Growth potential of a sought-after district

High-value economic activities will serve to sustain the Cheras property market By Gunaprasath Bupalan y ou’re from Cheras? Wow! That’s so far away…

Cheras, don’t want lah– the jam is horrible.

What to do in Cheras? Not happening lah…

These are some common remarks Cheras residents hear from ‘outsiders’.

Although such statements may be correct to a certain extent, there is more to Cheras than meets the eye.

This comprehensive review on the district will give readers the benefit of familiarising themselves with an area that has huge potential for capital appreciation through property investment.

Before we get into the benefits of living or investing in Cheras, let us learn about the place.

Cheras of yesteryear Cheras is a township located south-east of Kuala Lumpur, adjacent to Ampang (to the north) and Kajang (to the south).

It is therefore sandwiched between two major towns within the metropolitan area of Kuala Lumpur.

Stretching about 14.9km from the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Cheras begins at the Royal Selangor Golf Club and then along the Jalan Tun Razak-Jalan Bukit Bintang intersection to parts that border Kajang.

Hence, parts of Cheras have a Selangor address while the larger areas come under Kuala Lumpur postcodes.

Based on history, Cheras began at the end of 1876.

There are several versions of how the name ‘Cheras’ came about, so it’s difficult to confirm which is the true origin.

However, they make for interesting stories.

Cheras has 11 out of the 31 newly-completed MRT stations.

According to one version, a group of labourers was building the Sungai Langat bridge at Kampung Balakong when they stumbled upon a big piece of hardwood that was difficult to cut because of its tough core.

In Malay, the core is known as teras.

Therefore, the area where the hardwood was found was named teras – which eventually became cheras.

Another story tells of locals claiming that the name Cheras originated from a huge tree that was sunken in a stream.

Because it was so difficult to remove the tree from the stream, the area came to be known as teras and the stream was called Sungai Teras, which was later changed to Cheras.

The third tale speaks of a Chinese tradesman who frequently used a stream to get around.

In the Chinese language, to go back and forth is chow lai.

As time went by, chow lai was pronounced as Cheras.

Yet another explanation says that the name was derived from the Chinese mispronunciation of beras (rice), which was widely grown in the area in the late 1880s.

Cheras in the later years Soon after 1 Feb 1974, part of Cheras district fell under the jurisdiction of Kuala Lumpur and officially migrated to Wilayah Persekutuan through ‘Perjanjian Penyerahan Kuala Lumpur 1974’.

Since then, Cheras has been divided into two neighbouring districts – one part in Selangor and the other under Wilayah Persekutuan.

In Selangor, Cheras is situated in the Hulu Langat district and is under Majlis Perbandaran Kajang while the neighbouring KL portion of Cheras falls within the Kajang and Hulu Semenyih districts.

During this time, the central business area of Cheras district was at Pekan Batu 9.

Sometime in 1982, Kampung Konggo was officially renamed Bandar Tun Razak – named after Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, who inspired the development of the district back in 1974.

Residents of Bandar Tun Razak live within a comprehensive township that is fully equipped with all the amenities and recreational assets within Wilayah Persekutuan.

Cheras of today Cheras has become one of the city’s largest suburbs, being home to more than 100 landed housing estates, some of which were established back in the 1960s.

Among the larger housing estates are Bandar Tun Razak, Taman Connaught, Taman Maluri and Taman Midah.

Cheras generally comprises decades-old housing estates interspersed with small commercial centres and a few malls.

Over recent years, Cheras has undergone extensive growth and rejuvenation especially with the opening of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 1, where 11 of the 31 MRT stations are situated within the district.

“Cheras is in a unique position, being halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Cyberjaya.

The highway linkages to Cyberjaya are excellent, so it’s important to look at how they connect to parts of the Klang Valley in terms of local and global value chains,” said Nordin Abdullah, founding chairman of The Malaysia Global Business Forum.

New catalysts from integrated developments and retail malls Among several significant new mixed commercial developments in the neighbourhood are Ikea-MyTOWN Shopping Centre, Sunway Velocity Mall and Eko Cheras Mall, adding to the well-established Aeon Taman Maluri and Cheras Leisure Mall.

Sunway Velocity is a 23-acre integrated development with residences, shopping mall, hotel, medical centre, offices and shops and a two-acre park.

The MyTOWN development is an 18-acre family and lifestyle shopping centre anchored by the largest Ikea in Malaysia, while Eko Cheras is a 12-acre mixed-use development comprising serviced apartments, office suites, hotel suites and retail components.

Other upcoming integrated developments that will help raise property prices in the area include the 10.74-acre Emerald Square by Guocoland in Batu 9, which will comprise serviced apartments, a hotel and offices with a GDV of RM1.5bil.

