Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

July 8, 2008

Hotels need long-term plan for F1 packages: study

Filed under: General,Hotel,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:25 am

HOTELS need to have in place a long-term pricing strategy when it comes to room rates and hospitality packages for the Formula One race to ensure that visitors keep coming back for subsequent races.

Integrated Decisions and Systems International Inc (IDeaS), which provides revenue optimisation software to the hospitality industry, released a study conducted last September which examined two Grand Prix weekends in Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Melbourne.

While both occupancy and daily room rates saw an increase on average, both Shanghai and KL did not achieve full occupancy. Instead, hotels in the two cities saw occupancies of 87 per cent and 85 per cent respectively on Saturday night of the race weekend.

This could be due to weaker demand from F1 fans than anticipated, coupled with insufficient bookings from base business such as groups and air crew, the study said. A mix of customer base – both leisure and base bookings – would be ideal to maximise revenue.

Average daily rate for hotel rooms should be 55-60 per cent higher during the race weekend compared with surrounding weeks, while revenue per available room (RevPAR) generally registers an 80-90 per cent jump, the study recommends.

For Singapore, reasonable prices could prove an added incentive for visitors, should the novelty of a night race lose some of its shine over the next few years.

However, cancellations also reached a high as people might be inclined to shop around, said IDeaS’ director of services, Klaus Kohlmayr, who suggested that in addition to deposits or cancellation charges, hotels should consider overbooking their rooms. Describing overselling as a ‘manageable risk’, he pointed out that cancellation was averaging 60 per cent higher during the race period in the three markets analysed.

A review of the booking curves for Shanghai and KL also revealed that bookings began to flow in much closer to the actual date, with the majority of demand occurring about two to three months before the race itself and over 50 per cent of individual reservations taking place within a month of arrival.

Source : Business Times – 5 Jun 2008

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June 27, 2008

Blending the old and new

Filed under: General,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:16 am

SEAMLESSLY merging two buildings into one, while balancing the old with the new, is the challenge facing the architectural team behind the $320-million National Art Gallery, set to open in 2013.

On Wednesday, it was announced that France’s Studio Milou Architecture, in collaboration with Singapore’s CPG Consultants, won the bid to design the gallery which is to be housed in the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings, both of which front the Padang.

The museum will showcase South-east Asian and Singapore art.

‘Finding a way to keep the character of the buildings while making it a modern art gallery is the task ahead,’ Mr Jean-Francois Milou, 54, lead partner of Studio Milou Architecture, tells Life!.

Mr Lee Soo Khoong, 48, CPG’s senior vice president and the appointed local architect for the project, adds: ‘The overall result must have harmony, grace and beauty.’

Then there’s the challenge of turning two buildings into one.

To do this, Mr Milou is linking the two historically significant buildings at the roof level with a linear draped canopy and a glass ceiling.

He explains that the mesh-like canopy will filter out sunlight entering the rooftop, but there will still be natural light coming in.

‘I’m more worried about too much sunlight coming in, rather than too little,’ he adds.

The two buildings will also be linked at the new basement, which will serve as the entrance to the art gallery.

‘Visitors will enter here before they proceed to the exhibition space,’ he says. The basement will house a gallery shop and ticketing counters.

Mr Milou is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This is his first major project in Asia, although he has worked as a consultant for Unesco and for the French government on projects in India, Nepal and Indonesia.

Notable museum projects done by his firm in his home country include the Burial Mounds Museum in Bougon and the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse.

The firm also recently won an architectural competition to readapt a 19th-century building into a cultural and leisure centre.

Local partner CPG Consultant is no stranger to conservation work. Some of its projects include the National Museum of Singapore, The Arts House at Old Parliament House and the Singapore Art Museum.

The design of the new art gallery is getting strong interest from the arts community.

Mr Milenko Prvacki, 67, dean of the faculty of fine arts at Lasalle College of Fine Arts, hopes the architectural team will ‘use creativity to transform the spaces and not let the historical baggage that comes with each space constrain their designs’.

Visual artist Jeremy Sharma, 30, hopes the exhibition space will be big enough to accommodate big works so that artists can play with the space.

Mr Milou assures that this will be done.

Key features of the two buildings such as the facades, the main staircases, the main courtroom in the Supreme Court and the surrender chamber in City Hall, will be kept.

The architect says he will also retain the existing finishes and ambience of the two buildings. The only big change he will make is in City Hall, where the third and fourth storeys will be combined into a double volume exhibition space.

The art gallery will have about 10,000 sq m of exhibition space, ‘where people can wander about on their own’, he says.

When completed, he hopes the gallery will appeal to people of all ages.

He says: ‘Those of my generation will be able to see the complexity and elegance of the project, while the young generation will be impressed by its design.’

Source : Straits Times – 30 May 2008

June 24, 2008

Singapore Master Plan: Achievements of the past 10 years

Filed under: About Singapore,General,Property Add Value,Regulators,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:59 am

THE Master Plan 2008 exhibition, launched at the URA Centre on May 23, is an important event for all here in the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Not only is it the fruit of many months of brainstorming, discussions with various stakeholders and plain hard work, it also gives us an opportunity to share our excitement about the plans for Singapore’s future development.

