Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

June 30, 2007

SPH’s Paragon revalued at $1.82b

Filed under: Commercial — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:28 am

Company to absorb GST hike for its publications

SINGAPORE Press Holdings’ main property asset, Paragon, has been revalued at $1.82 billion. This is higher than the valuation of $1.52 billion the media group disclosed in July last year when it announced its results for the third quarter of FY2006.

The latest valuation of the retail and office complex at prime Orchard Road was carried out by Knight Frank. The valuation of Paragon, done on an annual basis, is required under the terms of the bank loan for the property.

While Paragon was once identified as a non-core asset, SPH has said in recent times that it is committed to holding on to the property for the foreseeable future. The complex enjoys full occupancy, and yielded about 9 per cent return on equity, according to SPH’s latest annual report. The group has made efforts to enhance rental yields from the complex.

Separately, SPH said it will absorb the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike of 2 per cent for its suite of newspapers and magazines. Cover prices of its publications will remain unchanged from July 1, 2007. SPH has a stable of 14 newspapers in four languages and over 90 magazine titles in Singapore and the region. The additional cost to SPH of absorbing the 2 per cent GST hike is estimated to be about $4 million a year.

SPH shares rose six cents to $4.64 yesterday. The group will release its financial results for the third quarter ended May 2007 on July 11.

Source: The Business Times, 29 June 2007

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Retail space getting pricier on back of rising demand

Filed under: Rental News — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:28 am

Grade A mall rents up 5-7% in first half, may rise another 5-6% in H2

By UMA SHANKARI

(SINGAPORE) Retail space is getting expensive in Singapore. Rents here continued to climb in the first half of 2007 on the back of rising demand for prime retail space as international brands continued expanding and consumer sentiment remained robust.

Islandwide, rents at Grade A malls have moved up by between 5-7 per cent in the first half of this year and could increase by another 5-6 per cent by end-2007, analysts said.

And in the prime Orchard Road shopping belt, current rents appear to be fast approaching levels seen in 1996, right before the Asian financial crisis.

New research from property firm CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) shows that rents of units on levels with the highest traffic along Orchard Road registered an average of $34.40 per square foot per month (psfpm) – close to the average of $35.10 psfpm seen in 1996.

Present rental levels are now 47 per cent higher than the average $23.40 psfpm recorded at the lowest point in 1998, CBRE said. ‘For the whole of 2007, we expect prime Orchard Road rents to grow between 4 and 7 per cent, given the lack of new supply in Orchard Road for the rest of 2007, as well as the healthy tourist numbers from Indonesia, Australia and the emerging markets of China and India, where people are experiencing rising affluence,’ said Mavis Seow, CBRE’s executive director for retail services.

Efforts to rejuvenate Orchard Road with a lot more vibrancy are beginning to pay off, she said. Landlords are actively seeking out fresh foreign brands while established brands have either expanded their range of merchandise or have revamped their boutiques. All this indicates a positive outlook on the part of both retailers and landlords, Ms Seow said.

But as a result of the upbeat atmosphere, setting up shop here has become more expensive for incoming retailers as well as for established ones, observers say. There are also concerns that retailers and F&B operators will pass on rent hikes to consumers, making shopping in Singapore an increasingly expensive option.

Market watchers however point out that Singapore’s retail rents and the rate of growth lag those in Hong Kong. ‘The rents for Hong Kong are still the highest with Singapore following behind,’ said Chua Yang Liang, head of Singapore research at Jones Lang LaSalle, comparing Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

In the first quarter of 2007, prime rents in Hong Kong reported a growth of 5.6 per cent quarter-on-quarter due to expansion of existing retailers and new entries, Dr Chua said. In comparison, Singapore’s prime location reported a growth of just around one per cent, he said. Even if rents continue to rise, many other factors determine if retailers find Singapore an attractive location for setting up.

‘Higher rentals is only one side of the story,’ said Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank’s head of consultancy and research.

