All roads lead to this lifestyle hub in Kuala Lumpur

The Exchange TRX, centrepiece of Malaysia’s new master-planned financial district, is pioneering high sustainability standards, connectivity, and placemaking design

Our sustainability vision is to ‘pay back’ some of the social, economic and environmental impacts that exist across our urban landscapes

Malaysia is a nation of cities—and cities within cities. There’s Putrajaya, the administrative capital, built from scratch on plantations. There’s Cyberjaya, the country’s answer to Silicon Valley. There’s also Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), home to the world’s tallest twin towers.

And then there’s Tun Razak Exchange (TRX), a master-planned financial district, benchmarked after Marina Bay in neighbouring Singapore, the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong, and Canary Wharf in London. Home to the 492-metre high Exchange 106 building, the MYR40-billion (USD9 billion) transit-oriented development is transforming Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.

At the epicentre of the 70-acre district is The Exchange TRX, a lifestyle precinct anchored by a 2.2 million sq ft lifestyle retail development with a rooftop park. The MYR9-billion integrated development, the largest in Asia by Australian multinational property and infrastructure group Lendlease, also encompasses residential towers in three separate plots, a campus-style office block, and an array of cultural and leisure offerings. The project, previously known as the Lifestyle Quarter, will also feature the first Kimpton Hotel in Malaysia.

Lendlease took interest in the 17-acre site for its direct connection to TRX’s namesake MRT interchange station, the largest and deepest in Malaysia, linking commuters to almost 70 stations across Klang Valley. Straddling Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Sultan Ismail, the site also sits on a subterrranean loop tunnel that allows motorists to bypass surface roads and emerge on important thoroughfares like SMART (Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel), MEX (Maju Expressway), SPE (Setiawangsa-Pantai Expressway), and DUKE 3 (Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway).

TRX Residences has 90,000 sq ft of facilities, including the conservatory at level 29, which has a view to the Royal Selangor Golf Club below

“This city-defining development brings together best practices in holistic place management for the deliberate creation of inclusive, connected and collaborative communities,” says Stuart Mendel, managing director and country head for Lendlease in Malaysia.

The Exchange TRX revitalises a neglected portion of Kuala Lumpur’s Imbi and Pudu neighbourhoods. A residential quarter for civil servants in the 1920s, the area also known Pak Luk Kan—translated as “Land of the 106 Bungalows”—developed ad hoc over the decades, giving rise to the congested Pasar Rakyat marketplace and bus terminal.

Taking the lessons of its many urban regeneration projects worldwide, which include Barangaroo South in Sydney and the International Quarter in London, Lendlease gave the area an infusion of vitality.

Following the opening of the TRX MRT station in 2017, Lendlease formally launched The Exchange TRX as a 60:40 joint venture with master developer TRX City Sdn Bhd (TRXC) under the Ministry of Finance in 2019.

“Placemaking is our capability that sets us apart,” says Mendel. “We have the expertise to reinvent underutilised areas into thriving places that connect people through work, leisure and living. To us, urban regeneration is about future-thinking and building a place that does not just serve the purpose of today, but one that is reliable and inventive for generations to come.”

The Exchange TRX is situated on a very important transport hub in Kuala Lumpur, above Malaysia’s largest MRT Interchange Station and a loop tunnel system that diverts traffic underground

The landmark development is not only premised on superior transport connectivity but also walkability. Connecting The Exchange TRX to the Bukit Bintang shopping belt and KLCC is a pedestrian boulevard, essentially lining up one showpiece retail destination after another.

It was imperative for Lendlease to differentiate the retail component of The Exchange TRX. With a net leasable area of 1.3 million sq ft, the four-level retail development has 400 experience stores, plus unique experiential dining concepts and retail firsts in Malaysia. They include Japanese department store Seibu and movie house chain Golden Screen Cinema.

“As a global property developer, Lendlease has relationships with retailers from all around the world, and we are excited to introduce some key flagship experience stores at The Exchange TRX,” says Mitchell Wilson, project director of The Exchange TRX at Lendlease Malaysia.