For those unfamiliar with the Master Plan, it is the statutory land use plan that URA develops to guide Singapore’s development over the next 10 to 15 years. The Master Plan is reviewed every five years, and details the land uses and development intensities for land parcels in Singapore. It translates broader, longer-term development strategies formulated as part of the Concept Plan, which is the plan that sets the direction for Singapore some 40 to 50 years ahead. Both the Concept Plan and Master Plan work to ensure that there is sufficient land to cater to Singapore’s future needs, while maintaining a good quality of living for our population.

The launch of the Master Plan 2008 exhibition marks a significant milestone in URA’s history. Ten years have passed since the completion of the URA’s 1998 Master Plan. Though Singapore’s first statutory Master Plan was completed way back in 1958, it was the 1998 Master Plan that took planning one step forward by clearly spelling out a vision for Singapore in years to come.

For the first time, each plot of land in Singapore had a specific planning intention and development strategy. Changes in the Master Plan now signalled changes in the future landscape, rather than changes in existing uses on the ground. With the 1998 revision, the Master Plan became the forward-looking plan that we are familiar with today, a plan which enables land owners to make decisions with greater certainty.

As we prepare to complete and gazette Master Plan 2008, it would be interesting to review how successful our past Master Plans have been.

New commercial centres

Over the past 10 years, Singapore has developed new areas for businesses to flourish. Our vision for Marina Bay as an expansion of our CBD is being transformed into reality, as we speak. New developments like the Esplanade Theatres by the Bay, One Fullerton, Marina Centre, The Sail, the Marina Bay Financial Centre have been realised within the decade.

Beyond development of the city centre, these 10 years have also seen the growth of other commercial hubs. The Tampines Regional Centre, Buona Vista Sub-regional Centre (now known as One-North) and the Novena Fringe Centre are three such centres outside of the city centre being developed.

Both Tampines and Novena are now bustling commercial centres, with a mix of offices, retail and entertainment facilities that cater to the needs of residents in the eastern part of Singapore. One-North is an established hub for research, and looks set to become home to a dynamic blend of commercial, residential and recreational uses.

Thanks to this strategy to develop new commercial centres outside the Central Area, businesses now have a variety of locations to choose from, which are more affordable than those found in the city centre and which are well-suited to back-offices.

Flexibility for businesses

Another pro-business move by URA over the past years is to introduce more flexibility for businesses through new zoning policies that take into account changing business needs. New business zones, Business 1 and Business 2, were proposed in the 2003 Master Plan. Under the new zoning system, industrial and business activities are grouped according to their impact on the surrounding environment. The new ‘impact-based’ zoning approach allows businesses to house different uses under one roof and change activities easily without re-zoning.

Similarly, Business Parks and Business Park White zones were introduced, which facilitated the development of Changi Business Park and International Business Park which are now key employment centres.

URA also introduced a new type of zoning – the White Zone – which allows for the development of a variety of different uses like commercial, residential and hotel within the zone. This gives the market greater flexibility and creativity in planning for developments that provide a mix of uses like residential and retail. Today, several successful and innovative developments have been built on white sites.

For example, Central at Clarke Quay, built on a white site, is not only a busy shopping centre, but also pioneers the ‘Small Office Home Office’ concept here in Singapore by offering custom-built offices that function as residential units as well. Another white site that was successfully developed is Square2 at Novena. This development seamlessly integrates a medical centre with a trendy mall, and strengthens Novena’s position as a medical hub. Similarly, the white site in Farrer Park which was awarded in 2007, will see the introduction of a ‘mediplex’, which combines a hospital, hotel and specialist medical centre.

Good quality of living

Singapore has experienced substantial population growth over the past 10 years, from 3.9 million in 1998 to 4.6 million today. New housing had to be provided. Across the island, new HDB towns like Sembawang, Sengkang and Punggol have sprouted up to cater to the housing needs of our growing population. Since 1998, there have been 170,000 new homes created. We have also created a variety of housing choices, such as waterfront housing in areas like Tanjong Rhu. Industries in Bukit Timah and Hillview have also been relocated since the 1990s, and replaced with high-quality residential developments.

Recreation and leisure

Beyond housing, URA has also planned for the recreation and leisure needs of our population. As part of the Master Plan 2003, URA drew up the Parks and Waterbodies Plan and Identity Plan. The Parks and Waterbodies Plan set out proposals for an islandwide network of parks and park connectors. The park connector network has been implemented in stages, with the 42 km-long Eastern Loop running through Bedok, Pasir Ris and Tampines being completed last year.

The Parks and Waterbodies Plan and the Identity Plan also set out our vision for various areas like the Southern Ridges. As part of the Master Plan 2003, there was a proposal to connect the three Southern Ridges for a nine-km walk. This vision for a beautiful walk through nature has become a reality. Today, the Southern Ridges are linked by two bridges and an elevated walkway and are now open to the public.

More nature areas and nature parks have been opened up, in a sensitive way, for public enjoyment. Examples include Chek Jawa where the National Parks Board has completed the boardwalk, and the boardwalks, observation tower and suspension bridge opened at MacRitchie Reservoir.

