GEORGE TOWN : Home-grown property developer Aspen Vision Sdn Bhd is banking on its partnership with Ikano Pte Ltd - the franchaise holder in Southeast Asia for Swedish home furnishing store Ikea - and the opening of the Second Penang Bridge to fast track development of Batu Kawan on mainland Penang . Aspen Group co-founder and chief executive officer Datuk M. Murly yesterday said the entry of Ikea is set to serve as catalyst for developing not only Seberang Prai, but also the surrounding northern states. " Batu Kawan is poised to serve the next engine of growth for Penang and we are looking to spearhead its further development," he told Business Times. Also present was the company's co-founder and chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Ariff Mushir Ariff . Aspen Vision was established a year ago by Nazir and Murly who previously served on the board of Ivory Properties Group Bhd . The company yesterday announced that it has formed a joint-venture company with Ikano called Aspen-Ikano Sdn Bhd to carry out a mixed development project comprising offices and residences over a 99ha site. The land, which is strategically located at the landing point of the Second Penang Bridge , is set to be developed over 10 years. It will include 12.1ha for the development of an Ikea store and the first phase of a shopping mall development (due to break ground next year and will take five years to complete), 18.2ha for the development of the shopping mall's second phase, and 68.7ha for mixed development. The Batu Kawan development is likely to carry a development value in excess of RM5 billion , according to property experts, who are optimistic that Ikea's entry into the northern region is set to spur development for both the retail and tourism sectors in the area. "The availability of A-class infrastructure in Batu Kawan in facilitating traffic dispersal and also taking the volume off the first Penang Bridge will help us in making Ikea a standalone destination," Nazir said. The 24km Second Penang Bridge which connects Batu Maung on the island to Batu Kawan will serve as the second crossing to the island after the first 13.5km Penang Bridge opened in 1985. Meanwhile, Murly said Aspen Vision which has a 4.8ha landbank on Penang island including 4ha at Mount Erskine and 0.4ha at Sungai Pinang, is looking to enter into several joint-venture agreements with several property owners. "We are positioning ourselves as developers of affordable housing with housing units priced from RM250,000 to RM500,000 and our objective is to offer both affordability to our buyers without compromising on the quality of our products," he added. The proposed development at Mount Erskine in George Town he noted, is expected to carry a gross development value of RM400 million , and includes some 1,000 units of houses which will be launched by the end of this year. The Sungai Pinang project meanwhile has a GDV tag of RM245 million .
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