i-City by I-Berhad has changed dramatically since our first visit in 2009. Back then, it was quiet as only the first phase – the MSC Malaysia Cybercentre office suites and City of Digital Lights – had been completed.
I-Berhad executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong recalls there were plenty of naysayers in the early days. Many simply could not imagine the i-City he had envisioned. They could not have been more wrong.
Today, the 72-acre i-City is a bustling “ultrapolis” comprising leisure, commercial, retail, hospitality and residential components. It has been endorsed as an MSC Malaysia Cybercentre, approved as a tourism destination by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and declared an International Park by the Selangor state government.
i-City is a recipient of the Edge Malaysia Property Development Excellence Awards 2019. The awards recognize large-scale property developments that have made a significant impact. i-City has not only proven to be a catalyst for growth, it has also continued to contribute positively to the vibrancy of the area it is located in.
According to Tan, i-City was always meant to be more than just a knowledge hub and tourist destination.
“Tourism was merely a means to an end, to raise awareness and highlight the immense potential of i-City. when i-City was conceptualized more than a decade ago, we saw it as a city within a city, a dynamic organism of sorts with an economy and ecosystem of its own within Selangor. Technology was the underlying focus then and will play an even more significant role now with today’s advancements amid the greater proliferation of digitalization,” says Tan.
He said that in i-City’s early planning days, research and valuations indicated that receiving MSC Malaysia Cybercentre status could be a differentiating factor for the office market segment.
“In those days, MSC Cybercentre status was limited to the original MSC Malaysia corridor, so getting the certification provided a competitive edge. It also helped that the Selangor state government wanted to have its own MSC Malaysia Cybercentre at that time. All these dovetailed into the vision of i-City as a knowledge hub.
Meanwhile, i-City’s roots as a tourism destination is the RM10 million Aerospace Adventure that was held at the site in the mid-1990s.
“We brought in Russian spacecrafts as a community service project to generate interest in aerospace science and technology among students. We found that if you have something unique to offer, you will be able to draw the crowd. As a new development, accelerating the vibrancy of the place was critical,” shares Tan.
The result was its first attraction, the City of Digital Lights, with lightscapes provided by one million LED lights. CNN Travel listed it as one of the top 25 brightest and most colorful places in the world in 2017.
I-Berhad has fully sold and completed three high-rise residential towers with 2,147 units – i-Residence, i-Soho and i-Suite. Another 1,217 units in themed high-rise residential towers – Liberty, Parisien and Hyde – have also been completed and mostly sold.
In June, Central i-City Mall was officially opened by the Sultan of Selangor Sharafuddin Idris Shah. Also in attendance were Tengku Permaisuri Selangor, Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin, and Selangor Menteri Besar, Amirudin Shari.
The RM850 million mall is a joint venture between Central Pattaya Public Company Ltd (60%) and i-City Properties Sdn Bhd (40%), a subsidiary of I-Berhad. Upon completion, i-City will have an estimated 30,000 residents and 20,000 knowledge-based workers.
When the i-City master plan was first approved in 2005, it had a gross development value (GDV) of RM1.5 billion based on five million sq ft of approved gross floor area (GFA). This, says Tan, was because the authorities placed a ceiling on the built-up area based on that of the Shah Alam city centre.
“As i-City gained traction, we managed to convince the authorities to allow us to increase the plot ratio,” says Tan.
The master plan was upgraded to 7.5 million sq ft with a GDV of RM2 billion in 2008. That same year, a new Shah Alam master plan under the new state administration allowed developments identified as key drivers to the state’s progress to increase their plot ratio from 1:3 to 1:5.
“This additional built-up area enabled us to offer more residential units, increasing the GDV to RM5 billion based on a RM13 million sq ft GFA,” says Tan.
Today, i-City has a GDV of RM10 billion. Tan believes it is still possible to increase the approved built-up area and its GDV, given that i-City is now a transit-oriented development with a stopover under the Light Rail Transit Line 3.