The past decade has also seen the revitalisation of areas like the Singapore River. Through URA’s land sales programme and environmental improvement works, the three quays of the river are now popular nightspots offering a array of entertainment and dining options for locals and tourists alike.

Conservation

It has not just been a decade of unrestrained urban development, however. Even as condominiums, shopping malls and office towers are being built, pockets of Singapore remain carefully shielded from the pressures of development. The Identity Plan, created as part of Master Plan 2003, set out to conserve historical areas and buildings that have a special place in our hearts. In the past decade, 1,200 additional buildings have been conserved, in areas like Holland Village, Joo Chiat and Tiong Bahru. These buildings not only help Singapore’s streetscape to remain distinctive, they also provide our people with physical anchors for shared memories.

The next 10 years

Going forward, the Master Plan 2008 looks to build on the good foundations set by the past Master Plans. This time, the focus is on providing great opportunities and a good life. We have plans to develop new areas like the Jurong Lake District, Paya Lebar Central, Kallang Riverside, as well as continue growing Marina Bay as a 24/7 live-work-play environment. Tanjong Pagar and the Beach Road/Ophir-Rochor corridor will also be developed as strategic gateways to the city centre.

We also have an extensive Leisure Plan, which showcases a diverse range of leisure opportunities around the clock, island-wide, for people of all ages.

Our city’s achievements and the garnering of international accolades in the past decade bear testament to the strength of the vision for Singapore. However, this vision was not created solely by URA. It was drawn up together with other government agencies, private sector representatives and various stakeholders through focus group discussions, public forums and dialogues.

More importantly, the transformation of the past 10 years was achieved through joint efforts by the public, private and people sectors. The draft Master Plan 2008 exhibition, open to the public until June 20, is an opportunity for URA to gather comments and suggestions on these plans that will shape the way we all live, work and play in the years to come. Together, we can make Singapore a home of choice, a magnet for business, an exciting playground and a place to cherish.

By CAROLINE SEAH, head of physical planning and policies at URA

Source : Business Times – 29 May 2008

One-North: A place for a meeting of minds

Filed under: Education,General,Genius Thoughts,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:57 am

one-north, encompassing Biopolis and Fusionopolis, is Singapore’s icon of the knowledge economy

THERE I was, standing in the middle of a gleaming complex of buildings, with blocks bearing names like Chromos, Proteos, Genome and Matrix. I was, of course, at Biopolis, conceived to put Singapore on the global map of the biomedical sciences industry. Biopolis itself is only one part of a vast development called one-north that is emerging around the Buona Vista area.


Brain space: Biopolis (left) was conceived to put Singapore on the global map of the biomedical sciences industry; global pharmaceuticals corporation Novartis houses its Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases at Chromos. The institute ‘is dedicated to discovering treatments for diseases of the developing world, including tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever’, says its chairman Paul Herrling

ha area is ‘Singapore’s icon of the knowledge economy’, according to the one-north website. It encompasses Biopolis and Fusionopolis, a sprawling area dedicated to the media and information businesses.

In its widest interpretation, one-north includes Rochester Park, Insead business school and one campus of the Nanyang Technological University. Clearly, it is planned to be a kind of ‘brain space’ and creative nerve for Singapore.

But does the talent really like working here? I approached a man and a woman chatting to each other and posed them that question.

The woman’s answer was emphatic. ‘Yes, it’s convenient. It’s got everything – there are restaurants, cafes, shops. There’s a shared system among all the corporations here, to take care of all our grocery and other needs.’ They declined to give their names but said that they work at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

And for those who think that the location is somewhat out of the way, there is the view of Edison Liu, executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS). one-north is practically ‘in the middle of the city’, he said, speaking to BT in a phone interview as he was travelling in the US.

‘We are only some 20 minutes from all the major hospitals and universities. It’s not like some other research centres, where you’re stuck in the outskirts of suburbia.’

GIS is the national flagship programme for genomic sciences, and occupies – of course – the Genome block at Biopolis.

‘Of course I’m biased, but we are always counted among the top 10 genome centres in the world,’ said Prof Liu. ‘Within a 25-hundred-mile radius in Asia, there is no centre with better firepower than us.’ He said that the institute has made its mark in the areas of stem cell genomics, systems pharmacology (which is research related to cancer) and genomic technology.

Slightly more than half of GIS staff is of foreign origin, said Prof Liu, who himself is from the US but is now a Singapore permanent resident. In that sense, the institute shares the international flavour of other big research institutes.

As I walked along the paved streets of Biopolis, it seemed to me that the place, barring the occasional person in a business suit, has the feel of a large university. There is a big food court for the more budget-minded, but also espresso pit-stops and several restaurants.

These eateries are not only great places to grab a meal, but also to swap ideas and contacts, according to Paul Chapman of GlaxoSmithKline. He is head of GSK’s Centre for Research in Cognitive and Neurodegenerative Disorders.

‘While it is certainly possible to have this kind of interaction if you are located on a separate campus, there is no substitute for bumping into someone at the food court or the cafe,’ he said. ‘Those casual interactions, where people get to know each other and then discover their mutual scientific interests, just happen more easily at a place like Biopolis.’

