SPECIAL REPORT

What Makes Joseph Build?

by Marc Almagro, Art Direction by VC Chong, Photography by Chino Sardea
10 Jan 2018

A young, hip generation of shoppers may be the focus of the extensive renovation work at Lot 10 in downtown KL, but its position as a beloved establishment is the main source of inspiration

Lot 10 finally undergoes a major renovation. (The renovation entails facilities upgrade, reallocation of retail spaces, opening of a second public entrance, and a major facelift of public spaces, on top of a rebranding exercise.)  Downtown KL’s beloved retail institution – a title it has worn proudly for a good part of the 26 it has been in business – is finally keeping up with the times.

When Malaysian business behemoth YTL Group acquired the property in 1998 as it prepared to enter the retail market, Lot 10 was an iconic building along Bukit Bintang. The distinct green façade, probably not the color mall architects would be eager to use today, will remain to accommodate the wishes of the public.

“Lot 10 is not simply a commercial building; (it is much more,” says Mr. Joseph Yeoh, Vice-President of YTL Hotels and Properties and YTL Land & Development, who is in charge of the property. “A lot of shoppers from Malaysia and even Singapore have formed a connection with Lot 10 through the years,” he adds.

“When we acquired Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang (the mall is named after plot on which it was built) a KL retail strip was a dream waiting to happen. KL was an emerging market with huge potential, whether in residential or tourism development,” Mr. Yeoh recalls, “and that spot in Bukit Bintang was envisioned to be a microcosm of that.” YTL Group would also acquire other assets - Starhill Gallery and J. W. Marriott – bookending the whole stretch that would become Bintang Walk. Today, the Group’s presence in the area includes Lot 10 and Starhill malls, as well as Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

“We thought every modern city should have one retail strip or one key retail hub. In Paris, it’s the Champs Elysees, in London, Knightsbridge, and in Singapore, Orchard Road. We wanted to replicate that.” In 1999, working with Tourism Malaysia and the KL city government, Bintang Walk was created. “We wanted the local shoppers to walk freely with as little traffic as possible so that they can experience the retail offerings of KL.”

 

 

 

  • A SWANKY WALK
  • SENTIMENTAL AFFINITY
  • A NEW STANDARD
  • DRILLING DOWN THE DETAILS

A Swanky Walk

In almost two decades, Bintang Walk has indeed taken off. New shopping malls have been constructed in the area, most notably Pavilion, which opened with 2 million sqft of retail space. Along with the surrounding streets, the area has emerged as a hub for shopping and entertainment that attracts tourists and locals.

“In terms of property valuation, Bintang Walk has helped the entire area, so it’s great for other retail developers as well,” Mr. Yeoh points out.

Upscale hotels, comprising international chains and stylish boutique establishments, rose within the vicinity further enhancing its positioning as an international shopping haven.

“On a macro level, Tourism Malaysia has helped a lot in pushing to increase the footfall in these establishments,” Mr. Yeoh reveals. “We have seen tourists increase on a year-by-year basis; over the past ten years, new organizations for retail and tourism businesses were set up,” including the creation of the BBKLCC, where YTL Group, with almost 15 million sqft of retail space, is an active member. “A lot of us at BBKLCC have contributed to the success of the area,” admits Mr. Yeoh.

“When we launched the BBKLC Fiesta (late last year), we had an overwhelming response,” he says of the massive series of events comprising public and in-store activities held over a two-week period. “It’s not easy to see seven shopping malls working together; it’s really heartwarming; it truly reflects our vision of what KL should be.”

  • A SWANKY WALK
  • SENTIMENTAL AFFINITY
  • A NEW STANDARD
  • DRILLING DOWN THE DETAILS

Sentimental Affinity

Everyone has a sentimental connection with Bukit Bintang, and those who came to visit would end up hanging out in Lot 10. “When we embarked on the renovation, we received sentimental tributes and feedback from the public,” Mr. Yeoh shares. “Some have memories of eating at the Olio Dome – one of the first al fresco dining establishments in KL – back in the day.

