EPF to be part of consortium to redevelop former Pudu jail site


PETALING JAYA: The stalled redevelopment of the former Pudu jail site (pic) located in Kuala Lumpur is set to take off, with heavyweights such as the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) being part of a consortium undertaking the job.

The EPF will join hands with Uda Holdings Bhd, which is the landowner, and fast-growing Eco World Development Group Bhd to develop the 7.85-ha site into a development dubbed the Bukit Bintang City Centre with a gross development value of RM7bil.

The plan is to build, among others, a massive retail mall similar to that of Suria KLCC, which Uda Holdings will own and manage for recurring income.

Both Uda Holdings and Eco World will hold a 40% equity stake each in a special-purpose vehicle (SPV), while the EPF will hold the remaining 20%.

The deal to include Eco World and the EPF was decided recently, even though Uda Holdings had called for a tender inviting interested parties, both locally and abroad, to participate in the redevelopment in September last year.

“What we are doing now is that we will be establishing an SPV to undertake the redevelopment. We are now in the midst of fine-tuning the (shareholder’s) agreement terms and we expect to firm up in one to two weeks’ time. The SPV will be developing the land at Pudu jail,” said Uda Holdings chairman Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani (pic).

Once that is done, the SPV will submit the plans to the authorities for a development order, which might take up to six months.

“We expect work to start at the beginning of next year,” Johari told StarBiz yesterday.

Johari rebutted speculation that the deal involved the sale of parcels of the land.

“Let me be very clear that we are not selling the land. Uda Holdings will continue to own the land. It is our land and we have decided that we will jointly develop the land with Eco World and the EPF,” Johari stressed.

The plan is to turn the Pudu jail land into a mixed development comprising seven blocks of buildings for commercial and residential use, office towers, a hotel and a retail mall. The retail mall will have one million sq ft of rentable space, similar to Suria KLCC.

“Once fully developed, the mall will be the biggest. We are also including a grand bazaar similar to the one in Turkey for start-ups to do business,’’ Johari said.

To generate recurring income, the retail mall and some office buildings will be managed by Uda Holdings.

The site used to house Kuala Lumpur’s main prison, the 101-year-old Pudu jail, which was shut down officially in 1996.

In the past, there have been efforts to redevelop it, but nothing materialised. There were even efforts to get players from China involved, but the Finance Ministry rejected it. Uda Holdings is owned by the Finance Ministry.

Although Uda Holdings will set up an SPV, its biggest challenge would be to get tenants, especially for the retail mall, given the history associated with the jail. The jail had housed some of the most notorious criminals in the country. Johari, however, is unperturbed by this.

“I don’t think that will be an issue, and since we have partners like Eco World and the EPF, we will be able to create a new destination in Kuala Lumpur,’’ he said.

Johari said the players would opt for project financing, but added that the land could not be charged for the financing.

Eco World might be a new player but it has property magnate Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin as a director. Liew, who started S P Setia Bhd, had turned the company into one of the most profitable property companies around. He has since left S P Setia.

As for Uda Holdings, it operates several malls in the Klang Valley, Johor and Penang, namely, Bukit Bintang Plaza, Pertama Complex, Plaza Warisan, Pudu Sentral and Plaza Angsana.

The Pudu jail redevelopment is part of the Economic Transformation Programme under the New Economic Model to turn the Klang Valley into the Greater Kuala Lumpur economic district and Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020.


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