Developers embrace wellness concepts
Joseph Wong 
An artist's impression of the RM120 mil Eden-on-the-Park

MALAYSIA’s wellness industry appears to have a bright future with its entry into more property developments.

This follows the global trend where developed nations have an increasingly ageing population which requires properties that suit their needs.

Similarly, many developers in the Klang Valley, especially those undertaking township projects, are tying in with wellness partners to meet a similar demand in the country.

They are riding on this new wave as such collaborations could potentially lead to revenue in the billions of ringgit.

While such tie-ups are still relatively few in the country, their growing numbers as identified by FocusM have a collective gross development value (GDV) of RM71 bil (see table). And that’s barely scratching the surface.

Ho believes the wellness component will be more prominent in the future, especially for self-sustained township developments

Mah Sing Group Bhd CEO Datuk Ho Hon Sang predicts that the wellness movement will be more prominent in the future, especially for self-sustained township developments.

“The trend is very well accepted and supported by all age groups,” he says, using the group’s own experience with its RM11.1 bil Southville City project in Bangi, Selangor.

Eco World Development Group Bhd (EcoWorld) divisional general manager Ho Kwee Hong says wellness has become an increasingly popular subject.

What is interesting, she says, is that a substantial number of those buying into wellness-tied properties are the younger generation. This is because they have embraced the healthier living lifestyle.

“It is a fast-growing sector as lifestyle expectations have changed over the years. For EcoWorld, ensuring such services are available is part of our ongoing efforts to create value for our purchasers and residents.

Kwee Hong says wellness has become an increasingly popular subject in property development

“More people are showing interest in what’s offered in the market. And the market reaction is positive as people are looking forward to seeing if the available offers suit their needs.

“We see a huge demand in the coming years and this will increase exponentially as people become more health conscious,” she says.

For its RM730 mil Parque Residences, which has a wellness component attached to it, the buyers range in age from their 20s-50s. And at least one-third of them are young professionals, says Kwee Hong.

The upmarket condominium project resides within the RM8 bil Eco Sanctuary township near Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam.

EcoWorld tied up with Aged Care Group Sdn Bhd, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Managedcare Sdn Bhd, to offer a 24/7 nurse-on-call service as well as a care manager to attend to any care service request from residents of Parque Residences.

Similarly, the majority of Southville City’s purchasers are between 25 and 45 years, with a large portion being first time home buyers, says Mah Sing’s Ho.

Southville City’s wellness centre will host both education and medical components. They will add value to its residential, commercial and retail components.

“We foresee that buyers with families will invite their elderly parents to stay with them.

“As Southville City will be a self-sustaining township when it is completed, they will have access to a host of amenities to support their needs,” he says.

The RM730 mil Parque Residences has a wellness component attached to it

Ageing population

The increasing adoption of wellness components in property developments is tied to the nation’s ageing population.

The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences says those aged 60 years and above are projected to increase to 3.3 million within the next two years.

This is backed by the Department of Statistics, which says the ageing population could hit 5.6 million by 2035. This means 15% of the population will be classified as senior citizens, it says.

The World Health Organisation says an ageing population is one with a decline in fertility rates and/or rising life expectancy, and with a minimum 7% of its population aged 65 and older, while an aged nation has 14% or more in that age group.

“The life expectancy of Malaysians has risen over 20 years since 1957, and the average life expectancy of an average Malaysian at birth now stands at 74.9 years,” it says.

Despite this trend, the number of developers who have projects providing quality care to seniors are limited to just a few.

However, that is expected to change in the future as more developers jump on the bandwagon.


Different concepts

However, the concept of a mixed wellness-cum-residential development varies according to the developer concerned.

In Melaka, Hatten Land Ltd last year unveiled its first wellness-themed mixed development, the RM300 mil Satori, which in Japanese means “enlightenment”.

Hatten Land executive chairman and managing director Datuk Colin Tan says: “Pioneering a new holistic wellness niche in Melaka, Satori is the only one to combine health, fitness, beauty treatments, leisure and homes and a hotel – all in one vibrant destination.”

Satori’s composition of facilities, residences and accommodation serve to meet the increasingly sophisticated market which seeks quality wellness and health services, he says.

In Kuching, Sarawak, an integrated senior-living resort and nursing home project with an estimated GDV of RM120 mil called Eden-on-the-Park is yet another wellness related development for older residents.

Built by Sarawak Construction (1963) Sdn Bhd, this is a prototype retirement village, which incorporated best practices from the Australian retirement homes industry, adapted to local social needs and cultural values.

In Perak, Total Investment Sdn Bhd is developing a similar project. GreenAcres, located in Bandar Meru Raya in Ipoh with an estimated GDV of RM500 mil, saw the completion of its RM10 mil clubhouse and RM100 mil phase 1 villas late last year.

“The retirement village caters to independent and mobile seniors while the aged care residence is for the dependent and less mobile seniors,” says executive director John Chong.

The market is now ready for these types of developments, he says, as the baby-boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964, are nearing retirement or have retired.

Another variant is the RM1 bil AraGreens Wellness and Healthcare City in Ara Damansara, Selangor. It is more of a multi-generational home, within which every unit is equipped with various medical devices that connect to an in-house Medihome system.

This relays recorded information from the devices to be diagnosed by a medical team, according to niche developer HSB Development Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of HSC Healthcare Sdn Bhd.