He added: ‘Higher rentals will not squeeze margins if revenue increases by a proportionate or higher amount. In the last three years, retail sales excluding motor vehicles have been increasing at an annual compounded rate of about 7 per cent per year while average retail rentals grew at 3 per cent per year.’

Dr Chua said: ‘International retailers are more concerned with their exposure and market share rather than occupancy costs. Rental is but a minor parameter in their location decision equation.’

Source: The Business Times, 29 June 2007

HLH launches new freehold project

Filed under: Developer News — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:27 am

HLH Group has launched a new freehold residential apartment project in Joo Chiat Lane, with a total land cost of $11.07 million. The construction is expected to yield a gross floor area of about 29,144 sq ft. HLH aims to begin sales of units between end-2007 and the first quarter of 2008.

Source: The Business Times, 29 June 2007

S’pore leads world in growth of the wealthy

Filed under: Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:25 am

More than 11,000 people joined ranks of high-net-worth individuals last year, says report

By GENEVIEVE CUA

(SINGAPORE) Tiny Singapore has pipped other global markets to register the fastest increase in the number of high-net-worth individuals – 21 per cent last year, beating India and Indonesia, a new report shows.

The latest Merrill Lynch and Capgemini world wealth annual report found that last year more than 11,000 individuals entered the ranks of the high-net-worth in Singapore, defined as those with financial assets of over US$1 million. The total number of Singaporean wealthy reached 66,660 in 2006. Financial assets include private equity holdings, stocks, bonds, funds and cash, but exclude the primary residence.

Merrill Lynch senior director and chief Asia strategist Mark Matthews said: ‘Singapore has accelerated in terms of pure economic growth and domestic savings. It also enjoys a benign inflation and tax environment.

‘We think Singapore is in the midst of an impressive transition. It is to South-east Asia what Miami was to Latin America, a place where the wealthy come to bank their money, educate their children and get culture. Now we think Singapore is metamorphosing into a Zurich and Monaco not just for South-east Asia but for all of Asia.

‘It’s becoming a very important financial hub and it will become a leisure hub as well. For that reason we’re very bullish on Singapore.’

Attesting to its impact as a financial centre, hedge funds are already gravitating towards the Chinatown area, which Mr Matthews likened to Mayfair in London. Merrill Lynch expects hedge fund assets here to burgeon from US$25 billion currently to US$100 billion in three years.

Thanks to a strong global economy and robust stock markets, global wealth rose by 11.4 per cent to US$37.2 trillion. Last year 9.5 million people globally held over US$1 million in financial assets, a rise of 8.3 per cent. The ranks of the ultra-high-net-worth – those with over US$30 million in assets – rose 11 per cent to nearly 95,000. Merrill Lynch managing director Kong Eng Huat said: ‘In most regions, the growth of wealth exceeds the rise in the number of high-net-worth individuals. This reflects the global concentration of wealth.’

In Asia, the combined wealth of high-net-worth people rose 10.5 per cent to US$8.4 trillion. Asia accounts for five of the top ten fastest-growing wealth markets. Merrill Lynch and Capgemini expect to publish their wealth report for the Asia-Pacific in October.

Real estate appears to be a key driver of wealth. Asians’ allocation to real estate was the highest globally in 2006 at 29 per cent, up from 16 per cent in 2005. Globally, the average allocation to real estate was 24 per cent, up from 16 per cent previously. In Singapore, Mr Matthews expects real estate values to be sustained in prime areas, spreading out to outlying areas as well as the HDB market.

‘Singapore is becoming a different place so property prices will go higher. (It is) on par now with Sydney but its tax rate is a fraction. Singapore will be a global financial centre, therefore prices will reflect this. Right now, higher rentals are very concentrated in grade An office space or residential areas in the 9/10/11 districts. This will spread out across the island.’

