$86 Billion Eco-Friendly ‘Forest City’ is Already a Ghost Town

$86 Billion Eco-Friendly ‘Forest City’ is Already a Ghost Town

In a tale that might make you think twice about the phrase “If you build it, they will come,” Malaysia’s Forest City stands as a stark $100 billion testament to ambitions that have, so far, fallen a bit short of reality. Envisioned as an eco-friendly utopia, this coastal city in southern Malaysia was designed to be a bustling metropolis for up to a million people, boasting amenities like a golf course, water park, and an array of dining options. But instead of throngs of residents and tourists, its streets are eerily silent, with only about 1% occupancy in the completed sections.

Launched with great fanfare in 2016 by Chinese property developer Country Garden, the project aimed to transform a chunk of Johor into a futuristic urban haven. Fast forward to the present, and only about 15% of this ambitious city has materialized out of the master plan. So, what gives? Why has this would-be paradise turned into more of a ghost town?

Well, for starters, Forest City’s target market was Chinese buyers looking for a second home in Malaysia. However, despite the allure of living in a brand-new eco-city, the target demographic found the price tag a bit too steep, and local Malaysians weren’t exactly lining up either, finding the cost way out of reach.

Enter the global pandemic, which threw a wrench into the already stuttering gears of Forest City’s development. The sales of those thousands of flats, which were supposed to fund the rest of the urban dream, dried up as the world went into lockdown, leaving the city more abandoned than bustling.

One of the few brave souls who ventured to live in Forest City was Nazmi Hanafiah, an IT engineer who rented a sea-view one-bedroom apartment. His stay, however, was short-lived. After just six months, Hanafiah high-tailed it out of there, saying he felt “lonely” and “creepy,” surrounded by empty streets and silent buildings. It seems that even stunning sea views and state-of-the-art amenities can’t compensate for the lack of community and buzz of city life.

Credit: YouTube/BBC

Despite its current ghost town status, Forest City is trying to shake off its spooky reputation. A recent press release painted a picture of the city as a “popular short-haul tourist destination” offering a taste of “coastal resort life.” Yet, as the city strives to reinvent itself, it remains to be seen whether people will be enticed to call this ambitious project home or if it will continue to stand as a cautionary tale of overreach and unfulfilled potential.

So, if you ever find yourself in southern Malaysia, curious to explore a city where the future promised hasn’t quite arrived yet, Forest City might just be worth the detour. Just don’t expect a bustling metropolis; instead, prepare for a serene—if slightly eerie—glimpse into what could have been.