It is not always easy to grow in the shadow of a more affluent and influential neighbour. This is what Johor Bahru City is probably thinking every day when looking at Singapore, its neighbour located just a few hundred meters away from the city centre.
In Southern Malaysia, Johor Bahru has been fighting for decades to gain a metropolis status. Looking at numbers, JB is in a rather favourable position to achieve this status. It has a population of 450,000 inhabitants within its city boundaries and even 1.8 million people living in its metropolitan area.
Johor Bahru has all the ingredients of a dignified city: it has its fair share of modern shopping malls and international hotels, a few skyscrapers in its city centre, an international airport, a convention centre and a good network of motorways. The city is at the heart of Malaysia newest development area, ISKANDAR, which is due to turn Johor Bahru into a hub for high tech, medical expertise, education and tourism. The opening of Southeast Asia first Legoland theme park is also helping to position the city as an international tourist destination.
But Johor Bahru still seems to miss an element of glamour in its city centre with a few iconic skyscrapers. Coronation Square might become the appropriate answer to JB quest for its world city status. Launched this week during the 57th birthday of Johor Bahru ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Coronation Square is part of a huge city centre development called the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD).
As stressed by the Sultan and the city council, IIBD is due to enable Johor Baru to achieve world city status and metropolis status by 2020, while becoming an important hub in a competitive economic region. The IIBD project covers a 100ha area in the Johor Baru transformation zone, which is spearheaded by Johor Corporation, Johor Baru City Council and the state government. Out of the 100ha zone, 2.53ha will be for Coronation Square.
Coronation Square will comprise developments in the form of six towers, integrating a medical block, three blocks of serviced apartments, office tower and a hotel with shopping facilities. According to JCorp president and chief executive officer Datuk Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim, the cost of the entire transformation plan for the IIBC will be between RM20 billion and RM25 billion (US$4.6 to US$5.8 billion) while the construction of Coronation alone is estimated to cost some RM3 billion (US$700 million).
Construction is due to start by the first quarter of 2016 with no date for total completion being set yet. However, the medical facilities which will help Johor Bahru to position itself as a major medical tourism hub, is due to be finished by 2019. One of the most expected building is however Coronation Square main tower: with its 371-m. height, it is likely to ‘leak’ into Singapore city skyline…