Property, he adds, remains affordable, and hence the prospect of government intervention is unlikely. ‘People put aside about 25 per cent of their salary towards a mortgage or rental here. In New York it’s not unusual to have the proportion go to 40 per cent. Affordability is not yet an issue.’

The report said wealthy people have liquidated some alternative investments in favour of real estate. ‘We see this as a temporary tactical move rather than a long-term asset allocation shift,’ it said. Lower market volatility took the shine off alternative investments, which include hedge funds, structured products and foreign currencies.

Global real estate investments, including direct real estate and Reits, hit a record US$900 billion last year. Among the Asian wealthy, 51 per cent of real estate investments was in ‘other’ investment property, including second homes and vacation homes. Some 30 per cent was in commercial real estate and 19 per cent in Reits.

Asia’s allocation to fixed income assets was the lowest at 15 per cent compared to the global average of 21 per cent. It has the highest cash weighting at 24 per cent, compared to the global average of 14 per cent.

This year, however, is expected to see some deceleration in wealth growth. US consumption is expected to slow, wielding a knock-on effect on the Chinese economy. Still, global wealth is seen to reach US$51.6 trillion by 2011 – a more moderate annual rate of 6.8 per cent.

Source: The Business Times, 29 June 2007

SC Global’s The Marq sets new record for homes

Filed under: Gems of the Month — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:18 am

A new record for home prices in Singapore has been set, once again. A unit in SC Global’s freehold The Marq On Paterson Hill has been sold for $5,100 per square foot (psf), the developer said yesterday.

SC Global, a developer of exclusive luxury residences, said it has sold all 21 apartments it released in the first phase of its 66-unit luxury development at an average selling price of $4,137 psf. The project started previewing last week.

The previous record for home prices was held by Parkview Eclat, where developer Chyau Fwu Group said it sold a four-bedroom apartment for ‘almost $4,200 psf’.

At The Marq, absolute prices for apartments ranged from about $11 million to $31 million, SC Global said.

Another luxury property – in the Bukit Timah area this time round rather than Orchard – has similarly seen hot demand. About 70 per cent of the UOL Group’s 120-unit Duchess Residences has been sold with prices crossing the $2,000 psf mark for several apartments, the company said. Sources said that the highest price fetched was in the region of $2,100 psf.

Duchess Residences started previewing on Monday, but most of the units were snapped up over four hours yesterday, BT understands. The project will be officially launched tomorrow, UOL said.

‘This (the high prices) confirms that the Bukit Timah area is seeing a lot of pent-up demand, and people are looking to buy,’ said Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.

Savills is marketing Duchess Residences together with DTZ Debenham Tie Leung.

Bukit Timah, which made waves during the last property boom, is expected to make a comeback this year. Other than Duchess Residences, at least five other developments will be launched there in the coming months, with prices expected to cross the $2,000 psf mark – a level not seen for the past 10 years.

SC Global shares traded unchanged at $6.40 yesterday before a late afternoon trading halt ahead of the announcement. UOL’s stock closed 15 cents higher at $5.80.

Source: The Business Times, 29 June 2007

Mah Bow Tan on business hubs, plot ratios

Filed under: Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:18 am

Jurong and Paya Lebar have been designated as new business hubs so as to provide space for Singapore’s continued growth as a global business centre, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said yesterday.

In the interview with Channel NewsAsia, Mr Tan also commented on speculation about the possibility of sharp increases in plot ratios for land to cope with an anticipated rise in population. He said there is no need for such a move at this point as the figure of a 6.5 million population is a very long-term guide spanning up to 50 years.

On the new business hubs, he said the move would offer an alternative to the crowded Central Business District area.

To grow those areas into new hubs for businesses, the government plans to release sites for new offices, shops, homes and entertainment outlets in those areas.

Mr Tan was giving a preview of the upcoming Master Plan 2008 in his interview with CNA. The plan will go out for public feedback by mid-2008.

