A strategic multi-billion-dollar new city near Singapore is drawing interest from investors with promises of luxury living, but there are questions over its future owing to China’s economic afflictions and forewarnings of environmental devastation.
Image: Free Malaysia Today
Forest City is a luxurious futuristic “eco-city” of high-rises and waterfront villas, which will sit on four man-made islands on the Malaysian side of the Johor Strait just an hour away from Singapore. This revolutionary city is offering 700,000 residential units as well as shopping malls, international schools, convention venues, hotels and medical facilities on 1,370 hectares. The city will even have its own immigration centre!
It is a US$100 billion (RM441 billion) development project to build this city in the sea and while Chinese home buyers have sent prices soaring all over the world, in this corner of Southeast Asia, Chinese developers are swamping the market, pushing prices lower with an excess of hundreds of thousands of new homes. Country Garden, which has partnered with the investment arm of Johor state, launched another waterfront project down the coast in 2013 called Danga Bay, where it has sold all 9,539 apartments. China state-owned Greenland Group is building office towers, apartments and shops on 128 acres in Tebrau, about 20 minutes from the city centre. Guangzhou R&F Properties Co. has started construction on the first phase of Princess Cove, with about 3,000 homes. Country Garden said in an e-mail it was “optimistic on the outlook of Forest City” because of the region’s growing economy and location next to Singapore.
Image: Straits Times
Singapore’s high costs and property prices encouraged some companies to relocate to JB, while the shopping malls and amusement parks have become a favourite day-trip destination for Singaporeans. In the old city centre, young Malaysians hang out at hipster cafes and ice cream parlours on Jalan Dhoby where the influx of new money is restoring the colonial-era shop lots.
Developers have a pipeline of more than 350,000 private homes planned or under construction in Johor state, according to data from Malaysia’s National Property Information Centre. That’s more than all the privately built homes in Singapore. Forest City could add another 160,000 over its 30-year construction period, according to Bloomberg estimates, based on the projected population.
USA based chocolate maker Hershey Co. is among those building a plant in Johor, joining tenants such as amusement park Legoland Malaysia and Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, a franchise of the UK-based movie studio.
Meanwhile, sales reps are selling this utopian dream – a metropolitan of the future with smart, leafy buildings and offices full of cheerful, rich residents.