Opportunity for study

Novartis, another global pharmaceuticals corporation, houses its Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) at Chromos.

The institute ‘is dedicated to discovering treatments for the diseases of the developing world, including tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever’, said Paul Herrling, NITD’s head of corporate research and chairman.

‘Biopolis’s location in Singapore, a place where dengue is endemic, gives researchers the opportunity to study first-hand the epidemiology of the disease, and enables access to affected patients.’

one-north is not entirely about the medical and biotech sectors. Swissnex Singapore describes itself as a platform of the Swiss Embassy, ‘facilitating knowledge and competencies’ in science, education, art and innovation between Switzerland, Singapore and South-east Asia.

‘Being at Biopolis brings us closer to the stakeholder,’ said executive director Suzanne Hraba-Renevey. ‘We are more visible and accessible to our users and have easy access to our partners from academia, research, government and business.’

The entire Biopolis project itself is yet to be completed, and consists of several phases. Across the road looms Fusionopolis 1, comprising 24 floors, two towers and 120,000 square metres of floor area.

The building, which represents phase one of the Fusionopolis project, is dedicated to infocomms, or media-related firms that use the latest in technology. It is equipped with satellite access and the necessary power and bandwith for intensive computer use. There are also service apartments, a roof-top swimming pool and a performance theatre.

Fusionopolis 1 has just opened its doors to tenants, and Asian Food Channel was the first to make it its home. When I visited the premises of the cable-and-satellite channel on the 12th floor, there were still boxes to be unpacked and everything was spanking new.

‘We think three to five years ahead,’ said managing director Hian Goh. ‘In 12 months’ time, there’s going to be an MRT at the bottom of this building. There will be a Cold Storage and shops. There’s a sky garden – it’s beautiful.’

The new office is bright, airy and full of glass partitions. There is a room at the rear to be turned into a kitchen-cum-studio.

‘That’s where we’ll have people like Gordon Ramsay doing his shows,’ said Maria Brown, managing director of acquisitions and programming. ‘We’ll also be able to invite people over.’

I imagined the celebrity chef, brow furrowing, expletives flying, sticking a knife in a roasted carcass and calling it done.

‘Please invite me,’ I said.

Source : Business Times – 27 May 2008

June 21, 2008

Kallang River surroundings poised for boom time

Filed under: General,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 6:13 pm

Waterside district with lush greenery has potential to be leading residential enclave, say analysts, pointing out its proximity to town and good public transport

Finally, a bit of news to cheer the ailing housing market: The drab, neglected area north of Kallang River is to be Singapore’s next lifestyle hot spot.

Four thousand new waterfront homes, all to be built by private developers, are slated to come up in the area in the next 15 years.


Walking, jogging and cycling are just some of the outdoor activities that residents of the 4,000 new homes in the area can enjoy. — PHOTOS: THE NEW PAPER, NATIONAL PARKS BOARD

They will offer cool green living in a lush park setting, as well as resort-style beachfront housing near the water’s edge.

Kallang Riverside will also be transformed into a lively commercial hub and leisure destination, with enough space for 400,000 sq m of offices and shops and 3,000 hotel rooms.


 
All this was announced by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Friday as part of its latest Master Plan, which guides Singapore’s land use policy in the medium term.

Property consultants say the new Kallang district, bounded by Lavender and Kallang MRT stations on the northern corners and the Kallang River to the south, has the potential to become a premier residential enclave.

‘The area is near town, yet next to the beach, it reminds me of places like the Gold Coast,’ said Mr Danny Yeo, the deputy managing director of property firm Knight Frank.

He lauded the exclusivity of the area, which is bounded by waterways on all sides except for Kallang Road to the north.

‘It’s resort living on the fringe of the city. Many people will want to live there.’

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL)’s head of South-east Asia research, Mr Chua Yang Liang, called the area ‘a hybrid of the current two waterfront areas, Marina Bay and Sentosa’.

Over the last couple of years, demand for waterfront homes has strengthened and the limited supply of such properties has led to their prices surging to a level beyond the grasp of many Singaporeans, he said.

‘This new district may help make similar projects available to the man in the street.’

Mr Karamjit Singh, the managing director of property consultancy Credo Real Estate, drew a comparison with Novena, another prime city-fringe area, instead.

He highlighted the fact that Kallang is served by two MRT stations, making it a very desirable residential and office location.

‘Kallang has the potential of becoming the new Novena, purely because it’s that close to town.’

Lots to choose from

A range of housing options will be available in Kallang Riverside, if all goes according to the Master Plan.

Most of the homes will be set on the western bank of the river in an area called The Green, which will have a park running down the middle.

Low-rise apartment blocks will face the park, with high-rise condominiums soaring behind them.

The Government has set aside several plots for high-density housing here, with varying plot ratios for different building heights, noted Mr Li Hiaw Ho, the executive director of CB Richard Ellis Research.

This will allow for a ’step-down’ range of storey heights that descend towards the waterfront, enabling residents in the top floors of each building to enjoy views of the water.