Source: The Business Times, 29 June 2007

Farrer Court collective sale fetches hefty $1.3b

Filed under: Collective Sale — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:17 am

A whopping $1.3388 billion.

That’s the price that a consortium – comprising CapitaLand, Hotel Properties, US-based Wachovia Development Corporation and possibly a foreign fund – is paying to buy Farrer Court.

According to Credo Real Estate, which brokered the sale, the sum is the highest ever fetched for a collective sale to date, and is possibly also the biggest ever residential land transaction in Singapore.

The unit land cost to the developers for the leasehold District 10 site works out to $762 to $783 psf of potential gross floor area. This is inclusive of two payments the buyers will have to make to the state – an estimated $275 million differential premium for enhancing the intensity of the site’s use to a 2.8 plot ratio, and a further sum of about $175 million to $225 million for topping up the site’s lease from a remaining term of about 69 years to 99 years.

The privatised HUDC estate has 618 existing apartments of two sizes – 1,615 sq ft and 1,453 sq ft. Their owners will get respective sums of $2.238 million and $2.122 million per unit. Based on the apartments’ existing strata areas, the proceeds to owners work out to $1,386 psf and $1,460 psf respectively. Before work on a collective sale at Farrer Court began in Q2 last year, the apartments were changing hands at about $500,000 to $600,000 each. The sums that the owners will receive are about 11.5 per cent higher than the sums they would have received based on the $1.2 billion reserve price in the collective sale agreement (CSA).

The deal is subject to approval from the Strata Titles Board. Owners with about 81 per cent of share values have signed the CSA so far. Rodyk & Davidson is representing the majority owners.

Industry players reckoned the construction costs, fees, interest and holdings costs for the developers could amount to a further $1 billion to $1.1 billion – resulting in an all-in investment of about $2.8 billion to $2.9 billion for the buyers.

Market watchers said the breakeven cost for a new condo on the site may be about $1,200 to $1,300 psf. At 838,488 sq ft, Farrer Court also has the biggest land area for a collective sale site transacted.

CapitaLand will lead the consortium buying Farrer Court, with a 35 to 40 per cent stake. HPL said its stake is expected to be 20 to 30 per cent.

CapitaLand said the plan is to redevelop the site into a new 36-storey condo with about 1,500 generously-sized apartments. The project will be ready for launch in first-half 2009. CapitaLand is the lead development manager.

‘Existing owners will be given the first right of refusal to purchase units in the new development, similar to what was extended to former owners of Char Yong Gardens and the site for The Seafront on Meyer,’ CapitaLand Group president and CEO Liew Mun Leong said yesterday. ‘The Farrer Court site is a large-sized property that will give us the opportunity to work with world renowned architects who have an international portfolio, to create a unique landmark project.’

The transaction is expected to be completed by Q2 2008.

CapitaLand said its latest acquisition of Farrer Court will increase the size of the residential landbank the group is managing in Singapore to about 5.5 million sq ft of potential gross floor area.

The tender for Farrer Court, which closed on Wednesday afternoon, attracted one other bidder – believed to be GuocoLand, which earlier this year bought the nearby freehold Leedon Heights site for $835 million or $1,062 psf per plot ratio.

Farrer Court is the only private residential site in the Farrer Road and Holland Road area accorded a high plot ratio of 2.8 and a maximum height of 36 storeys. Most of the surrounding sites are designated for either landed housing or low or medium-rise developments.

When signing of the collective sale agreement began in late September last year, the initial proposed reserve price was $700 million. By January this year, this had been revised upwards to $840 million, with a final revision to $1.2 billion in March.

Source: The Business Times, 29 June 2007

Land-use intensity: No sudden changes

Filed under: Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:17 am

The Government has no plans for a major exercise to raise plot ratios anytime soon.

In the lead-up to next year’s announcement of the Master Plan for Singapore’s physical development, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan quashed expectations in some quarters that plot ratios are headed upwards, to make room for a future population of 6.5 million.

