Kampung Baru’s journey to modernity
Aliff Yusri 
Kampung Baru encompasses 121.8ha of traditional village accommodations sandwiched by modern high-rise developments in the city centre

KAMPUNG Baru has come a long way since the British colonial administration established it as Kuala Lumpur’s Malay Agricultural Settlement in 1897.

In some ways, it remains anachronistic as it retains its quaint village lifestyle, just a stone’s throw from the bustling city centre. However, time and development wait for no man or residential enclave.

Kampung Baru needs to move with the times, and the government’s Kampong Bharu Development Corp (PKB) has adopted a measured approach to modernising the area by working with various developers, including M101 Holdings Sdn Bhd and SP Setia Bhd.

Nonetheless, industry stakeholders are cool on Kampung Baru’s prospects despite the advent of high-profile projects such as M101 Skywheel and Setia Sky Residences.

Their sentiments are a reflection of the lacklustre residential subsale prices over the years, with terrace homes as an exception.

“There is visible progress in the area, with several developments already taking shape and more in the construction stage.

“We are also working to realise the Saloma Link, which will join Kampung Baru to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC),” says PKB chairman Datuk Affendi Zahari.


Pull factors

Kampung Baru’s profile is bolstered by its iconic place in the nation’s history. It has grown in tandem with the nearby financial and administrative hub of Kuala Lumpur (see sidebar).

Today, the village remains a bustling community with a reported population of 18,372 residents as of last year. It is projected to grow to 77,000 by 2035.

The area’s greatest pull factor is, of course, its proximity to Kuala Lumpur’s central business district, which allows it to leverage on the retail hubs, lifestyle destinations, commercial centres and cultural landmarks in the capital city.

As for connectivity, the enclave leverages its access to Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Sultan Ismail – two trunk roads that have become integral to the city’s character.

The Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway and the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway also provide direct access to Kampung Baru, says Yap

“The Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (Duke) and the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (Akleh) also provide direct access to it,” says M101 Holdings Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Seth Yap.

The opening of the Kampung Baru light rail transit (LRT) station in 1999 and the upcoming launch of the Kampung Baru North station as part of the Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya mass rapid transit line (integrated into M101 Skywheel) link the area to the Klang Valley’s growing rail network.

In terms of demographics, 45.3% of households in the Kampung Baru area comprise single-person arrangements, primarily older or retired residents occupying family properties or renters leveraging on its strategic location.

Three to four-person households made up 30.5%, with accommodations ranging from shack-like abodes to high-cost apartments.

However, a 2009 Universiti Utara Malaysia study entitled Surviving Urban Renewal Program: Case Study of a Traditional Urban Village in Kuala Lumpur says housing for mid- to high-income families were uncommon in the area.


Strategic shift

Development in Kampung Baru is overseen by PKB, which was established on April 1, 2012, under the Kampong Bahru Development Corporation Act 2011.

It is the coordinator, facilitator and prime mover for the area’s growth.

“PKB is a government agency designed to assist Kampung Baru residents who need help unlocking the value of their land or with their titles.

Instead of waiting for existing inheritance issues to be resolved, Affendi shifted to development on a nominal, piecemeal basis

“It often links them with local players keen on developing the area,” Affendi tells FocusM.

In line with its vision to redevelop Kampung Baru as the “crown jewel” of Kuala Lumpur, PKB issued the Detailed Master Plan of Kampong Bharu 2020 (PITPKB2020) in early 2015.

The document included 20-year plans to build 1,900 hotel rooms, 30 million sq ft of office space, and 17,500 residential units.

More than 10% of the area was supposed to be dedicated to parks and water features. But this changed when Affendi assumed his position.

“When I became PKB chairman in August 2015, I adjusted PIKTPKB2020, because the original plan was premised on the idea that land acquisition in the area would proceed conventionally. But that has not been the case.

“Out of the 121.8ha within Kampung Baru, 32ha falls outside the Malay Agricultural Settlement, and have few restrictions on sale.

“However, the remaining 89ha comprise small parcels often tied up with inheritance issues, and that restricts the pace of development,” he says.

In 2016, ownership in the agricultural settlement was estimated at 1,355 parcels owned by 5,300 stakeholders.

Rather than wait for existing inheritance issues to be resolved, Affendi shifted his team’s approach to development on a nominal, piecemeal basis, with an emphasis on smaller projects (see sidebar).

