Chuas' Symbol of Love to Change KL Skyline
THE late Madam Khor Joo Saik, a hard-nosed Nyonya, had once predicted that the piece of land where the family home sat on Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur, would one day be as bustling as Singapore's Orchard Road.
Today, her predictions, along with her son Dr Chua Seong Siew, came true as the home, located on a 0.81 hectare plot of land at the intersection of Jalan Binjai, Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak, is now at one of the busiest areas in the city centre.
The family home was built by Khor's late husband, physician Dr Chua Boon Teck, whose father was Chua Cheng Tuan, one of the co-founders of Cycle & Carriage Co, now known as Cycle & Carriage Bintang Bhd.
He and his brother Cheng Bok founded the company in 1899 and was the pioneer of the Mercedes Benz franchise in Malaysia.
Cheng Bok was also the owner of the Bok House, the grand mansion on Jalan Ampang. That property was once in the centre of a furore as heritage activists fought to have it placed on the National Heritage list but failed. It was later demolished in 2006.
Now, after two generations and to realise Khor and Seong Siew's vision, the younger generation of the Chua family are making the most of the strategic piece of real estate by building a Grade A office building known as Menara Binjai.
To realise the dream, the former family home was demolished in 2008 to make way for the project that is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year.
"Menara Binjai is the Chua family's new symbol of love," said Chua Guan-Hock, one of Seong Siew's sons.
Guan-Hock, a lawyer by profession, said although the family had mixed feelings at first about the demolition of the 6,000 sq ft double-storey colonial bungalow where many of the Chuas were raised, the family finally gave in to fulfill their elders' dream.
Jackie Chua, Guan-Hock's first cousin and daughter of Seong Siew's younger brother, Hooi Siew, remembered the narrow road leading to the house with stalls and mamak shops filling both sides of the road.
"It was nice and quiet back then. I can bring my kids for a walk without worrying of getting robbed," she said.
Jackie said the living environment in Jalan Binjai continued to deteriorate when part of the land was bought by the federal government to build the Ampang Park LRT station.
"With commercial developments surrounding the house, living there no longer felt comfortable. It's no longer the same neighbourhood when I was still a child," she said.
On the Menara Binjai project, Guan-Hock said development kicked off in 2008.
The 35-storey green office tower will feature the latest in green technology, incorporating various features that reduce carbon emission.
Once completed, Menara Binjai will be among the top office locations in Kuala Lumpur with quality tenants comprising both local and foreign companies.
The project developer is Khor Joo Saik Sdn Bhd (KJS), a company named after the visionary grandmother.
"My grandmother had a great foresight in property. She would continuously look for opportunities to buy land where she thinks it has vast potential. To her, property business was a great investment," he said.
Guan-Hock leads the KJS board of directors with five other relatives, including Jackie.
"So far, response we received for the 300,000 sq ft of net office space available has been very encouraging," he said, feeling optimistic that the project will emerge among the many iconic landmarks in Kuala Lumpur.
Guan-Hock said they are passionate about the project for many reasons, namely its strategic location being close to the Petronas Twin Towers and being on top of the Ampang Park LRT station. "In terms of location and accessibility, its fantastic," he said.
Web Structures (M) Sdn Bhd is the civil and structural engineer while CB Richard Ellis (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd is the property manager.
Initially, the project was called Menara CSS after his father Seong Siew, but was later renamed to capitalise on Jalan Binjai's increasingly premium status in the residential market.
"We thought it would be better to name it Menara Binjai as only one such building can be called with that name in Jalan Binjai," he said.
The development of Menara Binjai was largely funded by another investment of their eagle-eyed grandmother - a 560ha plantation land where Putrajaya, the federal government's new administrative capital now stands.
A sum of some RM180 million was pumped into the project using proceeds from the land sale.
Guan-Hock, however, declined to reveal the actual sum they got for the Putrajaya land.
Jackie said Menara Binjai will boast dual green certification, namely Singapore's Green Mark Gold as well as Malaysia's Green Building Index, which is a rarity.
The guiding principles of the building designs are energy efficiency, flexibility and comfort.
KJS seeks to make the building more comfortable via the inclusion of greenery in the form of a sky garden and triple-volume sky terraces that will be filled with bamboo.
The lobby will feature mahogany wood panels and perhaps even furniture created from the salvaged remains of an ancient tree that once sheltered the family home.
"I want people to love coming to work and have a conducive environment. At the same time, they can enjoy the relaxing feeling and not feel stressed at work," said Jackie, the former accountant turned housewife turned property developer.
She said the green spaces in the 400,000 sq ft Menara Binjai are intended to have a calming, meditative effect on occupants who need some time away from the office.
"Our fathers, uncle and grandmother would be proud that we are realising their dream and hard work," Jackie said.