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.