Homes that are directly fronting the park or the river will also be encouraged to go ‘fenceless’ to create a seamless blend of parkland, beachfronts and buildings, said the URA.

Landed homes may also make an appearance nearer the beaches, said JLL’s Mr Chua.

City-fringe prices

Kallang may sound like a first-class place to live, but expect to pay top dollar for homes there.

Property values are expected to soar in the area, especially for the planned new homes. The surrounding residences will not feel any impact for the next few years, but prices may rise once the area starts taking shape, predicted property experts.

Most of the housing estates nearby are made up of HDB flats.

Currently, the only condominium in the area is the upcoming Riverine by the Park, along Kallang Road near the river. Nearby is Citylights, at Jellicoe Road near Lavender MRT station.

Units were recently sold at Riverine for $1,600 per sq ft (psf) and at Citylights for $1,000 to $1,300 psf.

Across the river, condos in Tanjong Rhu have been sold for as low as $750 psf at Tanjong Ria Condo and for more than $1,600 psf at Casuarina Cove.

Knight Frank’s Mr Yeo believes home prices in the new Kallang will be ‘a shade below those in Orchard, and probably comparable to those in Newton and Novena’, with waterfront homes costing even more.

Mr Chua expects prices to be about 10 per cent to 15 per cent lower than those currently commanded by Marina Bay and Sentosa, which range from $1,700 psf to $2,700 psf.

‘The plans will bring the population back into Kallang and increase demand for the surrounding properties,’ he said.

Already, buyers are being drawn to HDB flats in the area because of the high prices of private homes and the conservation charm of Kallang, Mr Chua said.

‘It’s still a little sleepy town now, and there won’t be much short-term impact, but in the medium to long term, we should see price movements there.’

EMERGING HOT SPOT

Under the URA’s latest Master Plan, Kallang Riverside will be transformed into a lively commercial hub and leisure destination, with enough space for 400,000 sq m of offices and shops and 3,000 hotel rooms.

Knight Frank’s Mr Danny Yeo likens the area to city-fringe resort living, as it reminds him of Australia’s Gold Coast, with the district being near town and yet next to the beach.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s Mr Chua Yang Liang calls the area ‘a hybrid of the current two waterfront areas, Marina Bay and Sentosa’.

Source : Sunday Times – 25 May 2008

Kranji’s growing needs

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Add Value,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:10 pm

Farmers need more help to thrive if area is to fulfil its potential as a countryside draw

Trying to get out of the Kranji countryside without a car of your own used to require a mixture of charm and luck. Since there were no bus services, and no taxi driver would take a booking from that far-flung corner of Singapore, I had to beg for rides out from other farm visitors.

Today, the farmers run a minibus service from the nearby Kranji MRT Station, and growing public interest has been mirrored by increasing development of farms that incorporate facilities such as farmstays and cafes.

To cap it off, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) unveiled plans last week for 21ha of new parkland, walking trails as well as more farming plots with space for leisure facilities there. It declared that the 1,400ha Kranji and Lim Chu Kang area – dotted with 115 farms – has potential to be ‘a unique countryside destination close to nature’.

But farmers from the Kranji Countryside Association will tell you that it has been a long, hard slog to get the authorities to recognise the gem in this north-western district – and how, despite this recent vindication, it will continue to be so.

They tried selling this concept of ‘agri-tainment’ to the authorities in 2003. This marriage of agriculture and entertainment on farmland, they said, could be used to bolster farms’ income and nurture greater interest in local produce.

In 2005, the URA eased its rules to let farms open shops and restaurants, and offer farmstays. The Singapore Land Authority followed that up the following year by putting up new farmland for tender for ‘agri-tainment’ uses.

By then, the farmers’ continual promotion – driven by the flamboyant former Netball Singapore chief Ivy Singh-Lim and fourth-generation farmer Kenny Eng – had generated enough attention for even listed firms to muscle in on the action.

HLH Agri R&D, a subsidiary of mainboard-listed PDC Corp, is now developing 20 farm villas, a restaurant and beer garden just behind Mrs Singh-Lim’s organic vegetable farm, Bollywood Veggies, off Neo Tiew Road.

But the grand plans to turn Kranji into a rustic haven belie the continual problems the farmers face.

There is still no proper bus service. SMRT service 925 – the only one that goes anywhere near – ventures only to the tip of the farming area in Neo Tiew Crescent on Sundays and public holidays.

The association’s farmers pay about $7,000 a month to run an hourly minibus service plying the inner sections of the countryside. They charge $2 a ride, which barely covers half their costs.

A bus service is a lifeline for lower-income folk who otherwise cannot afford to visit the area. But the farmers’ repeated appeals for a proper service, which they have offered to subsidise, have not borne fruit.

Until the authorities and bus companies relent, they will have to dig deep into their pockets to keep that private service going.

Indeed, up till last week, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Kranji farmers were pretty low on the nation’s priority list.

The area was unceremoniously picked for a granite stockpile last year to stabilise the supply of construction materials after Indonesia imposed a ban on land sand exports and detained barges shipping granite to Singapore.

Explaining its move, the Building and Construction Authority said the area was ‘away from built-up areas’ which, ironically, was one of the main reasons for its appeal to locals and tourists alike.

