Out with the old, in with the new

Tropicana Metropark is the reincarnation of an old industrial factory.

Tropicana Metropark is the reincarnation of an old industrial factory.

Transformation projects are coming to the fore

By Yanika Liew

Have you ever driven by a shambling building or a disused plot of land depleted of flora and fauna? Old and abandoned development sites are unsightly and could even be an environmental hazard for nearby residents. Such sites can linger for decades until a developer comes by to reinvigorate them. 

However, very few developers will go above and beyond in transforming not just the project, but the area surrounding it. With an innovative spirit and vision, these developers turn these sites into awe-inspiring spaces that will last well into the future.

It is precisely this phenomenon that The Malaysia Developer Awards (MDA) 2022 sought to recognise in its Special Awards Transformation category. The awards are benchmarked at an international level, with winners being property developers EXSIM, Sunway Property and Tropicana Corporation.

EXSIM began its property development journey in Kota Damansara. Today, its projects Ceylonz Suites @ Bukit Ceylon and KongsiKL are fast integrating into Kuala Lumpur. In the case of KongsiKL, its landmark with a well-preserved historical facade is a prime case of adaptive reuse as a centre for modern and culturally beneficial projects.

Located in what used to be an abandoned residential project, Ceylonz Suites @ Bukit Ceylon began construction in 2017, a year after EXSIM took ownership of the land. The project was completed three years later, redefining metropolitan living with a creative and playful design. The company utilised the leftover concrete structure on site to create a polished concrete facade for the new building, with bare-faced concrete slabs and imprinted concrete tiles decorating the lobby. The existing structure was retained and reinforced to support the full weight of the new building without compromising its foundations. 

This approach draws from the idea of recycling building materials instead of demolishing them in their entirety, minimising waste and energy consumption while reusing resources. Therefore, the construction of the project is not only environmentally sustainable, but it also exudes a nostalgic, industrial feel to its residents and surrounding community. As a commercial project rather than a residential one, the new development breathes new life into the old Ceylon district.

KongsiKL is a prime example of adaptive reuse.

KongsiKL is a prime example of adaptive reuse.

Art and cultural spaces 

EXSIM’s other project Persatuan Seni Klang Lama was an art space dedicated to KongsiKL, a non-profit aimed at reviving the city’s art and culture scene. The building site had been an old warehouse that used to be a car workshop and a factory, and although there was no profit to be made through the new space, EXSIM created it on the basis of propelling the arts and culture scene within the local community.

On a much larger scale, Sunway Property displays an example of transformative building in the various township projects the company has embarked on, most notably Sunway City Kuala Lumpur. 

The iconic self-sustaining city had its roots as a tin-mining facility in the 1980s, with barren, sandy lands, unstable foundations and potholes. Through 50 years, Sunway Property continued to add value with infrastructural, residential and commercial developments, cultivating a population of 200,000.

Perhaps most impressive of all, the creation of an entirely new township required flora and fauna, which was tackled through the identification of foundational plants. Great efforts were made into enriching the soil of the tin-mining area, increasing fertility and introducing plant species which would survive the environment. Through these methods, Sunway Property created a new ecosystem for the region while preserving the existing lakes.

Last but not least, Tropicana Corporation’s Tropicana Metropark, a project that began as an old industrial factory. Careful thought was put into the preservation of the factory structure, with a portion of it salvaged and retrofitted into a gallery and satellite office. 

The Urban Park and lake had been built on top of land previously occupied by the factory, storage and maintenance facilities. And the man-made lake was carefully constructed to create a scenic, natural environment. Tropicana maintained its topography, thereby reducing energy consumption in clearing it. The aim of the park was to foster a space where residents as well as the local community would be able to bond and take part in health and wellness activities.

Furthermore, Tropicana invested heavily in the surrounding infrastructure, which included expansive road widening and bus lanes for public buses. There were also features that created a pedestrian-friendly environment, fostering a culture of walking and reducing carbon footprint. In order to enhance the project, landscaping had been done to the area, creating a lush, green space for people from all walks of life to enjoy.

The project itself had been built around the central park as a nexus, linking other facilities, amenities and educational institutions in the area. Providing an inclusive environment, the park had cycling, jogging and walking paths, as well as benches and areas dedicated for morning exercises.

“At Tropicana, we live by our mantra, redefining the art of living. We do so through building wholesome communities and this is possible as we understand the needs of the community,”  Tropicana executive director Adrian Chin said.

“We take into consideration key factors such as environmental preservation at the site to minimise negative impact on the surroundings and we stay innovative in all aspects of our development, from the design stage right up to construction and even marketing,” he added.

Many will not believe that Sunway City Kuala Lumpur was a tin-mining region in the 1980s.

Many will not believe that Sunway City Kuala Lumpur was a tin-mining region in the 1980s.

Past and future

When it comes to transformation, Malaysia’s digitalisation journey is another crucial aspect of the coming years. Developers have begun to embark on their own digital agenda, with EXSIM, Sunway and Tropicana Corporation all having incorporated the use of smart technology into their projects. The investment in technology could span multiple levels of development, from conception and construction to completion.

“Tropicana strives to stay ahead of trends. We will push forward to accelerate and align our digital journey across all our platforms. This is evident in our new and improved T Privilege loyalty programme which is now available on the Tropicana 360 mobile app,” Chin said.

“The goal here is to provide our customers with the ultimate convenience and seamless experience as they enjoy Tropicana’s rewards and benefits at their fingertips. Our 360˚virtual sales gallery and showrooms elevate the viewing experience of potential home buyers and it is instrumental in keeping us connected with our customers.

Chin also pointed to Tropicana’s support for the home ownership journey, created for the convenience of its customers. Digital support included available loan eligibility apps where potential buyers could obtain detailed information about their eligibility within minutes.

With the emphasis on sustainability and future-proofing approaches in the property sector, the spotlight on transformative projects only proves to be timely. The rejuvenation of abandoned sites inspires a nostalgic charm and appreciation for the history of the area, while the implementation of digitisation efforts points these companies firmly on the path forward.

A perfect balance between appreciation of the past and an eye on the future.

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