Urban regeneration is about future-thinking and building a place that does not just serve the purpose of today, but one that is reliable and inventive for generations to come

With The Exchange TRX mall, Lendlease introduces a Melburnian retail experience to Kuala Lumpur: the laneway. The 300-metre Market Lane in the development is dedicated to up-and-coming local entrepreneurs, artists and musicians.

The park atop the retail development is—literally—an elevated take on retail landscaping, inspired by the High Line in New York and Namba Park in Osaka. Carpeting 10 acres of the retail development’s rooftop, it is the first major park to be developed in Kuala Lumpur in over 20 years. Landscapers sourced 150,000 plants across 150 species and interspersed them with walking pathways, recreational areas, cultural spaces, and alfresco dining spots.

The Exchange TRX houses many experiential and private dining concepts, with five main zones for culinary adventures ranging from scenic alfresco areas to showcases for Malaysian cuisine

The park serves to maximise water retention from storm events and reduce the effects of urban heat. The entire precinct itself sits on a raised platform, giving the site a 1.7-metre buffer against flooding especially during the monsoon season. Lendlease submitted the location to climate risk analysis and flood modelling, part of the company’s aim to future-proof the development.

“Our sustainability vision is about creating great places around the world that do not ‘borrow from the future’ but instead ‘pay back’ some of the social, economic and environmental impacts that exist across our urban landscapes,” says Mendel.

The six residential towers at the precinct, collectively known as TRX Residences, pass on the environmental boon to residents in the form of lower utility expenses: up to 25% and 47% savings in energy and water consumption, respectively. The buildings also run rooftop photovoltaic cells, bringing solar power to some common areas.

More: Live large in Malaysia’s next big resort destination

Consultants on TRX Residences were briefed on the Global Apartments DNA document containing Lendlease’s guidelines for high-rise living. “In any city we target, we need to be able to operate in a way that complies with our robust safety and sustainability standards,” says Mendel.

Construction of the first two blocks, the 53-floor Tower A and 57-floor Tower B, is progressing well, reports Eric Chan, project director of TRX Residences in Lendlease Malaysia. Breaking new ground, Lendlease has equipped construction workers with the 118-ton Lubeca Jumpform System, which can complete a level of lift and stair core every five days.

“The lift and stair core form the backbone of the project, providing essential vertical transportation services and safety systems, as well as structural stability for the towers,” says Chan. “The building envelope of the glass curtain wall with double glazing and low-E glass can quickly follow suit, creating a safer working environment that is protected from weather conditions.”

Construction of the site is progressing well thanks to systems that expedite tasks and ensure workers’ safety

Lendlease also used the Stairmaster system, enabling precise installation of evenly laid stairs. This allows contractors to move up and down the high-rises without relying entirely on passenger hoists or installation of makeshift staircases. Imbuing universal appeal into the homes, the company also built prototypes of the two-bedroom design for experts and user groups, including persons with disabilities, to critique.

“These innovations coupled with an unrelenting focus on safety allow us to construct the project expeditiously with a clear emphasis on quality,” says Chan.

TRX Residences is both a product of its time and a future-looking project, with a mechanical ventilation system and other design contingencies against interunit contamination and disease. For the same reasons, Lendlease is keeping the density of the residential buildings mostly to 10 units per floor, for a total of over 2,000 homes in one- to three-bedroom configurations across the three plots.

More: 6 reasons why Genting Highlands is a coveted address

“The Exchange TRX was designed and planned before Covid, built during Covid, and scheduled to open when Covid is likely to be endemic,” says Chan. “Our philosophy of building for the long term is especially relevant to a post-Covid-19 world, as we all adapt to the ‘new normal’ of living and heightened requirements for safety and health standards.”

Lendlease has been an influential presence in Malaysia for over 35 years, with a portfolio that includes the likes of Petronas Twin Towers. In February, the company acquired an additional 1.2-acre plot of land within TRX.

“Governments around the world are striving to proactively manage this megatrend of urbanisation,” says Mendel. “We aim to continue to seek out opportunities in Malaysia and work closely with the government and other investors to help create better places, ultimately contributing towards Malaysia’s growth and development.”

The original version of this article appeared in Issue No. 171 of PropertyGuru Property Report Magazine. Write to our editors at [email protected].