Forest City Malaysia: Dream City or Ghost Town?

Forest City is an ambitious project envisioned as a green, futuristic metropolis located in Iskandar Puteri, Johor, Malaysia. However, a project announced in 2006, that only about 15% of the city is complete, with a very low occupancy rate till 2024. Is it a Dream city or a result of ambitious humans?

Forest City is an ambitious project envisioned as a green, futuristic metropolis located in Iskandar Puteri, Johor, Malaysia . Announced in 2006, it was pitched as a twenty-year investment project financed mostly by Chinese developers and aligned with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

The plan was to create a technologically-driven, utopic city on reclaimed land, spanning over 30 square kilometers. Moreover, it was designed to house close to a million people and incorporate features like:

  • Extensive green spaces and parks
  • Car-free zones for a pedestrian-friendly environment
  • Smart technologies for efficient management
  • It promised eco-friendly living with amenities like golf courses, water parks, and shopping centers

Meanwhile, it was the China’s largest property developer Country Garden with a whopping $100bn (£78.9bn) mega-project under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Turned Tables

However, the project has been met with controversy and setbacks. As we talk about 2024, only 15% of the project is done, and just over 1% is occupied. Critics have also raised concerns about environmental impact and debt sustainability.

The location, far from major cities, didn’t attract many tenants. It’s filled with empty shops, deserted beaches, and dark apartment blocks. Even the few residents there feel isolated and plan to leave as soon as possible. In addition, the allure of duty-free status hasn’t been enough to attract people.

Nazmi Hanafiah, a 30-year-old IT engineer, moved to Forest City with hopes of a new life. However, after six months, he couldn’t bear the loneliness and deserted atmosphere. “It’s just you and your thoughts,” he says, recalling his time in what locals call the “Ghost City.”

For Nazmi and others who have left, it’s a cautionary tale. “I will definitely choose more carefully next time,” he says. But for now, he’s grateful to have escaped the eerie emptiness of Forest City and reclaimed his life.

The project’s woes are reflective of broader issues in China’s property market, with companies facing cash shortages and regulatory hurdles. Forest City’s fate hangs in the balance, dependent on the Chinese government’s support and the willingness of buyers to invest in its uncertain future.

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