The system is self-monitoring and empowers the user to take charge of his own medical condition by self-monitoring his or her health statistics.

Even Johor’s Iskandar Puteri multiple wellness-residential developments and Penang’s RM25 bil Wellness City of Dreams have different concepts.

Iskandar Puteri will host a cluster of health and wellness developments from various developers.

Developed by Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd, the 20ha Wellness City of Dreams, located next to Gurney Wharf, includes wellness apartments, retirement and healthcare wellness residential suites, serviced apartments with wellness facilities, resort suites and ambulatory services.

The wellness theme will also be a big part of the 2,023ha City of Elmina development by Sime Darby Property Bhd.

With an estimated GDV of RM25 bil, the development will eventually house over 36,000 homes for 150,000 people and incorporate venues for healthy activities like the path for jogging or cycling and a park that connects to the forest reserve.

For Mah Sing, Ho says: “What we are looking for are operators with a background in the medical industry, medical related retail operators and medically related signature outlets for food, art, music and entertainment.”

For EcoWorld, it was their vision for Eco Sanctuary, which houses Parque Residences, to be a holistic township with the intention to fulfil the needs of the community from the beginning, says Kwee Hong.

Naturally, the level and extent of services provided would have to comply with rules and regulations of the Health Ministry or other governing bodies depending on the services offered, she says.

Sample of projects with wellness components

Design matters

However, all parties agree when it comes to design as wellness-related residences have to consider the convenience and safety of the elderly or physically challenged.

“We take special care of the interior layout of the units such as wider doorways and corridors which are wheelchair-accessible,” says Kwee Hong.

Other features include bigger bathrooms to enable wheelchair-bound elderly to be wheeled in and built-in shower benches.

“Sitting while showering instead of standing greatly reduces the risk of slip and fall,” she says.

Ultimately, everyone has to be on the same page to ensure that the wellness concepts benefit the residential component as well as its residents.

“You would need to have the same mindset and culture for this to work well. And also a good understanding of market expectations and community needs in the surrounding area of development,” says Kwee Hong.

Medical centres in malls

ALTHOUGH wellness has emerged as an important component in townships fairly recently, medical-related institutions have already been taking up space in another segment of the property market – shopping centres.

Within Kuala Lumpur City Centre, the most prominent example is the Twin Towers Medical Centre KLCC Sdn Bhd (TTMC).

Located in Suria KLCC shopping mall, it is described as a one-stop polyclinic offering basic medical consultation, tertiary specialist services and health screenings, among others.

However, a director of a local real estate and valuation company believes this is an exception rather than the rule, due to the concentration of oil and gas companies in the area.

“TTMC is driven by the oil and gas sector as engineers are required to take a variety of vaccinations when travelling to certain regions.

“Such clinics open in shopping malls not because it’s a trend but to cater to a need,” he says.

He says that in general, clinics are drawn to open in shopping centres due to a ready demand for them. Hence, he does not see medical-related institutions breathing new life into older retail malls.

Despite this, he cites Sooka Sentral in KL Sentral, developed by Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) in 2007, which housed a spa, fitness centres, eateries and other outlets as an example of reviving under-performing malls.

In August 2015, the commercial block was sold to TE Asia Healthcare Partners Pte Ltd’s subsidiary, Cardiac Vascular Sentral KL Sdn Bhd, and turned into a 60-bed healthcare facility.

“In the case of the former Sooka Sentral, the entire building was repurposed into a private medical facility. But medically equipping a building also incurs costs,” the director says.

Housing medical centres within shopping malls benefit both parties, says Alers

However, outside the country, medical centres housed within or attached to shopping centres are a common sight, as pointed out by Veritas Design Group principal Anton Alers.

“In Australia, many of the larger shopping malls have a medical centre located within them or on the periphery.

“Chadstone, Melbourne’s premier shopping centre, is a good example where a comprehensive medical clinic is located within the centre,” he says.

Apart from the advantages, which include ease of access, sufficient car parks and security, housing medical centres within shopping malls are also viewed as financially viable.

Alers says malls stand to benefit from a successful medical centre capable of attracting additional patrons, whereas, for medical centres, they are best located away from prime retail spaces in the centre where rentals are at a premium.

Due to the high costs that come with outfitting a medical centre, he stresses that lease terms should be equitable to both parties and have a reasonably long tenure and options for extension.

Additionally, as tenants, medical centres should be prepared to refurbish their premises every few years in keeping with requirements to maintain a contemporary appearance in a competitive retail environment, he says.

Delving into the reasons medical centres in shopping malls are not taking off in Malaysia, he notes that while there are many individual clinics operating out of smaller stand-alone premises, shop lots, or in older retail malls under a strata title, they usually do not offer comprehensive one-stop primary care services.

“At the other end of the spectrum is the dominance of the larger private hospitals which offer a full suite of services, including day surgery and inpatient accommodation,” he says.

Regulations also play a factor. In order to obtain a licence to operate, medical clinics must comply with several requirements, including having service elevators and access to transfer patients to a hospital when required. This is not conveniently available in a mall.

Alers does not dismiss the possibility of clinics opening up in shopping centres, but says they may only fill in a gap to complement larger hospitals.

“As major private hospitals become larger and more congested, the time may have come to create separate comprehensive primary care medical centres ‘off-campus’ and have them serve as feeder centres to refer patients requiring more extensive treatment at private hospitals,” he says. – By Ang Hui Hsien

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 271.