The plot ratio of a site decides how much total floor area it can support, in other words, whether its buildings can be high-rise or low-rise. It is also known as a site’s development intensity.

In an interview this week, Mr Mah said there was no need for a massive across-the-board change in development intensity, as the land available today is more than enough to meet needs over the next 10 to 15 years.

That is the time-frame for the upcoming Master Plan 2008, to be unveiled around the middle of next year.

The statutory document regulates the permissible use and density for land parcels across the island. It is reviewed every five years.

Putting into context the 6.5 million figure, Mr Mah said it was the ‘upper bound’ for Singapore’s population over the long term of 40 to 50 years.

The figure is calculated based on current demographic trends.

It would have little impact on shorter-term, land-use plans.

‘There is more than sufficient land for accommodating our population quite comfortably in the next 10, 15 years, which is the time-frame for this Master Plan.

‘There does not appear to be any need for a massive across-the-board kind of intensification…some of the land that we have is not built up to full intensity under today’s intensity,’ he said.

Mr Mah added that his ministry’s strategy of intensifying land use gradually had worked well.

Coming in the midst of collective property sale frenzy, Mr Mah’s announcement is likely to have the strongest impact on the sentiments of these sellers.

Dr Ong Seow Eng, deputy head of research at the National University of Singapore’s department of real estate, said homeowners who have committed to sell their properties will have fewer reasons to be unhappy, while those planning to sell will have less incentive to hold out for higher prices, in anticipation of higher plot ratios.

He said the Government’s strategy of gradual intensification made sense as a sudden change could put undue stress on road and MRT networks.

Mr Lui Seng Fatt, regional director at Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate consultant, agreed that the minister’s statement would result in more ‘realistic’ expectations among property owners.

The director of research at property firm Knight Frank, Mr Nicholas Mak, said the Government might have wanted to avoid another round of collective sales as that would again reduce the stock of rental units and cause rents to rise further.

During the interview, Mr Mah also debunked some analysts’ reports of a short-term shortfall in private homes.

Some 42,200 new private homes are slated for completion from the second half of this year to 2010, he said, as compared with a historical demand of between 8,000 and 10,000 units a year.

To help buyers and sellers in their decision-making amid a very buoyant property market, he said the Urban Redevelopment Authority would release more information on supply, demand and transaction prices.

‘There’s nothing like total transparency to help people make clear decisions, rather than to make decisions based on panic or try to influence the market on the basis of selective information,’ he said.

Source: The Straits Times, 29 June 2007

Wise for Singapore to maintain property curbs

Filed under: Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:17 am

The ongoing property boom, coupled with indications of growing foreign interest in Singapore, prompted Goldman Sachs to call for the removal of controls on foreign ownership of landed property – and speculate that such a policy change is likely on the cards.

In a report released on Sunday, the investment bank argues that relaxing the curbs, set in 1973, that require foreigners to seek official approval before buying a landed home would spur further foreign buying – which saw a surge last year – and close the price gap between bungalows and luxury apartments, and just overall give the already-buoyant property market a fillip.

The Law Ministry has since come out to quash any such hopes (that developers, in particular, might have harboured), saying that ‘landed properties have to be treated as a special category’ in land-scarce Singapore, and there are no plans to liberalise foreign buying restrictions. Be that as it may, the matter strikes – beyond the property market – also at issues of hearth and home for Singaporeans, and debate on it will no doubt surface again from time to time. And, in making its case, Goldman Sachs made some notable points.

It suggests, for instance, that free and full access to landed housing would attract more foreigners to town. That’s highly arguable, not only because what usually moves executives and professionals to relocate halfway around the world are, first and foremost, career and business opportunities, not quite housing options, especially where there is no serious lack of choice in a well-developed city. Particularly for the rich and super rich – or at least those who would go for landed homes – there is a good enough range of luxury apartments here, and many rent.