Corporate offices and residential components now account for more than half of the approved built-up area. The park rides and attractions, which were located on land earmarked for future developments in the early years, have been relocated to completed buildings. The plan, says Tan, is to integrate the theme park elements so they become part and parcel of the property development components.
“Furthermore, being one of the few developments with dual power source and dual telecommunication has contributed to i-City’s efforts to be a front-liner in building Internet of Things (IoT)-ready homes and offices, smart infrastructure and facilities and Green Building Index-rated corporate offices. We believe this would make i-City a very unique place,” says Tan.
Meanwhile, Central i-City Mall has 87% lease commitments and is reaching its target of attracting a million visitors a month to the mall.
“As for out theme park, we will continue to refresh the LED lightscapes and bring in new rides and attractions. Our plan is to market i-City as an integrated destination and a central business district in the heart of Selangor’s Golden Triangle,” says Tan.
Tan was elated to hear Amirudin say [at the launch of the mall], that i-City, which is developing rapidly, is poised to be the Golden Triangle of Selangor.
“Golden Triangles are generally synonymous with areas noted for [their] economic success, prosperity and influence, among others, and reflect the growth of a city. This bears great testament to the gradual realization of our master plan. It validates out vision of building a modern, breath-taking and futuristic city, turning the humble region of the capital city into an international capital city and an exemplification of Malaysia’s technological progressiveness,” he elaborates.
In line with this, I-Berhad has identified two projects it wants to pursue – the 78-storey The Jewel Tower and the building of the i-City information, communications and technology (ICT) infrastructure.
“The Jewel will be the highest building in Selangor once completed and will change the state skyline. It is intended to symbolize i-City’s Golden Triangle Status. The ICT infrastructure will make i-City the first urban centre in the country to provide fiber redundancy as a basic infrastructure.
“This would be in line with Smart Selangor Vision 2025 and also offer a differentiation to many corporate customers. Broadband connectivity is becoming a critical component, so we not only have to look at speed but also availability of a service, and this fiber redundancy plan will be a unique selling point for i-City as a location of choice for businesses,” says Tan.
Smart Selangor is an initiative by the state government to transform Selangor into a premier regional smart state in Asean by 2025.
Establishing a strong brand.
According to Tan, the development of i-City had the two-pronged objective of building the brand in the property development sector and enabling the group to establish a strong recurring income base with its hospitality and investment property portfolios.
“We believe we have managed to establish i-City as a strong brand given that we have attracted global brands such as Hilton and CPN to work with us. We have also been able to enhance the value of our residential properties. I-Residence was launched in 2012 at about RM450 psf and in 2017, the Hill10 residence was launched at almost double the figure,” shares Tan.
I-Berhad has also been steadily growing its investment property portfolio.
“In 2008, we had only about RM13 million of investment properties. By the end of 2019, including the 40% share of the mall, the group would have about RM700 million invested in data centres, hotels, two convention centres, car parks and offices.
“Many of these properties only came on stream in the past one to two years and we have been slowly building the occupancy. We see these recurring-income components as not only providing the group with a growth path but also a base income to counter the cyclical nature of property development,” he says.
What the future holds
I-Berhad plans to launch Be-Central residential units in the first quarter of next year and recently obtained planning approval for the Jewel. The 300-room DoubleTree by Hilton will open its doors next year.
The next phase of i-City will have two transformative goals – establishing Shah Alam as a major office location in support of the government’s vision to be a knowledge economy, and creating a private sector medical hub for Shah Alam befitting its state capital status.
The Jewel will be the most iconic element of i-City. Comprising Grade A offices and a five-star hotel, it will be surrounded by a medical mall, and commercial and residential developments catering to the international community.
The medical mall will comprise a medical office, medical centre and wellness centre, catering for residents, visitors and medical tourists. Facilities for convalescence and elder living will feed into the positioning of this latter phase as a commune for upmarket independent living.
Tan concludes that these integral components of i-City will further entrench the area as a vibrant integration of work, play and life.