The stockpile remained, despite a 1,000-signature petition and a protest by 20 farmers. And the signs are that it will stay even in view of the longer-term plans to develop Kranji as a leisure destination.

Perhaps an even bigger issue is the short lease of farmland in Singapore. While developers downtown have the luxury of 99-year leases, farmland is leased out for 20 years at a stretch. This policy betrays the transient nature of farmland in Singapore – and bolsters the perception that land can be used for agriculture only until a more pressing or profitable use comes along.

While it is hard to justify shielding farmers from rising land costs when the rest of Singapore feels the pinch, it wouldn’t hurt to give them a greater sense of certainty now that Kranji has been earmarked as a countryside destination.

It need not be a massive gesture. Simply letting the farmers renew their leases a few years before they run out – similar to letting owners of downtown developments ‘top up’ their 99-year leases before a collective sale – can help spur hesitant farmers to develop more visitor facilities.

It would also help stave off developers with deep pockets but little interest in farming who snap up land to build commercial facilities surrounded by token planting.

Agriculture is the lifeblood of Kranji, and the farms need to thrive if the area is to fulfil its newly minted role as Singapore’s next big countryside attraction.

Lose them, and we will be left with nothing but a theme park.

Source : Sunday Times – 25 May 2008

June 19, 2008

Kallang, Paya Lebar the new stars

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:42 am

Over 10 years they will become lifestyle and commercial hubs

GOOD news, Kallang and Paya Lebar: It is your turn to shine.

The two sleepy industrial estates have been identified as Singapore’s next big urban hotspots, as the nation’s land planners draw up blueprints for the next 15 years.

Now colourless and underdeveloped, these towns will burst into full bloom over the next decade. Paya Lebar will be transformed into a thriving commercial and civic centre, while Kallang will become a residential and lifestyle hub with homes and offices set among green parks and sandy beaches.

They are the stars of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) highly anticipated Draft Master Plan, which was released by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

The Master Plan, which guides Singapore’s land use over the next 10 to 15 years, is revised every five years to provide more housing and leisure options and ensure that sufficient space is set aside to support a growing population.

The plan also continues a sustained effort to decentralise and reduce congestion in the Central Business District by building offices all across the island, bringing jobs closer to homes.

Some of the plan’s highlights, such as the new Jurong Lake District and the new MRT lines, have already been revealed.

Other plans were more fully fleshed out yesterday, such as the expansion of the city’s commercial centre, which will double in size to include Marina Bay and Tanjong Pagar, as well as the Beach Road/Ophir-Rochor corridor.

The Government also announced that it has earmarked enough land for 328,200 new homes around the island. More than a third will be in the central region bordered by Bishan, Sentosa, Marine Parade and Queenstown.

‘We have seen significant transformation of our city over the past 10 years,’ said Mr Mah yesterday.

‘The next 10 years can be just as exciting, if not more. Despite the current economic uncertainties, I am optimistic that we can grow from strength to strength.’

Property players were impressed by the new Master Plan, saying it proves Singapore can remain a sustainable global city and a promising investment destination.

Equally importantly, there is ‘a piece of action for every developer, no matter what kind of homes or offices or hotels they build’, said Mr Simon Cheong, chief of developer SC Global and president of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore.

Source : Straits Times – 24 May 2008

Kallang Riverside: Beaches and waterfront homes at the edge of city

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:39 am

The area south of Kallang and Lavender MRT stations will be completely transformed

THE year is 2020. The place: Kallang.

Gone are the unsightly gas tanks and drab industrial factories that once marked this area. Instead, it is sparkling with modern high-rise buildings, cool green parks and beachfront homes.

Families stroll down the tree-lined paths and frolic by the river, which has been cleaned up and beautified with sandy beaches, waterfront hotels and energetic water sports.

In the distance looms the Sports Hub, an impressive cluster of world-class sporting facilities, just minutes away to the south of the area.

This is the new Kallang – at least, the way Singapore’s land planners envision it in 15 years.

Under the latest masterplan revealed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday, the area south of Kallang and Lavender MRT stations will be completely transformed.

The URA will do away with the prosaic industrial estate of Kallang Basin, the site of the former Kallang Gasworks and some of Singapore’s oldest public housing estates.

In its place will blossom the glamorous Kallang Riverside, an exclusive residential enclave, thriving commercial hub and nature-rich leisure seat at the edge of the city centre.

When the area takes shape, it could rival Novena and Sentosa as a prime living and working destination, property consultants said yesterday.

Kallang will have the added advantage of lush green parks and shimmering waterways to draw visitors, they added.

‘Kallang is like a hybrid of Marina Bay and Sentosa, unique in that it will have beaches and waterfront homes so close to the city,’ said Mr Chua Yang Liang, head of South-east Asia research at property firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

In all, the URA has set aside 64 hectares of land to be developed in the area – double the size of Raffles Place.

It will retain light industrial buildings that offer jobs in the neighbourhood, but eliminate Kallang’s old, grey, stodgy feel.

Four thousand new waterfront homes will be created on the west side of the river, all to be built by private developers, said the URA.