In any case, the landed property curbs, to begin with, are not exactly highly onerous : Foreigners are not absolutely barred from buying; they can buy, subject to approval, which is usually granted. They are just obliged to stay in the house for at least three years, not rent it out or sell too soon, and they may not own more than one landed property at a time.
It is easy to see how a full relaxation of the curbs could inject a strong speculative element to this segment of the housing market – given all the wealth out there – and how it would easily be priced out of the reach of even upper-income Singaporeans, particularly during an upswing. As it turned out, foreign ownership of prime-district houses (in districts 9, 10 and 11) grew 67 per cent last year to an 11-year high – and this excludes, of course, Sentosa Cove, which foreigners can freely buy. It would be quite a different matter if land is plentiful and abundant in Singapore as it is in the US or Australia.

But here on this island nation of barely 700 sq km, that is actually highly anxious to get its share of foreign talent, being slightly possessive about landed property ownership is nothing xenophobic at all. Most foreigners would understand that.

Source: The Business Times, 29 June 2007

‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’

Filed under: Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:16 am

Singapore was ranked among the world’s 20 most liveable cities recently by a European lifestyle magazine. National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan speaks to LYDIA LIM about what the new Master Plan has in store, and holds out the prospect that life here will get only better even as the population grows

As he marks his eighth year as National Development Minister, Mr Mah Bow Tan knows to expect shock and horror each time he announces that planners are gearing up to house a bigger projected population.

This time, the figure is 6.5 million, up from the 5.5 million figure set out in the last Master Plan review in 2003.

The Master Plan is the statutory land use plan which guides Singapore’s development in the medium term of 10 to 15 years. It is reviewed every five years.

Worries about being squeezed like sardines, of not having green spaces to retreat to on weekends, and sky-rocketing property prices that put homes out of reach of locals are among the top fear factors.

Mr Mah wants to quash these worries.

The island is not about to be overrun by a population of 6.5 million overnight, he says.

The figure is a planning parameter, the ‘upper bound’ that Singapore’s population could hit over the long term of 40 to 50 years, based on current demographic trends.

Planners need to have in place such scenarios in order to work out if and how the island can accommodate a population of that size, he says.

And there is no doubt, at least in his mind, that the answer is yes – and comfortably too.

‘If we look ahead as far as the eye can see, based on the technologies that we know today – building up, building down – based on the land bank that we have; based on putting all these jigsaw puzzle pieces together, schools, roads, MRT, reservoir, Mindef, office, everything you can think of, sewerage plant, gardens.

‘We’re not compromising, you know. We are keeping to our standards for parks and gardens, our greenery spaces. We are keeping all those standards. We’re not compromising our quality of life. And yet, can we fit this number of people in? The answer is yes.’

He explains that it is only when the issue of physical space has been resolved that the population planners can re-look migration policies, taking into account other factors such as job supply and whether newcomers can assimilate.

The trade-offs to having a larger population are inevitable, but he assures Singaporeans these ‘are not unbearable’.

Future population increases notwithstanding, the Government will continue to provide public housing that is affordable.

‘We will have, we must,’ stresses Mr Mah on this non-negotiable commitment.

Despite the current red-hot property market, he declares that he is ‘comfortable’ with the steady, sustainable rate at which public housing prices have been appreciating.

HDB resale prices have in general risen by between 3 and 4 per cent recently, he says, compared to 30 to 40 per cent for private housing in the Core Central Region, the island’s most prime location.

Such steady growth is to be welcomed, as property is after all ‘a very major store of wealth for Singaporeans’.

He is eager to assuage people’s fears about the future as his ministry starts the one-year countdown to the unveiling of Master Plan 2008, which he hopes Singaporeans will look to not with trepidation, but anticipation.

More choices, not fewer

EUROPEAN lifestyle magazine Monocle recently ranked Singapore 17th on its list of the world’s 20 most liveable cities.

