FUNKY COLD MEDINI

Malaysia 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | FOCUS: SMART CITIES

A host of foreign investors are working in tandem with Malaysian officials to turn Medini Iskandar into Malaysia's flagship smart city.

A series of infrastructure projects are underway with the objective of turning the planned city of Medini Iskandar into a thriving metropolis. Medini Iskandar Malaysia (MIM), a PPP between the Malaysian government and a group of private investors, is envisioned as a landmark planned city, one that will hopefully become a template for continued development in Malaysia.

Located in the southeastern state of Johor, Medini Iskandar is a 2,300-acre site that is being planned in anticipation for a population of 450,000 by 2030. Development began in 2007 and is expected to cost more than USD18.7 billion over the course of the project. Growth slowed after the global financial crisis of 2008, but the ultimate goal is for Medini Iskandar to become the keystone business district for Iskandar Puteri—a smart city that leverages technology to increase livability, transit efficiency, and business needs. The development has identified six sectors as pillars of growth: health and wellness, education, leisure and tourism, creative, logistics, and financial advisory. The entire project is overseen by MIM, which is co-owned by a conglomerate that includes Malaysian firm Jasmine Acres, Dubai firm United World Infrastructure, and Japanese Mitsui & Co.
To put this in action, a number of international partnerships are underway, each with their own sector of focus. To encourage investment, there is a 10-year tax break available for businesses that fall under the umbrella of one of the city's six core industries. As part of the smart city's development, MIM operates a unique leasing scene; instead of ownership rights, buyers get leasing rights for 99 years with an option to extend, tax waivers, and waivers of the minimum investment amount required for foreigners. Purchasing a lease also allows buyers to apply for additional incentives regarding business ownership and employment rights. While an unusual arrangement, MIM officials see it as allowing for the structured growth of the city and increasing accessibility for foreign investment. Foreign firms seem to agree; several mixed development projects have already received investments from a number of international firms.

The commercial buildings under construction demonstrate the new technology and innovation driving the smart city. The Compass is a 44-acre MIM project built around a lake in the center of the city. It will comprise several Grade A commercial buildings that are scheduled to be developed over four distinct phases. The site is planned to have a total gross floor area (GFA) of 1,769,314sqft and an additional 18.26 acres of green space, becoming the one of the commercial hubs of Medini Iskandar. Medini 9 and Medini 10 are two office buildings located in the Compass that are currently under construction. Planned to be 21 and 27 stories tall, respectively, they are expected to be completed in 2018 and 2017. MIM officials are currently marketing the buildings to local and multinational corporations. An additional 50-story building is under construction as well, as well as additional plazas to turn the area into a central commerce area.

Medini Iskandar will also include a number of high-tech transportation options. A high-speed rail line is being planed between Malaysia and Singapore that calls for a shuttle service between Iskandar Puteri and Singapore, which lies just 800m away across the Johor Strait. The two countries have agreed to streamline customs and immigration facilities to facilitate access, meaning that when the line opens in 2026 travelers will only need to clear customs once. The forthcoming rapid transit service should link the two business centers, increasing commerce between the two countries creating new opportunities for both sides of the Johor Strait. Work on the Coastal Highway Southern Link (CHSL) is also underway, which should cut the driving distance between Medini and Singapore in half.

This is only a small sampling of the many projects currently underway. Mitsui is working on bringing Japanese technology to the development, including solar generation tech, integrated building management systems, and electric car programs. United Malayan Land Berhad (UMLand) is working on a 30-acre Medini Lakeside development with the goal of turning it into a vibrant community site. Additional luxury condominium projects are planned at several other sites in the city.

A recent Grand View Research report estimated that the global smart cities market will reach USD1.4 trillion by 2020 en route to 70% of the world's population living in cities by 2050. Medini Iskandar stands out as a well-planned example of an efficient, livable metro area that can support both high-tech commercial activity and a vibrant community. The project's strong central vision, emphasis on innovation, and strong international connections ties make it set to become a landmark for the country upon completion.