Laville Kuala Lumpur by Orando Holdings Sdn Bhd, when completed in 2021, will feature 35 two-storey retail units, 1,200 serviced apartments and around 2,000 parking bays.

M Vertica by Mah Sing Group, also due for completion in 2021, is a mixed undertaking that will comprise five high-rise residential towers and commercial shops, while illi @ Kuala Lumpur by Symphony Life Berhad is planned to comprise two serviced apartment blocks totaling 757 units plus 10 retail shops sitting on top of an eight-storey carpark podium.

In the pipeline are plans to convert the green lung at the north-western side of Taman Taynton View, near to Taman Mutiara Barat by Viva Impian.

This will make way for a mixed development that will see a five-level shopping mall, several blocks of serviced apartments, a signature serviced residence, serviced suites and SoHos, two corporate office towers and a hotel.

While these projects are under way, S P Setia’s recent JV plans for a project in Cheras that is expected to have an estimated GDV of RM11.03bil is in the works.

With these developers taking up land banks in Cheras and promising projects that will be much sought-after, property prices in all likelihood will soon see an uptrend.

Rising residential property prices Housing developments in the area consist of mostly terraced houses serving a middle-income population.

However, Cheras has been receiving growth spurts in the form of infrastructure boosts from rail connectivity and integrated developments.

At the moment, house prices in Cheras are still considered affordable and attracting more and more young working adults (urbanites).

Overall, landed properties in Cheras have enjoyed a stable price rise over the years.

According to Zerin Properties CEO Previn Singhe, the average selling price of a single-storey house in Cheras in 2001 was around RM151,000.

It climbed to RM215,000 in 2010, then surged to RM430,000 in 2017 – a capital growth of close to 185%.

For double-storey terraced houses, Previn said the average transaction price in 2017 was RM593,333 but these properties were sold at an average price of RM199,333 in 2001, which is equivalent to a capital appreciation of 198%.

Aside from the current housing boom, Cheras still maintains specific areas for a healthy escape.

Growing demand for student housing Previn also said that the market for student accommodation has been active in Cheras in the last few years, most of which are concentrated near colleges and universities.

Zooming in on Taman Connaught, the establishment of higher education institutions such as UCSI University and One World Han-Xing College of Journalism and Communication, as well as its surrounding neighbourhood, has contributed to a healthy property rental market.

“As of Q4 2017, the rental yield at Taman Connaught stood at 3.32% while the median rental for houses as of Q3 2018 is at RM1.11psf,” Previn added.

Other private and international schools such as Cempaka Cheras, REAL International School Cheras, Taylor’s International School Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia International Korea School – Cheras and Beaconhouse Newlands International School as well as universities such as the Liverpool John Moores University Malaysia Campus and the Asia Metropolitan University have all significantly contributed to the growth and capital appreciation of Cheras.

“Cheras should have its own Central Business District (CBD) that is reflective of the future desired by its residents, looking not just at five years but 25 years down the line,” said Malaysia Global Business Forum’s Nordin.  “The government could look at what knowledge clusters can be developed in Cheras so that high-value business activities can take place there.

Leveraging off several university campuses would be an obvious starting point,” he said.

Avenues for jobs and investments It is significant that Cheras has a healthy growing population of mainly young families migrating there because of affordable homes.

Recent activities also show that the student population in Cheras has increased due to the many educational institutions that have taken an interest in the area.

The improved connectivity to major highways, well-served public transportation including the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and MRT Line (1) have not only benefited Cheras residents but also piqued the interest of big name developers venturing into the area, which in turn will create better townships, facilities and amenities for the residents, the property market and the economy as a whole.

“If you’re a satellite suburb of a major city, then you will have to work hard to attract investments to your location.

You have to think about how to exploit your natural advantages or create new avenues to generate investment,” said Leigh Howard, director of recruitment agency Sheffield Executive.

“Cheras is one such location that has high potential to create a CBD of its own to bring in investments and jobs.

When it comes to attracting companies that seek high levels of talent, you have to look at both demand and supply.

“Most international businesses want to know that they will have access to a young, educated workforce for their operations.

In turn, most young people want to be able to work with modern, progressive companies,” said Howard.

“These two aspects complement each other and represent a way of creating a vibrant level of business activity.

“A key element includes modern professional buildings in proximity to transportation.

People also want central areas where they can come together and socialise.

The right design will bring activity and vibrancy to the area,” he added.

Nordin reckons that property prices will continue to grow at a natural rate in Cheras but this cluster approach will allow pockets of high growth to take place and spill over to the surrounding areas.

“High-value economic activities are the precursor for sustainable high-value property that looks beyond speculation,” he explained..

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