They will be set in The Green, a halcyon housing suburb arranged around a long strip of grassy park to the west of the Kallang River.

This park will link Lavender MRT station to the waterfront, providing a verdant thoroughfare for residents and visitors alike.

On the river’s east side, a commercial centre will spring up, with space for 400,000 sq m of offices, shops and entertainment venues. The offices here will allow businesses to expand outside the city and are envisaged as cheaper support offices for downtown firms, the URA said.

To accommodate overseas visitors, Kallang Riverside will host 3,000 hotel rooms in a tropical beachfront setting.

The river itself will realise its full potential as a recreational hub.

Already a popular dragon boating and waterskiing spot, it will also offer beachside lagoons for swimming and facilities for new sports such as boating or canoeing.

To top it all off, an extensive network of roads and walkways will be created to improve accessibility.

One is a sheltered walkway that will take pedestrians from Kallang MRT station all the way to the Sports Hub in air-conditioned comfort. This futuristic link will snake through the second storeys of office and entertainment buildings along the way.

A pedestrian bridge will also be constructed across the river, linking the mainly residential west bank to the commercial centre on the east.

But Kallang will not be all newfangled plans and sleek buildings. The URA stressed that care has been taken to preserve the area’s historic identity.

One of the key landmarks is the former Kallang Airport, opened in 1937 as Singapore’s first airport. The Art Deco-style building was once hailed as the ‘gem of the British empire’, with revolutionary facilities such as a circular aerodrome and a large open-air viewing gallery.

Increased air traffic led to the airport being closed in 1955 and replaced by Paya Lebar Airport. The runway was converted into a road and the airfield to a recreational area, but the terminal building still stands as the People’s Association headquarters.

Now, it will be one of the key development sites to be launched for sale in Kallang, along with the accompanying office buildings, former hangar, front lawn and other historic structures.

The blocks, centred around the historic Old Airport Square, will be conserved and adapted for new uses that could include a boutique hotel or a mall, said the URA.

It also intends to redevelop the bus interchange south of Kallang MRT station into high-rise buildings, and is studying whether to integrate the interchange into the new development or relocate it.

Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said yesterday that Kallang Riverside will be the next prime area on the edge of the city.

‘Together with the Sports Hub, Kallang Riverside will be a significant sports and lifestyle cluster with a slice of history, supported by attractive beachfront hotels,’ he said.

Source : Straits Times – 24 May 2008

Paya Lebar: From quiet town to bustling cultural district

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:37 am

The Paya Lebar area will become one of S’pore’s major commercial hubs under URA’s new plan

IT’S been the site of plantations and kampungs, witnessed political intrigue and riots, and remained a distinctive neighbourhood cherished by the local Malay community.

Under the latest masterplan announced by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday, Paya Lebar will take on yet another incarnation as one of Singapore’s new commercial hubs.

Close to 500,000 sq m of office, retail and hotel space will be added to the area, bolstering the 200,000 sq m already available. ‘Over time, we hope to see Paya Lebar Central attracting small and medium-size enterprises, but we’ll have to see how things develop,’ said URA chief executive Cheong Koon Hean.

One of the first major changes to the area will be the new Paya Lebar MRT interchange station, ready by 2010, which will serve the Circle and East-West lines.

Land adjacent to both sides of nearby Tanjong Katong Road will be used for new developments that will feature office, retail and hotel space, including an outdoor pedestrian mall in Geylang Road.

The Geylang River, which is currently more of a canal, will be reconstructed and become a focal point for waterfront dining and shopping.

No date has been announced for the release of these land parcels for development under the Government Land Sale Programme.

But already, some of the neighbourhood’s most iconic institutions are being primed for the big Paya Lebar makeover.

The area is no stranger to change. Geylang Serai was first earmarked for the Malay community by the colonial authorities in 1840, and takes its name from the 19th-century lemon grass plantations here (serai being the Malay word for lemon grass).

Political parties United Malays National Organisation and Barisan Sosialis were once active in the area, and the 1964 racial riots broke out nearby.

In 1965, the flood-prone area’s kampungs began to be replaced with government-built flats. The now-trademark street lighting during Hari Raya was introduced in 1984, and planned developments such as pedestrian malls and arcades were announced by the URA as early as 1994.

Joo Chiat Complex, built in 1983, is expected to complete its current upgrading by August this year.

The new two-storey Geylang Serai market in Changi Road is expected to be completed next year and, at 9,300 sq m, will be twice as big as its famous predecessor.

The original market, which opened in 1964, was known as the Malay Emporium of Singapore and attracted busloads of regional tourists.

Ravaged by a fire in 1999, it was torn down in 2006. But the temporary market in Sims Avenue – which retains the tradition of selling only halal food – is still doing robust business.

But at least one neighbourhood landmark will not be part of the new Paya Lebar Central.

The Malay Village, in Geylang Serai Road, was set up in 1989 to showcase traditional Malay kampung life. Plagued by management changes, the attraction never really took off. But just last month, the current management team announced plans for a $50 million revamp.

The URA confirmed that the current site of the Malay Village, whose lease ends in 2011, will eventually be used for a new civic centre.

