Boom time for JB's Eastern Corridor

THINGS are really looking up for Johor, while the rest of the country is in the doldrums with natural calamities, a bleak economic outlook and a general gloom about where the country is headed.

But in Johor, there is a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement as we closed 2014 on a high note with unprecedented foreign direct investments (FDI) and the launch of several high-impact real estate developments.

Even the New Year was ushered in on a promising note with the announcement by the mentri besar that the Eastern Corridor of Johor Baru is to be revitalised with the development of a new waterfront city.

The Eastern Corridor, previously known as the Tebrau Basin, covers a huge swathe of coastal land flanked by two major rivers – Sungai Tebrau and Sungai Plentong – and surrounded by a massive catchment area of no fewer than 20 housing schemes and a resident population of some 500,000 people.

This area has seen little development over the years, unlike the Western Corridor of JB, which is a "happening" place with Danga Bay, where 13 local and foreign investors have committed some RM125 billion to date to develop a new waterfront city stretching some 8km along the coast overlooking Singapore.

This is being rolled out in phases over the next 15 years. When completed, JB as we know it today will be transformed and repositioned as an international destination.

The plan now is to replicate the model on the Eastern Corridor, which is now earmarked by the Permas Jaya and Senibong Cove residential developments and several small and medium-scale industries.

Since the opening of the RM1.4 billion Eastern Dispersal Link and the 2nd Permas Jaya Bridge, this place has been given a new lease of life due to the improved accessibility.

Suddenly, land and property prices have all spiked and investors are flocking in droves to launch a myriad of new condo, commercial and residential properties, and even a marina.

Indeed, "sick" developments in the area such Taman Bayu Tebrau are also being revived, while several traditional coastal villages and squatter settlements are being upgraded under a plan to integrate them into the mainstream of the urban redevelopment programme.

But the "Big One" that will radically change the landscape will be the entry of China's Greenland Group, which has announced plans to invest some RM3 billion over the next five years to build a new waterfront city here.

Greenland, the Shanghai state-government-owned company, will joint-venture with Johor state-government-linked company, Iskandar Waterfront City Berhad, to undertake this massive development.

Coming up is a mixed development which among others will include a "snow world" theme park, an opera house, a hospital specialising in traditional Chinese medicine and a school.

Greenland, a Fortune 500 company, has the financial resources and technical knowhow to make good its promise to upgrade and transform this depressed area.

The idea, according to Greenland Group executive vice-chairman Xu Jing, is to revitalise the Eastern Corridor into a new suburban landmark 10km from JB city.

Essentially, it will be a decentralisation project to encourage locals to relocate here to cushion the impact of escalating property prices and land scarcity in the state capital.

The masterplan will showcase special zones to cater to the needs of the younger generation, the business community, senior citizens and those looking for sports and recreational activities.

Construction is due to start by this year and we should be able to see the tangible signs of the transformation taking place before our eyes very soon.

Such high impact FDI, including from China, is good for Johor as they serve to jump-start economic activity and invigorate growth because of their manifold spillover effects.

The huge investments committed by these companies is definitely a boon for Johor's sustained growth, especially now due to the present global economic uncertainties.

It therefore makes sense for Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin to endorse this latest investment by Green Group.

"I welcome their long-term strategic interest to jointly transform Johor Baru into a modern international waterfront city and destination," he was quoted as saying last week, noting that such firm commitment is the tangible result of 40 years of strong China-Malaysia bilateral and business ties.

It all goes to show that boom times are here to stay in Johor. And the Eastern Corridor is a place to watch for the transformation taking place.

Roy, a long-time resident of JB, is a keen watcher of economic, political and social trends on both sides of the Johor Straits. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com