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Petaling Jaya (PJ) has a rich and colourful history, apart from being touted as the first satellite town and first planned town in the country. In this article, we look at how it transformed from a small, sleepy pioneer settlement surrounded by wilderness into one of the most progressive cities and among the most desirable places to live in Malaysia.

The Origin of Petaling Jaya

Located around 7 miles southwest of Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya was established by the British colonisers in 1952. It was originally envisioned as a satellite town that will help ease the issue of overcrowding in the capital, as well as address the build-up of squatters and lack of accommodation for workers.

To create the settlement, the authorities carved out 480 hectares of land from the Petaling Garden Estate. But PJ started out as a small town of slightly more than 200 hectares, with low-cost wooden homes scattered about, constructed mostly by people working in KL. PJ’s first settlement still remains today and is affectionately called ‘PJ Old Town’. It comprises Seksyen 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Petaling Jaya started to take shape in 1952 when around 800 homes were completed and another 200 were still being built. Previously, the town was managed by the Kuala Lumpur District Officer and then the Petaling Jaya Town Authority. But by 1954, the governing body was succeeded by the Petaling Jaya Local Authority. Since then, acreages of oil palm and rubber plantations were cleared to make way for various commercial and residential sections (seksyen in Malay) and public infrastructure projects.

At the end of 1957, PJ was home to more than 3,200 residential properties, plus 28 factories and over 100 shops. The same year also saw the opening of phase I of the Federal Highway, which passed through the middle of the town. Connecting Petaling Jaya with KL and Port Klang, the major road boosted PJ’s status as a strategically-situated town highly desired by businessmen and wealthy people on the lookout for prime residential land.

The Meaning of Petaling Jaya

In another historic moment, the local government Petaling Jaya Local Authority was upgraded into the Petaling Jaya Municipal Board in 1964. True to its name, Petaling Jaya rapidly became the most flourishing municipality in Selangor as the town’s population has sharply increased to 35,100, while its area has massively grown to 1,990 hectares.

Interestingly, the first word in Petaling Jaya’s name comes from the District of Petaling where the town is located, while the second word means success in Malay. While the town’s British founders may have no idea on how important Petaling Jaya would become in the future, the name could have symbolically prophesied that PJ would ascend as one of the most vital economic areas in Malaysia.

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Journey to Cityhood

Thanks to continued development, the town’s local governing body was levelled up to the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) by 1977. By then, PJ had been transformed into an enormous town, encompassing Seksyen 52, the Sungai Way-Subang area, and Subang Jaya, which will eventually become a satellite town of Petaling Jaya.

Then, further northward expansion saw the emergence of the large Damansara area, which comprise Kota Damansara, Damansara Impian, Damansara Perdana, Bandar Sri Damansara and Bandar Utama.

Finally, Petaling Jaya officially became a city on 20 June 2006. At the same time, its governing body changed its name to Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ). Datuk Ahmad Termizi Puteh served as town’s first mayor, although briefly for only two months, amid protest by PJ folks against his plan to increase assessment rates for all properties by 10 percent.

Property Developers & Historic Homes in PJ

The State Development Corporation of Selangor (PKNS) spearheaded the development in Petaling Jaya. It was followed by other real estate players such as GuocoLand, Mah Sing, Amcorp Properties, Tropicana, and Sunway.

Before PJ’s rapid development including the construction of commercial hubs, there were only a few residential projects there. These mostly consisted of low to medium-cost apartments and terrace homes. You can also still see the historic three-feet brick homes in Seksyen 1, Seksyen 2 and PJ Old Town. These houses are called such, as their walls are 3-feet thick, while the rest of the structures are made of wood.

By the year 2005, posh bungalows, semi-detached homes and condos have become prevalent in the area. These upscale residential properties are mostly found in SS7 Kelana Jaya, Bukit Gasing and Seksyen 16 & 17, while the newer luxury homes are located in Ara Damansara and Tropicana.

Present State of Petaling Jaya

Today, PJ is among the most industrialised and flourishing cities in Malaysia. One reason for this is its excellent location within Klang Valley stretching from Port Klang to KL in northeast and southeast to Bangi. Now spanning 9,720 hectares, the town features modern shopping malls, world-class entertainment outlets and hotels rivalling those in Kuala Lumpur.

At PJ New Town or Seksyen 52, the heart of the city, one can find many government offices, banks and commercial centres, while the Subang International Airport is merely a short drive away. Adjacent to Subang Jaya is Bandar Sunway, an up-and-coming township housing a theme park, hotel resort, mall and entertainment complex, as well as a modern convention and exhibition centre.

Over at Bandar Utama, lies One Utama, which is among the biggest and glitziest shopping centres in Malaysia. Apart from being surrounded by upper- to middle-class residential estates, the area including the Damansara Utama is popular for its nightlife activities.

Meanwhile, Bandar Sri Damansara has turned into a sought-after residential and commercial area. Given its enviable current state, Petaling Jaya has now become a suitable alternative to living in Kuala Lumpur.

Do you live in PJ? Share with us your thoughts about this city and perhaps the property that you live in! By doing so, you can earn reward points which you can use to redeem amazing items!

(Written by G. Zizan, 10th December 2019)


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Good write up, thanks

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Good read. Keep it up!

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Didn't know these info. Thanks for sharing.

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Petaling Jaya city changes overtime. Now is among the most densely populated cities in Klang Valley.