But the authorities maintain that the cultural heritage of the neighbourhood will play a key role in its redevelopment.

The proposed civic centre, which may include a library, could also feature a gallery showcasing the area’s history, said the URA. The building’s design may also be inspired by traditional Malay stylistic elements.

New plaza spaces near the Paya Lebar MRT station and the Geylang Serai market will provide more space for the area’s annual Hari Raya bazaar, as well as year-round grassroots events and cultural performances.

Madam Suriana Sabtu, 31, welcomed the prospect of larger bazaars with stalls concentrated in the two new plazas.

Introducing new shopping outlets will add diversity to the retail scene here, she felt. ‘It’s good to attract more people here, not just Malays.’

But if this neighbourhood is indeed about to become sleek and bustling, some hope it won’t be at the expense of its longstanding haphazard charms.

In its current pre-hub incarnation, old-school provision shops and textile stores still line its quiet streets and run-down shopping centres. Colours pop up in every corner, from festive fabrics in bandung-pink and Kickapoo-chartreuse, to the vials of scent with neon labels proclaiming names like Raja Musk and Amber Mecca.

Sipping teh tarik at the temporary Geylang Serai market, which he visits twice a month with his parents, national serviceman Mohd Farhan Abdul Rahman, 22, was candid: The neighbourhood could really use some sprucing up; the Malay Village is ‘too messy’, and he won’t be terribly sad to see it go.

But he hopes some things will remain. ‘Making this place a hub is great. But I hope the atmosphere here can still be retained. It’s still a part of my culture.’

Source : Straits Times – 24 May 2008

Spotlight falls on Paya Lebar Central as suburban star

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:19 am

PAYA Lebar Central is set to become the next suburban commercial hub under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Draft Master Plan. And if market observers are right, the area may emerge as the newest hot spot for backroom operations and small and medium enterprises (SME).

Unveiled by Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan yesterday, the 2008 Draft Master Plan is an elaborate land use guide for Singapore in the next 10 to 15 years. To sustain economic growth and bring jobs closer to homes, the plan carves out Paya Lebar Central, Kallang Riverside and Jurong Lake District as the latest commercial and mixed-use hubs.

Paya Lebar Central will stand out as a commercial node with a unique cultural identity. The URA will set aside 12 hectares of land with about 5.32 million square feet of commercial floor space for development. Of this, office space will take up 3.16 million sq ft, while hotel and retail spaces will occupy another 2.15 million sq ft.

For new growth areas such as Paya Lebar, plot ratios may increase, said Mr Mah, who spoke to reporters after the launch of the Plan.

In terms of connectivity, Paya Lebar Central is a 10-minute drive from the Central Business District (CBD) and is linked to major expressways and roads. Come 2010, the area will become more accessible when the new Paya Lebar MRT interchange station for the Circle and East-West lines opens.

There are also plans to re-align a stretch of the Geylang River so that it runs through new commercial developments along Tanjong Katong Road. The riverbanks will be ideal for office, retail and hotel developments.

Real estate experts believe that Paya Lebar Central’s proximity to town may draw backroom operations from banks and multinational corporations.

‘Just six MRT stations from Raffles Place, Paya Lebar Central may be even more attractive … compared with the Tampines Regional Centre or the Changi Business Park,’ observed director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore Ku Swee Yong.

Sharing this view was Colliers International’s director of research and advisory Tay Huey Ying. Ms Tay also noted that ‘Paya Lebar Central will be a suitable commercial hub for SMEs, especially for those which support light industries in the area’.

For these SMEs, deputy managing director of Knight Frank Danny Yeo said: ‘Rental rates in the CBD may be too high, and some have set up offices in industrial buildings instead. Hence, the creation of a commercial hub at Paya Lebar Central will be helpful.’

According to Mr Yeo, office rents in the Paya Lebar region range broadly from $6 to $8 per sq ft per month currently. A Jones Lang LaSalle report in April noted that the CBD core Grade A gross effective office rent stood at $17.35 per sq ft per month in the first quarter.

Mr Mah reassured those who were worried about a potential excess of office space from the upcoming hubs. ‘We can set land aside but it is the private investor who will make the final decision,’ he said.

He also did not think there would be an oversupply of office space in the foreseeable future, up to 2010 or 2011. ‘Based on projections … we expect that all the supply that we have already put in place will be taken up.’

Beyond its business appeal, Paya Lebar Central will also charm with its distinctive Malay character. A new pedestrian mall will be created along Geylang Road to provide more space for stalls during the annual Hari Raya bazaar. The new Geylang Serai Market will also add to the local heritage when it is ready in 2009.

Next to the market, a new civic centre and plaza will become focal points for community facilities such as a library, and for events such as bazaars.

To make it easier for workers and shoppers to get around Paya Lebar Central, there will be more covered walkways, underground paths and overhead bridges in the area.

With upcoming commercial and cultural activities in Paya Lebar Central, market observers expect to see three- to four-star hotels coming up to cater to mid-tier tourists and business travellers. URA estimates that the area can accommodate 1,400 hotel rooms.

Source : Business Times – 24 May 2008

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