“Others remember the green building where they hang out in their school days. We are keeping these memories alive with the renovation,” Mr. Yeoh affirms. Besides the green façade, space for outdoor sidewalk cafés will be allocated. “In many ways, Lot 10 has set trends in KL and the revamp will capture that spirit.”

Admittedly, the pre-Bintang Walk Bukit Bintang defied gentrification for being too eclectic, a bit downtrodden, and even bit sleazy, but later and ongoing investments in the hardware, particularly in Lot 10, have jumpstarted a string of related improvements. The sidewalks have been upgraded and lit up, the general landscaping improved, and a new security system installed.

Lot 10 has worked with the local government to push duty free shopping in KL. “This is among our legacies in the retail sector,” Mr. Yeoh says proudly. “Hong Kong and Singapore were at the forefront of (duty free) shopping, and we wanted people to recognize Malaysia as a shopping destination. Lifting duties on (the purchase of) jewelry and watches has become a draw for people to shop in KL. We’re proud to be among the first to do that.”

  • A SWANKY WALK
  • SENTIMENTAL AFFINITY
  • A NEW STANDARD
  • DRILLING DOWN THE DETAILS

A New Standard

Today, Lot 10 attracts a mix of local, expat and tourist shoppers. “Tourists, primarily Chinese nationals, represent 45 per cent of the Lot 10 footfall, and we’re proud of that.”

Isetan Japan Store, the first such outlet outside Japan, was introduced in Lot 10, and Mr. Yeoh is visibly proud of the distinction. “Isetan is a major global player in retail with years of success in the sector. It’s an honor for us to have them at Lot 10. That says a lot about their confidence in us, as well as their perception of the taste and sophistication of our shoppers.”

Other external developments bode well for Lot 10. The construction of the MRT train and the monorail stationsright outside the mall delivers additional traffic into Lot 10. “In response, Lot 10 also has to enhance its offerings in terms of retail experience,” Mr. Yeoh says.

  • A SWANKY WALK
  • SENTIMENTAL AFFINITY
  • A NEW STANDARD
  • DRILLING DOWN THE DETAILS

Drilling Down the Details

The Lot 10 renovation plan took a year and a half to finalize; meanwhile, actual construction began almost ten months ago. By the first quarter of 2018, the renovation and new branding are expected to be complete. “We worked with some consultants to go over everything, every detail,” Mr. Yeoh shares. “We discussed the depth and width of public spaces, the net lettable areas bases, the floor to ceiling heights, and even the luminosity levels for Lot 10. No details were spared.

“We chose to work with Yukichi Kawai of design spirits co. ltd. (formerly of Super Potato) to create this young and hip environment with Japanese feel.” The old metallic structure was replaced with organic materials and earth colors; a ceiling inspired by sunlight coming through a canopy of trees extended the  theme.

The branding of Lot 10 is skewed towards the young and hip urbanites as mirrored in the four new pillars of retail dynamics that the Group has recently created: Youthful, connected, fun, and creative. “Each of these represents a group of people that we would like to appeal to,” says Mr Yeoh.

From creating interactive Instagram-friendly spaces to hosting pop-ups and events, and providing limited rent-free incentives for up-and-coming local entrepreneurs, Lot 10 looks set to capture the young. “It’s no longer about handing over your money,” Mr. Yeoh continues, “but about letting customers create fun experience.” From the new tagline that encourages shoppers to Meet, Play, #Love Lot 10 to the new mascot, a four meter polar bear, Lotte, welcoming shoppers at the mall’s main entrance, the new generation will certainly find new reason to make the mall their own.

But the loyal, older crowd will still find a connection with the establishment: There is still the basement food central Hutong with its array of ‘The Best of KL’ cuisine. Failing that, there will always be the green façade, the same one that has marked the place and the memories it has held for ages.