Bandar Cassia: PDC’s First Smart-Eco City

July 2024 FEATURE
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IN LEADING PENANG’S industrialisation, Penang Development Corporation (PDC) went beyond job creation and Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) to transforming rural areas like Bayan Baru and Seberang Jaya into modern townships in the 1970s. These residences were initially offered to reduce commute times and costs for workers in Bayan Lepas and Perai, but over time, these areas have grown into major cities. The legacy continues, and this is what we will cover in this feature.

A Contemporary Town Beyond George Town

Located a stone’s throw away from the Bayan Lepas Free Trade Zone (FTZ)—now known as the Free Industrial Zone (FIZ)—and the Penang International Airport, Bayan Baru officially opened in October 1975, after 3,455 acres of paddy fields were developed into an urban municipality, attracting population migration from George Town to its outskirts.

A self-sufficient town featuring a sub-centre with commercial facilities, schools, playgrounds and community spaces, Bayan Baru is Penang’s first comprehensive town, integrating elements of “Live-Work-Play-Learn”. By 1989, some of PDC’s 6,600 housing units were home to an estimated 33,000 people.

Today, Bayan Baru is geared to become a major epicentre for the emerging Global Business Services (GBS) sector. Anticipating the rise in the digital GBS as a key contributor to Malaysia’s economy, PDC has established two focal GBS facilities within Bayan Baru, known as GBS@Mayang and GBS@Mahsuri in 2021.  Bayan Baru now houses more than 60 GBS companies, and PDC plans to attract to it more talent, greater development and better facilities.

Bringing City Life to the Mainland

Seberang Jaya was the first integrated and planned township on the mainland, and was the place that the state’s heavy industries called home, owing to it having been the logistics hub where the railway, ferry terminal and seaport converge.

In 1976, PDC converted 1,124 acres of rural land into this comprehensive township. The land availability inspired PDC to put in place many recreational facilities such as parks and football fields, including the Penang Bird Park. PDC constructed SP Arena in 2015, a multi-purpose hall for MICE events.

The construction of the Penang Bridge in 1985 and Penang Sentral in 2018 linked land logistics with commercial components in Butterworth. A focal point of many industrial clusters and residential townships, Seberang Jaya continues to be a vibrant and compactly integrated township.

Penang’s Pioneer Smart-Eco City

Once an island bordered by the Jawi and Tengah rivers, Batu Kawan tells a fascinating tale of urbanisation and innovation. The thriving new township here is Bandar Cassia, named after the Cassia siamea flower, which blossoms unrestricted in Batu Kawan—this is Penang’s largest township development, spanning 6,326 acres.

PDC envisions Bandar Cassia as a smart eco-township that promotes a balanced lifestyle within a vibrant community. This vision was conceived in the late 1980s, when Seberang Perai Selatan (SPS) was the most underdeveloped district in Penang. Tasked to locate a potential area that would eventually spur development in SPS, PDC acquired Batu Kawan in 1990. Today, the vast agricultural island has witnessed transformation into a smart and sustainable eco-township with residential, commercial, industrial and recreational components.

Following the completion of Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge (also known as Penang’s Second Bridge) in 2014, Bandar Cassia saw accelerated development. Well-connected road networks to the NorthSouth Expressway and the Second Bridge ensure easy access to the island and mainland, spurring investment, local economic activities and population growth—making Bandar Cassia a rising and exemplary vision of a 21st-century township.

The birth of Batu Kawan Industrial Park (BKIP) in 2011 as a home for high-tech and skills-intensive industries was followed by Bandar Cassia Technology Park (BCTP) and Batu Kawan Industrial Park 3 (BKIP3), which accommodate electrical and electronics (E&E), medical technology, aerospace/avionics as well as precision engineering and equipment industries. Together with the upcoming Batu Kawan Industrial Park 2 (BKIP2), they safeguard land availability and indirectly, the legacy of Penang’s high-impact investment contributions to the Malaysian economy. 

Using SMART infrastructure embracing ESG principles and global best practices, PDC works closely with industry stakeholders to form a supportive ecosystem. It involves SMART traffic management system, SMART pole installation, 5G infrastructure, efficient waste management systems and more importantly, SMART Industrial Park management, followed by centralised workers’ accommodation. As such, Bandar Cassia is poised to be the choice destination for MNCs and local SMIs/SMEs alike.

Strategic partnerships with private developers also aided the acceleration of Bandar Cassia’s development. Since the Batu Kawan Stadium was built in 1999, along with the initial phase of a residential development, private developers have introduced more residential and commercial lots. They include Penang Design Village (PE Developments), Vision City (featuring IKEA), a mixed-development of commercial and residential units (Aspen Group), landed properties known as Eco Horizon (EcoWorld), a university metropolis with UOW Malaysia KDU campus alongside residential and commercial lots (Paramount Property) and One Auto Hub (PKT Group), to name a few. The highly-anticipated, Medi-City Bandar Cassia project also aims to promote eco-tourism, while providing world-class medical services. Together, this smart-eco city should accommodate an estimated future population of 250,000 residents, with provisions of 45,000 to 50,000 housing units.

Never Resting on Past Laurels

Bayan Baru, Seberang Jaya and Bandar Cassia’s successes demonstrate the potential a well-planned, integrated city holds. For an integrated township that stimulates the economy and enhances the overall living quality of its population, Bandar Cassia reflects PDC’s innovativeness, forward planning and commitment to drive sustainable urbanisation in Penang.