A REAL ESTATE boom in South Johor led to the proliferation of many shopping centers in the late 1990s.
The shopping malls were built to serve the growing local population and accommodate visitors across the Causeway from Johor.
A helipad was even built on the roof of a multi-story building to allow people to commute between Singapore and Malaysia as well as to Genting Highlands.
However, the Asean financial crisis, mismanagement, poor location and other issues have contributed to the dismal demise of some of Johor Baru’s shopping malls, which have been closed for over 20 years.
These shopping malls are located along Persiaran Tun Sri Lanang in Kebun Merah, Jalan Storey, Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, Jalan Tampoi and Jalan Skudai.
While the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) has contacted the developers offering incentives such as tax exemptions or discounts to revive the malls, there have been no takers.
Over time, the lifeless malls have gone from magnificent structures to horrors around Johor Baru.
Vandals and drug addicts break in and steal metal items that can be sold.
The buildings share a common problem: their dilapidated facades are damaged and the paint worn and pale after years of neglect.
On the grounds of one of the shopping centers, located next to the roadway, there is storage for vehicles towed by MBJB.
Some shopping centers have been bought out by local conglomerates, but due to the economic crisis associated with the challenges posed by Covid-19, nothing has been done to revive them.
Owners of individual strata securities, who invested in these commercial lots in the hope of profiting from the economic boom of the time, are hit hard as a result.
After two decades, some have not been able to recover their income while others are still servicing monthly bank loans.
Besides locals, a significant number of Singaporeans have also burned their fingers in such investments.
KGV International Property Consultants Director Samuel Tan Wee Cheng said this is a difficult situation for individual or strata investors in such shopping center projects.
“If we combined the number of strata owners of all these shopping center projects, there would easily be over 1,000 investors,” he said.
He explained that shopping center projects with strata titles were complex, as a party intending to buy a shopping center would have to contact the owners individually.
This, he noted, was a very time consuming process.
He added that at least two of the malls – owned by large corporations – had been idle during the pandemic, as relaunching and redesigning projects would involve a huge amount of money.
Tan agreed that these old properties were an eyesore to the city and suggested that bodies such as the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) and MBJB play a role in helping coordinate efforts to revive them.
“A working group should be set up to engage with stakeholders, including owners, to look at these issues.
“We should take the example of how a ‘white knight’ developer helped revive the old Kemayan City project in Skudai, which was abandoned for over 10 years, and turned it into a sprawling complex. major which is now known as Paradigm Mall, ”he said.
Tan said that not only has the mall been revived, but the surrounding neighborhoods have also benefited from the ripple effects.
He said these white knights, who were brought in to rejuvenate old malls, should be given special incentives such as exemption from rents, stamp duties and other tax breaks to encourage them to undertake projects. similar.
It was essential, he stressed, that Johor find a niche and come up with its own economic model that is less dependent on Singapore, especially when the borders remain closed for more than a year due to the Covid pandemic. 19.
Johor Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar described abandoned old malls as unsightly and a potential hotspot for drug addicts and vandals.
“These huge dilapidated buildings can also become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can cause dengue fever to spike,” he said.
He reiterated that a long term solution was needed to resolve these issues.
Sivakumar suggested that government-related companies such as Johor Corporation (JCrop) or Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) could be potential investors for the closed malls.
“Shopping centers can be turned into other projects such as private hospitals, colleges and international schools or even for housing or accommodation purposes,” he said.
He said the Johor government is not expected to allow the construction of new shopping centers at this time.
“We currently have too many malls and now with the Covid-19 pandemic, I fear others will be deserted and eventually go bankrupt.”
He also urged the state government to improve public transport to these places and provide incentives for operators and tenants to stay afloat.