Mr Mah highlights the fact that Monocle is not just any magazine but the brainchild of Mr Tyler Brule, International Herald Tribune columnist and founder of design magazine Wallpaper.

‘Wallpaper is the type of very chic lifestyle magazine read by the arty types.

‘For people like that to start to take notice of what’s happening here, I think it’s quite significant,’ he says.

The focus of the survey was not on the fun quotient of cities but on a combination of all the things that make life in a city better, so Mr Brule had explained.

Monocle described Singapore as ’still conservative’ but said the city had in the last decade enjoyed a flowering in its arts and architectural scene.

It also praised Singapore’s ‘First World standard of living’ which was extremely affordable, save for exorbitant prices of cars and land.

The city’s communication, health, public housing and transportation systems were ‘first-rate’, it added.

Interpreting the results, Mr Mah says: ‘What they’re saying is that in Singapore, there are many little things that make a difference, not the big things.

‘We don’t have the biggest building or the most lavish; we’re not Dubai, but the small things matter and collectively they make a difference: connectivity, airports, transport, safety, schools, health care, housing, roads.’

Such reports, and the recent Time magazine cover story entitled ‘Singapore Soars’, are encouraging, Mr Mah says, but they describe the start, not the end, of the transformation.

‘They haven’t seen anything yet because there are still going to be changes, more developments, more exciting things happening.’

Master Plan 2008 is what will tie all these various new elements into a coherent whole.

In housing, for example, the next generation of HDB flats to be built in Dawson Road in Queenstown will be the first of its kind – high-rise homes in a park.

Based on what he has seen of the designs, Mr Mah is confident these flats will bring the evolution of public housing ‘to another level’.

‘We have to keep pace with people’s expectations and lifestyle changes because we want public housing to remain an attractive option for young Singaporeans,’’ he adds.

The public will get to view the design at an exhibition in September.

At the luxury end of the residential market, buyers can look forward to yet more city living options, complete with spectacular water views, when land around the Gardens on the Bay is released for new housing.

For businesses, there will be two new regional centres in Jurong and Paya Lebar coming up over the next five to 10 years, offering high-quality office and retail space outside the Central Business District.

Leisure options will also multiply. The southern HarbourFront, where VivoCity is located, has been earmarked as a new rest and relaxation hub.

One highlight will be a new running path linking the island’s southern ridges, from Mount Faber to Kent Ridge.

Even as development gathers pace, conservation remains a priority, Mr Mah says, because all these efforts aim to build an ‘endearing home’ for Singaporeans.

Many may not be aware that over the last decade, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has conserved close to 6,500 buildings.

The URA does not decide on its own which buildings to preserve but consults independent experts who sit on the Conservation Advisory Panel. Decisions are reached through an exercise of ‘collective wisdom’, he says.

Members of the public will get a close-up look at the new housing, business, leisure and conservation plans when Master Plan 2008 is exhibited in the middle of next year.

Changes may follow a period of public consultation, after which the plan will be gazetted.

Planning makes perfect

JOB satisfaction for Mr Mah, 58, a political office holder since 1988, comes from watching carefully laid plans for Singapore’s physical development take shape.

He cites the Marina Bay area as a prime example.

Reclamation began in the 1960s and went on until about 1990.

By 2000, the URA started developing the area and then selling off sites for what would become the NTUC Centre, 1 Raffles Quay, The Sail, the Business and Financial Centre and, finally, the integrated resort.

While architects may chafe at a lack of flexibility because of strict guidelines, Mr Mah remains convinced that good planning is the key to Singapore’s successful transformation.

He believes it will give the country a good shot at becoming one of the few cities in the world not to suffer a drop in living standards, even as its population swells.

‘If any country can make it, Singapore can, because we have the planning parameters, we have the process in place.’

Source: The Straits Times, 29 June 2007

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