Weeds growing out of the walls and a sign saying “Crocodiles are coming out”… Report on a “huge ghost town” created by a Chinese real estate giant. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Weeds growing out of the walls and a sign saying “Crocodiles are coming out”… Report on a “huge ghost town” created by a Chinese real estate giant.

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A cluster of high-rise condominiums in “Forest City.” The plan was to eventually attract 700,000 people, but…

Malaysia is a tropical country straddling the southern Malay Peninsula and northern Borneo Island. Kuala Lumpur is the capital of the country, which has been ranked the best place to live for 14 consecutive years.

It is “Forest City,” a cluster of luxury condominiums located on the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula. Originally, Country Garden, the largest real estate company in China, began developing Forest City about 10 years ago as a luxury residential area for several hundred thousand people, but now construction has come to a halt. Now, however, construction has stopped and not a soul can be seen in the residential area. In addition, the area is now called a “ghost town” by local residents,” said a local real estate official.

Despite its convenient location next to Singapore…

The original development plan, however, was a big project supported by China, a major economic power, to create an artificial island in the Strait of Johor between Malaysia and Singapore, on which commercial and residential buildings would be built. In fact, dozens of high-rise buildings and a golf course were constructed in a short period of time after construction began in 2003, and sales were brisk at first, especially among wealthy Chinese, thanks to its favorable location next to Singapore and its appeal as a second home. However, an unexpected headwind hit the condominium market.

In addition to the restrictions on foreign investment imposed by the Xi Jinping administration in 2004, the COVID-19 crisis hit the housing market in 2008. In the end, development has progressed only about 15% of the original plan, and the number of residents, which was supposed to attract 700,000, is now only about 9,000.

Buildings overgrown with weeds

When I drove to Forest City to conduct on-site interviews, the first thing that jumped out at me was a cluster of white luxury condominiums. The rows of condominiums are spectacular, as they are designed for the wealthy, but weeds are growing thickly from the walls of the buildings, and it is easy to see that there are no residents in the area. According to a local real estate agent, “Many of the owners originally purchased the condominiums as investment condominiums, and few people live in them.

Entering the sales exhibition hall in Forest City, one could hardly see any customers, except for a few staff members and security guards. A model of the entire development project proudly displays “SOLD OUT,” meaning that all the apartments have been sold out, but one cannot help but feel suspicious. The golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, a world-famous golf player, and his son, also showed off its golf course with a photo of the father and son themselves, which made me feel a sense of sadness.

A signboard with a photo of Jack Nicklaus and his son.
Crocodiles on the beach! signboard on the beach

Crocodiles, Dangerous!” sign on the beach.

Visitors can be seen here and there at the swimming pool on the grounds. However, most of them are not residents of Forest City, but Malaysian gimmotee. The waterfront of the condominium has now become a place of relaxation for local residents. Although the facilities, such as the slides installed, meet general standards, some of the pools are not filled with water, indicating that they are not attracting many visitors.

On the sandy beach adjacent to the pools, “Crocodiles out, no swimming!” No barbecues, fishing, fireworks, camping! and all leisure activities are prohibited, and it must be said that the attraction is reduced by half. The model of the exhibition hall for sale at the previous site gave the impression of a bright, sandy beach where one could play freely, and I am afraid that some people may have bought the house without knowing it.

A local real estate agent told us, “In the past, rooms priced at 20 million yen or even 100 million yen or more per room sold like hotcakes,” but what became clear during our on-site visit this time was the lackluster apartment complexes that could truly be described as a ghost town.

China’s real estate industry has been in turmoil since the beginning of this year, with real estate giant Hengda Group filing for bankruptcy in the United States. Some are concerned that there may be a growing trend to blow up unsold townhouses.

Bikkuyuan is also in danger of defaulting on its debt, and we can only hope that Forest City will not be torn to pieces.

Local residents in the pool.
Forest City sign erected on the street.
The high-rise apartment building was designed to resemble a spaceship covered in greenery. The green overflowing with greenery only reinforces the feeling of a ghost town.
An empty swimming pool
A cluster of chalk-white condominiums that have become a huge ghost town

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