Aeropod commercial square, SOVOs (small office virtual offices), residential towers, hotels, a lifestyle shopping mall and Tanjung Aru railway station.
Aeropod’s proximity to the KKIA and integration with the Tanjung Aru railway station will allow it to benefit from the projected growth in tourist arrivals to Sabah.
Another interesting development is the Kota Kinabalu City Waterfront (KKCW).
It is an important element of the Sabah Development Corridor’s (SDC) blueprint to transform Kota Kinabalu city into a premium tourist gateway and a premier second home destination for the affluent.
KKCW consists of an upmarket lifestyle waterfront mall, a 365-room super luxurious waterfront hotel and 111 units of designer suites. The entire development is linked by a 2.1km Waterfront Boardwalk, one of the longest of its kind in Asia.
This project, along with other developments like the Kinabalu International Convention Centre (KICC) located near Jesselton Point, will boost the Waterfront Boardwalk activity, providing vital economic integration for downtown businesses.
Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman told NST Property that the third phase of SDC (2016-2025) will present new challenges as it is running concurrently with the 11th Malaysia Plan which covers the final five years towards realising Vision 2020.
“The SDC Blueprint complements the Halatuju Agenda of the Sabah state government introduced in 2003. The Halatuju Agenda has now been superseded by the Sabah Leap.
“At the national level, the federal government is laying down the foundation and direction for the Transformasi Nasional 2050 agenda. In terms of infrastructure, economic development, human capital development and entrepreneurship development, tremendous opportunities for Sabah are offered through SDC to be one of the most attractive investment destinations in Malaysia, and will help SDC achieve its goals and targets by 2025,” he said.
Musa said the ongoing Pan-Borneo Highway project will not only allow enhanced connectivity between various economic clusters under SDC, but also open up new economic frontiers and opportunities.
He added that the SDC Blueprint v.2.0 will identify new economic clusters and zones made possible by the Pan-Borneo Highway.
“It will also identify measures to ensure Sabah can leverage the various SDC projects implemented and transform Kota Kinabalu into a smart, sustainable and competitive city,” Musa said.
NORTH BORNEO RAILWAY AS GROWTH CATALYST
THERE are many interesting things to do in Kota Kinabalu and these have attracted a large number of tourists every year.
Property developers and private entities are building more hotels and resorts in the Sabah capital city to complement growth in the state’s economy, particularly in tourist arrivals.
In 2016, Sabah recorded RM7.25 billion in tourism receipt and it is expected to hit RM7.7 billion last year.
The Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is working to ensure that there are enough hotels in the state to meet future demands.
One of the greatest attractions in Kota Kinabalu is the North Borneo Railway, Borneo’s oldest running steam locomotive. The railway line runs 58km between Kota Kinabalu and Papar, an agricultural town known as the rice bowl of Sabah.
A look back in history shows that construction of the railway line started from Bukau, north to Beaufort and south to Weston in 1896.
An English civil engineer by the name of Arthur J. West was appointed to build the railway line. However, upon completion of the railway in 1890, Weston was discovered to be too shallow for a deep-sea wharf.
West decided to extend the line northwards.
In 1903, West extended a 64km line from Beaufort to Tenom, and to Melalap. In the meantime the 90km line from Beaufort to Jesselton (former name for Kota Kinabalu) was also constructed. The Tenom-Melalap rail was completed in 1906.
The North Borneo Railway was established on August 1 1914 and things began to pick up in 1924. Not long after, it hit a snag because of the Great Depression which spread throughout the world and led to the start of the Second World War in 1939.
After Malaysia was formed, the North Borneo Railway assumed the name of the Sabah State Railway Department and several changes were again made to improve passenger and cargo facilities.
On January 22 2000, the North Borneo Railway was relaunched as a joint-venture project between Sutera Harbour Resort and the Sabah State Railway Department, signifying a historical collaboration through common initiatives between the private sector and the state government.