Plan to turn Johor river into 'Venice of the East'

Plan to turn Johor river into 'Venice of the East'
The River project: "The RiverCity @ Danga Bay".

A river in the state capital Johor Baru will be cleaned up, deepened and revitalised in a RM2.5 billion (S$919.6 million) project to turn it into a "Venice of the East".

The River City @ Danga Bay project will feature riverfront cafes, heritage shows and hotels and apartments along 6km of the 15km-long Danga River.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held yesterday amid concerns in Singapore of a looming residential property glut in Johor.

Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin, the state's chief minister, played down the worries, saying the developers are not constructing all their residential units at one go.

The River City plan will be the country's second-most expensive waterway cleanup after the Malaysian government's RM4 billion project to revitalise the 120km Klang River, which meanders through Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

The polluted Danga River flows into the bigger Sekudai River, whose mouth is located across from the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Lim Chu Kang.

Datuk SeriMohamed Khaled said: "The plan is to clean up, beautify and change the river to become the Venice of the East."

The development will make the area "come alive with river cruises, boardwalks, street sculptures, lifestyle malls, food, entertainment and other water sports facilities".

The River City's ambitions are reflected in the names of the main components of the revitalised 21ha areas along the river.

The Venice will be the entertainment and shopping area, The Gateway will be the "new downtown" with hotels and offices, while The Rivera is set to be the residential hub, and the Fisherman Wharf is earmarked for festivals and street parties.

A unit of property developer Iskandar Waterfront Holdings (IWH) will undertake the project. The company has already spent RM150 million to build part of a 20km boardwalk.

Mr Khaled said yesterday that the developers, including three major players from China, will only build according to demand.

"There are many components when we talk about property; it's not just apartments or serviced apartments. All (the components) are in solid and good condition," he added.

"But we accept for service apartments, there is excess."

The Johor government has stopped approving the construction of new serviced apartments.

IWH executive director Lim Chen Herng said: "Let me assure you that this (oversupply) will not happen because these foreign developers will stagger their planned projects according to market demand. Some of their projects are spread over a 15- to 20-year period."


This article was first published on May 16, 2015.
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