Abandoned Kulim housing project gets new lease of life

 |May 15, 2017
File pic credit Facebook MBI Desa Ku Homestay.

Driving past a housing scheme at Padang Meha, here, this writer was struck by its attractively landscaped lawns and candy-coloured bungalows.

Taking a glance at their brightly painted walls emblazoned with geometric designs and drawings of butterflies, ladybirds, bees, flowers and even cartoon characters, the writer could not help wondering why so many kindergartens were located there. The colourful houses, she later learnt, were not kindergartens but homestay units.

By the looks of it, this particular housing scheme – MBI Desa Ku, located not far from the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway – seemed unique. It was obvious that the developer’s main focus was not just to build and deliver the residential units but also to boost the area’s green lung.

In fact, there is also an agricultural park (agropark) within the confines of Desa Ku to promote agricultural activities among the residents and enable them to procure cheaper fruits and vegetables.

The developer, ECK Development Sdn Bhd, had to make Desa Ku unique to attract buyers as the project was abandoned in 2008 but was revived sometime in 2014 after the company acquired an investor, MBI International Sdn Bhd.

The subsequent injection of funds and fresh ideas gave the entire project, which was completed at the end of last year, a much-needed facelift and new lease of life.

Bonus attractions

Phase one of Desa Ku has 230 units of single and double-storey bungalow units, with some “bonuses” thrown in for the residents in the form of a 4.9 ha agropark, as well as a Japanese garden, cactus park and bonsai park. A Holland park, complete with windmill, is also in the works and it is expected to be ready soon.

Desa Ku Residents Association chairman Ahmad Bustamin Md Piah, 57, who moved into Desa Ku about a year ago, is as pleased as punch with the transformation of the township. He had booked his unit several years ago and was frustrated when the project was abandoned.

“Fortunately, the project has beenĀ  revived and now it’s better than what I had expected it to be. All those parks in our housing estate are, indeed, a bonus for us, after having waited so long for our houses to be built.

“In fact, the Holland park is within walking distance from my house,” a delighted Ahmad Bustamin said, adding that the houses that were given up by the buyers after the project was abandoned have now been turned into homestay units by the developer.

The house prices, which ranged from RM180,000 to RM250,000 at the inception of the project, have now doubled.

First housing scheme of its kind

Intrigued by the developer’s move to incorporate not one but four themed parks into the housing scheme, the writer sought out the project’s consultant architect Tan Yeong Keat for more information on the concept.

“In a bid to attract buyers, more money was pumped into the project to upgrade Desa Ku. I believe no other housing developer in this country has done anything similar to Desa Ku,” he told Bernama.

The open spaces in the housing scheme, initially meant for children’s playgrounds or fields, were turned into parks to make the area more green and liveable for the residents and also to provide them with ample space for recreational activities.

The bonsai park boasts a creative layout and features a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs. The artificially dwarfed plants come in all kinds of shapes and styles, with some of them standing upright and others having curved trunks. Also available there are bonsai plants that grow in a series of cascades, bushy bonsai and umbrella-shaped bonsai.

Interspersed by flowering bonsai shrubs, the park’s landscape is indeed a sight for sore eyes.

Across the road is the cactus garden but it was the Australian banyan trees planted there that captivated the writer. Apparently each of these trees cost about RM300,000 and with their huge aerial roots, they are a sight to behold. Among the cacti grown there are some rare species that only bloom once every 100 years or so.

A stone’s throw from the cactus garden is the tranquil Japanese garden, complete with the ubiquitous pagoda and red wooden bridge across a pond, which has carp fish swimming in the clear water. Not surprisingly, this park is a firm favourite with the residents here.

Agricultural activity

Desa Ku’s agropark, meanwhile, serves as a research and development facility for MBI International to experiment with growing certain fruits and vegetables that are native to Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and other countries.

“If they grow well, the fruit or vegetable concerned will be planted on a larger scale at MBI’s other project sites,” said Tan, adding that most of the plants at the farm were grown by hydroponics.

The agropark also has various species of chilli, brinjal, bitter gourd, snake gourd, pumpkin, tomato, cucumber, ginger and lettuce plants. Fruits grown there include various species of grapes, figs and passion fruit. But it is the orange-coloured gac fruit plant, originally from Vietnam, that caught the writer’s eye. The fruit is said to be rich in antioxidants and beneficial for health.

The agropark is also equipped with a centralised water collection system which enables rainwater to be harvested, filtered and stored in tanks, to be used for watering purposes at the agropark and the other landscaped gardens at Desa Ku.

Currently, fruits and vegetables harvested from the agropark are being sold to wholesalers.

According to Tan, the developer of Desa Ku also has in the pipeline another development called MBI Soraya, also located at Padang Meha in Kulim. The resort-themed development, which among others will feature chalet-like residences, green spaces, theme park, golf driving range, stone carving gallery and commercial hub, is expected to be completed in five years.

There would also be facilities to promote agro-tourism and medical tourism, said Tan, adding that the developer hoped to attract some 20,000 tourists a month to both Desa Ku and Soraya once all the developments have been completed.

“Provided that each tourist stays there for a minimum of two nights and spends RM5,000, it can earn about RM100 million from tourism alone,” he said, adding that the developments would also help to spur Kulim’s economy. – Bernama