Ruling out high-profile and larger integrated projects caused development to be “more agile” while avoiding the social backlash associated with forced land acquisitions.

Future developments in the area under PKB include the Saloma Link, which is envisioned as a pedestrian walkway across the Akleh Highway from Lorong Saloma, next to KLCC, to Lorong Raja Muda Musa 3, near the Kampung Baru LRT station.

The link, says Affendi, will facilitate foot traffic to and from the city centre. This will raise Kampung Baru’s profile among domestic and international visitors while complying with the government’s goal of making Kuala Lumpur a more “walkable” city.

Movement between the two areas now requires travel via Jalan Sultan Ismail or Jalan Tun Razak. The construction is expected to take 12 months and is scheduled to start by the second quarter.

“Moving forward, we’re looking for more projects in the area which we can present to the government in order to draw down funding.

“For the longer term, we hope to see PKB taking a larger role in the community’s development,” he says.


Eye in the sky

Arguably the most visible development among Kampung Baru’s upcoming projects, M101 Skywheel is a RM2.2 bil integrated development on 0.81ha off Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz.

Comprising two 78-storey towers, the freehold project includes 94 signature suites and 1,200 small office flexible office (SoFo) units, with 17,000 sq ft of retail space in two storeys at the base of the building, and a further 40,000 sq ft of sky retail space on levels 50-52.

It is best known for its unique facade, crafted by the Veritas Design Group and Austria-based Studio FA Porsche, to evoke the accents of luxury timepieces with an integrated sky Ferris wheel as the central “dial”.

“In 2014, we bought the land on which M101 Skywheel will sit. The transaction, which was valued at RM70.5 mil, was financed via bank borrowings,” says M101 Holdings’ Yap.

“The overall take-up rate for the project is 70%. We achieved more than RM500 mil in sales for M101 Skywheel last year, with international purchasers being key contributors.”

Yap says purchasers from Indonesia, China and Japan contributed RM100 mil each to the project’s sales. India accounted for RM80 mil while domestic buyers contributed RM150 mil.

M101 Skywheel’s design suites are positioned as collectable properties, consciously catering to the top tier of the market in line with the developer’s vision to upgrade Kampung Baru’s lifestyle profile.



“The village elders and authorities see M101 Skywheel as the beginning of a transformation for Kampung Baru that will lead to a major economic boost, says Yap.

The property price range for the suites is similarly high-end and starts from RM3,700 psf. Yap claims its SoFo units, with built-up from 390-810 sq ft, have already appreciated in value – rising from RM999 psf at launch in February last year to RM1,500 psf currently.

The growth represents a silver lining amid the more lacklustre performance of Kampung Baru’s residential and commercial segments.

Landed residential sales in Kampung Baru have been sparse in recent years, with just two terrace home transactions recorded.

They sold for RM426 psf and RM488 psf respectively in April and November 2015, according to the Valuation and Property Services Department.

High-rise residential and commercial land values saw less growth. Secondary transactions for SP Setia’s Setia Sky Residences rose 4.5% from RM961.54 psf in Q1 2013 to RM1,004.77 psf in Q1 last year.

The apartment is located at the junction of Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz.

Commercial plots fell 11.2% from RM543.99 psf to RM483.27 psf over the same period.

“While the area has many factors going for it, Kampung Baru still has a long way to go as an investment destination,” says Skybridge International Sdn Bhd CEO Adrian Un.

“The key challenge is that development in the area must account for the rights of existing landowners, with projects such as M101 Skywheel and Setia Sky Residences requiring special approval to proceed,” he says.

PTL Chartered Surveyors senior partner Ernest Cheong agrees that large-scale development here will be difficult until the pressures of urbanisation overcome the enclave’s existing ownership issues.

In addition, the nature of the enclave, with numerous small land parcels ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 sq ft often belonging to multiple owners with inheritance trails dating back four or more generations, further hinders prospects.

“Kampung Baru is a Malay reserve, which places it out of the reach of 40% of Malaysian purchasers. The current legislation supports Malay ownership of properties there with Malay tenancy,” he says.

Completed in 2011, Setia Sky Residences’ four 40-storey towers have become an integral part of the Kampung Baru’s modern skyline

Born of a colonial policy

KAMPUNG Baru’s roots lie in the geographic distribution of workers in 1800s Kuala Lumpur, then under British rule.

