The real estate landscape in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, is changing rapidly. Property development activities are on an upscale pace, which means more projects will come up in the future.
One of the most exciting developments for the Kota Kinabalu property market is a project by Singapore Exchange-listed property developer GSH Corp Ltd.
The company will develop Coral Bay, which is expected to be the most expensive residential tower in Sabah.
The project will take place in Sutera Harbour Resort (SHR), the country's foremost premier integrated property owned by the company.
According to GSH chief executive officer Gilbert Ee, the company will launch Coral Bay early this year.
"When we acquired SHR, we also acquired along with it two parcels of land, totalling about 20 acres (8.09ha). The plan is to develop luxury residential apartments for local and foreign property buyers.
"The market today is not like it was seven to eight years ago when at our product launches, they (units) were all sold out. But we feel the timing is right this year as more people are looking at Sabah for a piece of luxury property that is fronting the sea and located within a golf course area. We have everything in SHR so we are quite bullish on the take-up of our residential launch" Ee told NST Property.
GSH bought over SHR, including the two pieces of residential land, in 2014 for RM700 million from builder Datuk Edward Ong Han Nam. Ong built SHR, which is located about 10-minutes drive from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA), in the 1990s for US$450 million (RM1.85 billion).
GAINING TRACTION Currently, the 154ha SHR is home to two luxury five-star hotels - the 500-room Pacific Sutera and the 456-room Magellan Sutera. The hotels are complemented by a 27-hole Graham Marsh-designed championship golf course with day and night golfing, 104-berth marina and extensive facilities at Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club.
Ee said there are plans to expand SHR, turning it into Sabah's most important tourism development and a world-class destination.
The closest example of what will become of SHR in the future is the ocean fronting Sentosa Cove in Singapore which has a lifestyle element, golf courses, five-star hotels and marina.
"SHR was on the market as it was in distress due probably to the financial structure and how it was operating. We took over the property in 2014 and turned it around. We did enough research that made it possible.
"After taking over the property, we set aside an additional RM50 million which we spent over the last three years to upscale all the assets within the resort and refurbish the hotel rooms.
"We even spent a bit of money to upgrade the infrastructure and landscape. For the hotel side, the investment is ongoing. This year, we will allocate part of our revenue for the overall maintenance and upgrading of SHR.
"Sometimes you do the right thing and the rest of the pieces will fall in place. Even during crisis we continue to invest. If we want to do something we really have to be committed. It's not just about taking care of the land and building. SHR has 1,600 employees" he said.
According to Ee, the average occupancy for both the hotels combined during peak seasons is 90 per cent, and it is about 65 to 70 per cent during off-peak seasons.
"SHR is finally making money... this is a prized asset for GSH" he added.
Property developers and private entities are building more hotels and resorts in the Sabah capital city to complement growth in the state's economy, particularly in tourist arrivals.
In 2016, Sabah recorded RM7.25 billion in tourism receipt and it is expected to hit RM7.7 billion last year.
The Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is working to ensure that there are enough hotels in the state to meet future demands.