The definition of home in Kuala Lumpur has evolved through the years, in line with Malaysia’s rapid growth since gaining independence. As economic and social conditions in the capital change, so too did ideas of what constitutes desirable housing.
In the post-Merdeka era, as the country boomed and a burgeoning middle class emerged, landed homes formed the backbone of the residential sector. Land was plentiful, so it was relatively easy to meet this demand for bungalows and terrace houses set within a planned suburban township close to the city centre, such as Bangsar, Petaling Jaya and Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
As the supply of land dwindled, the planned suburban ethos was extended to the outer reaches of Greater KL. This is most clearly illustrated by the development of Shah Alam, throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, into a standalone district, with all the amenities and infrastructure needed for life independent from the city centre.
However, as the cost of living and land prices continue to rise, this style of housing became less feasible. Coupled with the increasing inconvenience of living further and further away from employment locations – such as traffic jams and long commutes – KL residents started looking for an alternative.
The creation of high-rise living was a direct response to these challenges. In the beginning, the focus of condo and apartment builders was on the individual units, without much attention to communal facilities. There might be a basic swimming pool and playground, but rarely much else. As competition grew among developers to provide more holistic ideas of the ideal home, high-rise residential offerings started to become more sophisticated.
Location and lifestyle
Potential homeowners began to place a premium on location - including easy connectivity to the workplace and other areas of KL - as well as the lifestyle amenities that were nearby. In response, mixed-use developments - in which homes, workplaces, eateries, retail and entertainment outlets are clustered together – began to mushroom all over the city.
Valerie Ong, a director with real estate developer KIP Group, explained to EdgeProp that developers are designing an environment that caters to the ideal urban lifestyle of today.
“In these developments, developers look at the physical layout, facilities, architecture and design of the residential units as well as the office space, mix of retail outlets, parks or recreational spaces and connectivity to roads and transport hubs. Ideally, all these are available and easily accessible. Mixed-use developments, which are also known as integrated developments, are transforming Malaysia’s property landscape,” she said.
Bandar Sunway is one of the earliest to grow into a popular mixed-use neighbourhood. Built on an old tin mine, this transit-oriented development integrates excellent public transport infrastructure, including trains and an electric bus service, with pedestrian-friendly walkways, such as the elevated Ecowalk, that connects its many amenities with its residential towers. The development hosts universities and colleges, shopping mall, restaurants and entertainment, healthcare and services, and even a water theme park.
Despite these trends, some older areas, like PJ and Bangsar, have withstood the test of time, continuing to command high prices and unwavering demand. Not only are they difficult to beat in terms of connectivity and easy availability of daily amenities, these mature neighbourhoods also maintain plenty of green public spaces, high-quality recreational offerings and a safe, neighbourhood vibe that creates a real sense of community.
For instance, Petaling Jaya, is described by real estate analyst, Vignes Ashley, as an effortless balance between the old and new.
“You have several new high-rise residential and commercial towers that coexist with terrace houses that have been around for almost half a century,” he says.
The well-planned township comprises mainly residential buildings, with schools, shops, parks and playgrounds designed in from the very beginning. Its layout is family-friendly and encourages community interaction, while daily needs are well-catered for within its vicinity.
Some of the most successful new developments have taken a leaf from this playbook, but updated it for contemporary living. For instance, Desa Park City is a relatively new address that has already garnered a reputation as “KL’s Most Livable Community”.
Here it is mostly condos, which allows the development to be more affordable. It is also equally well-catered for in terms of nearby facilities, such as supermarkets, eateries, healthcare and educational institutions.
But what makes Desa Park City distinct is its masterplan for a self-contained township centred on good, wholesome living. With nature-centric design, pedestrian walkways, bicycle paths, pet-friendly parks and recreation club, it attracts families as well as young singles, straddling the sweet spot between the advantages of mature neighbourhoods with the stylish lifestyle that contemporary homeowners desire.
Recently more master planned developments dedicated to high rises have emerged. These projects strive to make the most from the limited spaces available, making convenience a priority.
Located along Jalan Bangsar, KL Eco City is a mixed-used development featuring residential towers, commercial offices and retail outlets. Connected by train, it offers great access particularly for working professionals. Closer to the city centre, Sunway Velocity is its own self-contained community. It is anchored by a shopping mall, hotel, and medical centre, delivering a comprehensive set of services for residents.
When it comes to city-living, factoring in green spaces can be a challenge. TRX made a world-class public realm a priority, at the heart of how the development was sketched. Its master plan puts a lush 10-acre park, sitting on top a lifestyle retail mall.
This is complemented by open plazas, pocket parks, and streetscapes, all linked via a network of pedestrian walkways. With residential and office buildings plotted around the park, this not only allows easy access, but also promotes an active lifestyle and supports the community’s wellbeing.