Kuala Lumpur is building a whole new district to house its nightlife

An artist's impression of Kuala Lumpur's new "Taste, Relish, Experience, Celebrate" quarter. Image: TREC.

From futuristic skyscrapers and giant shopping malls, to lush city parks and varied fine dining, Kuala Lumpur is a city that seems at first glance to have everything.

But until now there has been a distinct lack of things to do in the city other than eat, shop and gawp at the hypermodern architecture. Enter TREC (an acronym for Taste, Relish, Experience, Celebrate), a shiny new purpose-built nightlife complex with a price tag of RM323.6m (approximately £50m).

Two award-winning architecture firms, Veritas and Unit One, have been tasked with injecting fun into the south east Asian business hub. To do this, they’re creating five distinct "concept zones" over a seven-acre site in the city centre, each featuring unique "styles, atmospheres and moods".

The businesses based at TREC will vary from casual eateries to upscale restaurants, from quirky independent cafes to some of Malaysia’s best known pub and bar brands. Well-to-do golfers at the luxury Royal Selangor Golf Course may soon find themselves brushing shoulders with throngs of kebab munching students galavanting between TREC and Malaysia’s latest megamall development, funded by Swedish powerhouses IKEA and Ikano.

Artistic impressions of the finished TREC complex display a design filled with trees, green spaces and water features – typical traits of modern architecture in Malaysia.


Phase one of the new development, dubbed Electric Boulevard, launched in July. Its main attraction at the moment is legendary Malaysian nightclub Zouk, which opened its doors in a new 60,000 sq ft premises at TREC last month. Created with a budget of RM38m, Zouk now holds the title of the most expensive Malaysian club ever. This mega-nightlife spot houses several clubs, a VIP bar lounge and a member’s lounge, as well as a cafe area, a rooftop deck and an outdoor garden.

Tourists are invited to access Zouk via a priority lane, and will receive free entry just by flashing their passports. TREC is projected to attract more than 1.7m visitors in its first year; 25 per cent of them are expected to be foreigners.

Hopeful visitors should note the club’s strictly-enforced dress code, though: "Stylish, clubby – no slippers allowed for entry". There goes my Saturday night get-up of a onesie and a pair of UGG boots.

Cher Ng, the 43-year-old entrepreneur responsible for both Zouk and TREC, is a prominent figure on the entertainment scene in both Malaysia and Singapore. He made his name as a DJ on Southeast Asia’s clubbing scene in the 1990s and co-founded one of Asia’s biggest dance music festivals, ZoukOut.

Ng’s vision was to create a "one-stop, integrated entertainment district" for Kuala Lumpur that would rival Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong district, Shanghai's Xin Tian Di, and Singapore's Clarke Quay.

"Kuala Lumpur has not seen any large-scale integrated entertainment developments in recent times," he explains. "This is an area where we are falling behind our ASEAN neighbours. TREC will usher an exciting era for the city's entertainment. It will also create over 1,500 jobs and add RM140m to the local economy annually."

TREC has already received recognition and funding from the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and Culture in the form of endorsement of the complex as a "National Key Economic Area". The title is given to a small selection of private sector projects that are seen to be driving Malaysia towards high-income status and global competitiveness.

A seven-acre plot of indulgence seems to be a natural fit for Kuala Lumpur, but only time will tell if TREC’s impact is as grand as the buzz around its initial launch. Personally, though, I’m on the edge of my seat to find out what the next "lifestyle zone" might entail – and whether its name will top "Electric Boulevard" for vagueness.

 
 
 
 

Cycling on London’s Euston Road is still a terrifying experience

Cyclists on the Euston Road. Image: Jonn Elledge.

The New Road, which skirted the northern boundaries of London’s built up area, first opened in the 1750s. Originally, it was intended to link up outlying villages and provide a route to drive sheep and cows to the meat market at Smithfield without having to pass through the congested city centre. 

As with bypasses and ring roads the world over, however, it increasingly became congested in its own right. Today, you won’t often find livestock on the route, which is now Marylebone, Euston and City roads. But you will find up to six lanes of often stationary buses, cabs, and private vehicles. In a city whose centre is largely free of multi-lane highways, London’s northern ring road has long been the sort of abomination that you avoid at all costs.

But now, somewhat surprisingly, the road is seeing yet another new use. Earlier this week, the first phase of a temporary cycle lane opened on the Euston Road, the middle section of the route which runs for roughly a mile. As London rethinks roads throughout the city, this addition to the cycling map falls solidly into the category of streets that didn't seem like candidates for cycling before the pandemic.

It is, to be clear, temporary. That’s true of many of the Covid-led interventions that Transport for London is currently making, though those in the know will often quietly admit to hoping they end up being permanent. In this case, however, the agency genuinely seems to mean it: TfL emphasized in its press release that the road space is already being allocated for construction starting late next year and that "TfL will work with local boroughs to develop alternate routes along side streets" when the cycle lane is removed.

At lunchtime on Friday, I decided to try the lane for myself to understand what an unlikely, temporary cycle lane can accomplish. In this case it's clear that the presence of a lane only accomplishes so much. A few key things will still leave riders wanting:

It’s one way only. To be specific, eastbound. I found this out the hard way, after attempting to cycle the Euston Road westbound, under the naive impression that there was now a lane for me in which to do this. Neither I nor the traffic I unexpectedly found myself sharing space with enjoyed the experience. To be fair, London’s cycling commissioner Will Norman had shared this information on Twitter, but cyclists might find themselves inadvertently mixing with multiple lanes of much, much bigger vehicles.

It radically changes in width. At times the westbound route, which is separated from the motor traffic by upright posts, is perhaps a metre and a half wide. At others, such as immediately outside Euston station, it’s shared with buses and is suddenly four or five times that. This is slightly vexing.

It’s extremely short. The publicity for the new lane said it would connect up with other cycle routes on Hampstead Road and Judd Street (where Cycleway 6, the main north-south crosstown route, meets Euston Road). That’s a distance of roughly 925m. It actually runs from Gower Street to Ossulton Street, a distance of barely 670m. Not only does the reduced length mean it doesn’t quite connect to the rest of the network, it also means that the segregated space suddenly stops:

The junction between Euston Road and Ousslston Street, where the segregated lane suddenly, unexpectedly stops. Image: Jonn Elledge.

 

It’s for these reasons, perhaps, that the new lane is not yet seeing many users. Each time I cycled the length of it I saw only a handful of other cyclists (although that did include a man cycling with a child on a seat behind him – not something one would have expected on the Euston Road of the past).


Though I hesitate to mention this because it feeds into the car lobby’s agenda, it was also striking that the westbound traffic – the side of the road which had lost a lane to bikes – was significantly more congested than the eastbound. If the lane is extended, it could, counterintuitively, help, by removing the unexpected pinch points at which three lanes of cars suddenly have to squeeze into two.

There’s a distinctly unfinished air to the project – though, to be fair, it’s early days. The eastbound lane needs to be created from scratch; the westbound extended. At that point, it would hopefully be something TfL would be keen enough to talk about that cyclists start using it in greater numbers – and drivers get the message they should avoid the Euston Road.

The obvious explanation for why TfL is going to all this trouble is that TfL is in charge of the Euston Road, and so can do what it likes there. Building cycle lanes on side nearby roads means working with the boroughs, and that’s inevitably more difficult and time consuming.

But if the long-term plan is to push cyclists via side roads anyway, it’s questionable whether all this disruption is worth it. A segregated cycle lane that stops without warning and leaves you fighting for space with three lanes of buses, lorries, and cabs is a cycle lane that’s of no use at all.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.