Lofty living at Southeast Asia’s tallest towers

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/ EdgeProp Singapore
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December 10, 2018 2:30 PM SGT
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On a clear day, residents at The Astaka will have unobstructed views of Johor Bahru city, the Straits of Johor and Singapore from the sky gar- den on the 66th floor, says Zamani bin Kasim, CEO of Astaka Holdings, an integrated property developer in Iskandar Malay- sia that is listed on the Catalist Board of the Singapore Exchange.
The Astaka is a twin-tower luxury residential development comprising two towers of 65 and 70 storeys. With the 70-storey tower soaring 1,020 feet (311m) above sea level, it is said to be the tallest residential tower in Southeast Asia.
View across Johor Bahru to Singapore from the 66th floor sky terrace (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Located at One Bukit Senyum, The Astaka is less than 1km from the Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex as well as the future Rapid Transit System (RTS) station. In the future, it will take less than a minute to drive from the CIQ complex to The Astaka via a 200m dedicated underground tunnel, says Zamani.
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Even from the lowest level — the seventh floor — apartments offer unobstructed views of the city, says Zamani. This is evident from the views from the 2,659 sq ft, four-bedroom show suite on the seventh floor, which has been purchased by Zamani.

High specifications

The Astaka contains 438 luxury residences, with units starting from 2,207 sq ft for a typical three-bedroom apartment to 2,659 sq ft for a typical four-bedroom apartment. Each floor contains four units — two three-bedroom and two four-bedroom apartments — and each comes with private lift access. There are six duplexes of 5,554 sq ft each and two penthouses of 11,000 sq ft each.
Even from the lowest level - a four-bedroom show suite on the seventh level - residents enjoy unblocked views of the surrounding area (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

The Astaka is considered the most luxurious development in Iskandar Malaysia, says Zamani. “Astaka” means “Royal Pavilion”, he adds. The development obtained its Certificate of Completion and Compliance earlier this year.

As The Astaka is the flagship development of One Bukit Senyum, the residences have high specifications. The façade is clad with double-glazed, low-e glass, which helps reduce heat, glare and noise.

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Facilities include sky lounges, entertainment rooms, outdoor entertainment areas, cigar rooms, themed gardens and “live kitchens”, where residents can hire a chef for private dining.

The lobby of The Astaka or "Royal Pavilion" with marble-clad walls and flooring (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
To appeal to the indulgent, the walls and flooring of the grand entrance lobby and common areas at The Astaka are clad entirely in marble. “We designed the main reception area to be equivalent to that of a five-star luxury hotel,” says Zamani.
All the units are fitted with Gaggenau kitchen appliances, Hansgrohe shower and Duravit bathroom fittings and accessories.
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‘Built for Singaporeans’

A total of 319 units (73%) were sold as at end-November. About 50% of the buyers so far are Singaporeans. Many of them bought the apartments for their own use — either as their primary residence or a second home. “We built The Astaka for Singaporeans,” says Zamani.
Facilities include sky lounges (pictured), cigar room and entertainment rooms (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

When The Astaka was first launched in 2013, the average transacted price of the freehold units was RM950 psf, with a typical three-bed- room unit starting from RM2.1 million. Since the project’s completion in June this year, the selling prices have increased to RM1,350 psf ($446 psf). Absolute prices start from RM3.08 million for the smallest three-bedroom unit; from RM9.6 million for a duplex; and RM17 million for a penthouse.

The Astaka was designed by Malaysia-based GDP Architects. Zamani recalls the heydays “back in 2011-2013, when a lot of new developments in Iskandar Malaysia were launched in Singapore, and achieved sales of 80% to 90% over one weekend”.

Market studies in those days recommended unit sizes of 500 to 700 sq ft for one-bedroom units, and up to 1,200 sq ft for three-bedroom units, “as these were the sizes that would appeal to the mass market”, says Zamani. “But we didn’t want to compete with 20 other property developers who were also going after this market segment. That is why we decided we would develop only big units with typical sizes being three- and four-bedroom units above 2,200 sq ft.”

Private dining room with attached 'live kitchen' for residents who want to engage a chef for the evening (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Supertall appeal

Instead of a 30- to 40-storey, high-rise residential towers, Zamani decided to develop a super-tall structure and “position the 70-storey tower as the tallest building in Southeast Asia”. Beyond height, he also raised the bar in terms of product and price. “Many people were sceptical whether we could sell units at prices starting from RM2.1 million then, but we were 70% sold prior to completion,” he says.
Unlike many projects in Iskandar Malaysia that have yet to get off the ground, The Astaka was completed six years after it was first conceptualised in 2012.
To hold the load of the towers, bore piling for the foundation was up to a depth of 92m. “It’s the deepest bored pile in Johor Bahru,” says Zamani. “Overall, we put in 13.5km of piles to hold up these towers.”
Zamani: We built The Astaka for Singaporeans (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Wind tunnel tests were undertaken and the structures were reinforced at the 35th level. “There’s very little movement in windy conditions, and we even took into consideration risks such as earthquakes during the piling stage,” says Zamani. Japanese construction firm Penta-Ocean Construction Co was engaged for the foundation works. The company was also involved in the construction of ION Or- chard and The Orchard Residences, Arts Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands and The Esplanade Theatres by the Bay.
Construction of the two supertall residential towers at The Astaka cost about RM850 million, says Zamani. The Astaka sits on the site that was formerly occupied by the Hockey Stadium and Johor Bahru Indoor Stadium. The developer was given privatisation rights to build on the site in 2012. In return, it built a new hockey and indoor stadium on another piece of land identified by the government.
The Astaka, with a 65- and 70-storey tower, with the latter considered the tallest residential tower in Southeast Asia (Photo Credit: Astaka Holdings)

Integrated development

Even while it was constructing The Astaka towers, Astaka Holdings went ahead with the master plan for the rest of the integrated development on the 11.85-acre site at One Bukit Senyum, which will include a luxury hotel, serviced apartments, a Grade-A office tower and a lifestyle retail mall. When completed in 2021, the mixed-use development will have a gross floor area of 6.6 million sq ft and gross development value of up to RM5.3 billion. It will be Johor Bahru’s new central business district when completed.
Near the entrance of The Astaka, construction is already underway for the development of the 15-storey Menara MBJB, which is scheduled for completion in December 2019. It will be the new headquarters of the Johor Bahru City Council.
Astaka Holdings is also developing a 363- acre strata township, Bukit Pelali, near the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex in Johor Bahru.
Entrance to one of the towers at The Astaka, which will be part of a massive integrated development (Photo Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Formerly known as Astaka Padu Sdn Bhd, Astaka Holdings was listed on SGX Catalist in November 2015 after a reverse takeover of E2 Capital Holdings.
For now, Astaka Holdings is focused on selling the remaining units at The Astaka and completing the new headquarters for the City Council at One Bukit Senyum. It has engaged international shopping centre special- ists McArthur + Co to conduct a market feasibility study for its lifestyle mall at One Bukit Senyum. Projects that McArthur + Co has been involved in include the master plan of Smart City Korea, Deira Waterfront in Dubai and Lifestyle Centre at Bahrain Marina Bay.
According to Zamani, there are also plans to develop a 200,000 sq ft convention and exhibition space at One Bukit Senyum, and Suntec Singapore has been engaged to conduct a market feasibility study.
Once the market studies are completed, Astaka Holdings will engage a professional operator for the mall and convention centre. They will in turn be working with the appointed architect on the design plans and construction of the buildings. “We are good developers, but we want to find the right people to manage these various components,” says Zamani. “We are looking for strategic partners to take a stake in the company too.”