Their administrative policies placed Chinese miners and traders to the city’s south and east in what is now Petaling Street and Cheras while settling the Indian Chettiar community around the Klang River in what became Merdeka Square and Jalan Masjid India.

Meanwhile, Malays were concentrated in the north, around what is now Jalan Tun Perak, with the Malay Agricultural Settlement later forming the nucleus of Kampung Baru.

Up until the 1930s, the community was characterised by low-rise wooden stilt houses, with typical land areas of 60 ft x 33 ft.

Gardens with food crops and poultry rearing were common.

The 2009 Universiti Utara Malaysia report, Surviving Urban Renewal Program: Case Study of a Traditional Urban Village in Kuala Lumpur says the lack of a master plan for Kampung Baru during its early years meant that initial development was often ad hoc.

This was seen in initiatives such as the straightening of the Klang River which ran through the area in the 1960s, leaving Kampung Baru flood-prone in subsequent years.

The Kampung Baru Development Corp (PKB) later addressed this vulnerability through mitigation efforts centred at Sungai Bunus, and drainage upgrading works by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and the Drainage and Irrigation Department.

The settlement’s boundaries have also changed over the years and now reflects the development of the nearby city centre.

Initially encompassing 101.02ha, its scope expanded by 61.93ha in 1974 with the establishment of the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

This allotment was subsequently reduced through moves such as the acquisition of 9.61ha by DBKL for a bypass from Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman to Jalan Raja Abdullah.

In 2008, 91.41ha came under the Malay Agricultural Settlement area, including Kampung Periok, Kampung Masjid, Kampung Atas A, Kampung Atas B, Kampung Hujung Pasir, Kampung Paya and Kampung Indah.

Additionally, 61.93ha fell outside the Malay Agricultural Settlement, with parts of Chow Kit, Dang Wangi, Sultan Ismail and Kampung Sungai Baru making up a total of 153.34ha  under Kampung Baru, says DBKL.

One of PKB’s key priorities under the Detailed Master Plan of Kampong Bharu 2020 is the preservation of the settlement’s heritage and culture without marginalising existing residents.

Lure of Kampung Baru

While M101 Holdings Sdn Bhd’s M101 Skywheel is arguably the most visible new project in Kampung Baru, other developers have entered the enclave to capitalise on its strategic location and surrounding amenities.

This influx has seen developments such as SP Setia Bhd’s Setia Sky Residences and ongoing projects like UDA Holdings Bhd’s Legasi Kampong Bharu.

Legasi Kampong Bharu, to be completed in June 2020, is an integrated development featuring residential, commercial and retail components called Legasi Residences, Menara Legasi and Jajaran Niaga Legasi respectively.

Its architecture emphasises modern Islamic motifs in line with Kampung Baru’s heritage.

Positioned as a residential apartment with condominium facilities, Legasi Residences features 639 units in a 43-storey tower with built-ups from 807 sq ft to 1,907 sq ft. Of these, 206 units comprise homes under the Federal Territories Affordable Housing Scheme.

Menara Legasi encompasses 83 office units in a 29-storey tower with typical floor areas of 10,099 sq ft, while Jajaran Niaga Legasi is a single-storey development with 43 retail lots ranging from 78-7,134 sq ft.

Located on a 1.15ha site fronting Jalan Raja Muda Musa, the development has the advantage of being near the Kampung Baru station of the Kelana Jaya light rail transit line.

Legasi Kampong Bharu and Setia Sky Residences are representative of the development direction in Kampung Baru – preserving the character of the settlement while offering modern aesthetics and structures.

Setia Sky Residences feature 811 luxury units with built-ups from 635-1,755 sq ft, along with 120,062 sq ft of recreational facilities located on its level 5 Sky Deck and level 33A Sky Club.

The Valuation and Property Services Department says the property has appreciated price-wise.

Residential units that transacted at RM680 psf when launched in 2008 now sell for RM1,004.77 psf. However, prices have plateaued in recent years.

Completed in 2011, Setia Sky Residences’ four 40-storey towers have become an integral part of Kampung Baru’s modern skyline.

M101 Skywheel is arguably the most visible new project in Kampung Baru

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 272.