Take a walk where you live

Six hundred people will go on 21 walking tours around Singapore this weekend as part of the global Jane’s Walk movement

The Jane’s Walk tours will take participants through places such as Queenstown (above) and Tiong Bahru.

Singapore’s scorching heat has not put off a growing number of residents who are signing up to pound the pavements and explore the city on foot.

Global movement Jane’s Walk returns from Friday to Sunday for its third annual edition of free volunteer-led walking tours. More than half of the 21 tours here have been fully booked since registration opened on April 7, while the eight remaining tours are filling up quickly.

The tours have close to doubled from 11 last year. Four tours were conducted in 2013.

Among the tours still available are a walk along the Green Corridor – the nature-filled former KTM railway land – and another to learn about the changing urban landscape of Singapore’s first satellite public housing estate, Queenstown.

Other new tours offered this year are a leisurely dog walk in the Tanglin Road and Dempsey Hill area and, for those who are up for a challenge, a jog through the city’s park connectors from Geylang to Gardens by the Bay. Avid cyclists are welcome to ride along. For history buffs, there are tours of neighbourhoods such as Bishan and Clemenceau Avenue.

Ms Mai Tatoy, 45, organiser of Jane’s Walk in Singapore, says the walks have been gaining popularity. “Even before I attempted to reach out to media outlets to promote the event, some tours were already fully booked,” she says.

Jane’s Walk, which takes place this weekend in more than 130 cities worldwide, began in Toronto in 2007 to honour Jane Jacobs, a CanadianAmerican urban design activist who died in 2006, aged 89. Jacobs had advocated walking as a way to get to know a city. Every May on the weekend closest to May 4 – Jacobs’ birthday – volunteers in different cities introduce participants to the myriad facets of the city’s neighbourhoods.

Ms Tatoy says: “The walks are a way for city dwellers to be a tourist in their own city and learn the history and stories behind an urban space.”

After attending a walking tour of Joo Chiat last year, freelance tour guide Charlotte Chu is back for more – not as a participant, but as a walk leader. She will be guiding a heritage tour titled Walking In The Footsteps Of Our Foremothers, which is fully booked. It takes participants along Waterloo and Victoria streets and Stamford Road, with Ms Chu pointing out various landmarks related to pioneer women and telling their stories.

The 53-year-old says there is no better way to explore a city than by foot: “The objective of Jane’s Walk is great as it’s all about getting people to step out and explore the city on foot, something many residents will not do on their own typically.”

An ardent supporter of Jane’s Walk is the Singapore Heritage Society, which has helped by recommending walk leaders. The society’s president, Dr Chua Ai Lin, says: “Hopefully, it inspires participants to pay greater attention to their surroundings and learn about the stories behind them.”

Participants can sign up for the walks online via ticketing platform Peatix. Each tour can take 15 to 35 people on a first-come-first-served basis. Ms Tatoy expects 600 people to attend the walks this year, double the number who participated last year.

Film-maker Ashima Thomas, 35, will be going for two tours – a first for her as she has never been on a guided walking tour before.

She says: “The tours sound intriguing and will be a good way to learn about my home. I like the idea of walking to learn more about a city. You might just stumble upon hidden secrets lurking in lanes or meet a resident who can share more about the area. It is an experience you won’t get sitting in a tour bus.”

Retail rents weaken, vacancy rates jump #sgbayhomes

RETAIL rents weakened and vacancy rates jumped in the first quarter as a tight labour market and lower tourist numbers took a significant toll on the sector. But the retail picture is mixed. Tougher times may lie ahead for shops that depend on tourism while rents in the suburbs could be more resilient, experts say.

Islandwide, vacancy rates rose one percentage point quarter on quarter to 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year. This is the highest level since retail data was made available by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in the first quarter of 2011.

It represents 4.34 million sq ft of vacant gross floor space, up from about 3.7 million sq ft in the fourth quarter last year.

Vacancies in the Orchard area could have been caused by 268 Orchard Road, whose redevelopment was completed in the fourth quarter, and Shaw Centre, which completed its additions and alterations work in the third quarter.

Overall, net demand for retail space shrank by about 269,100 sq ft in the first quarter as net new supply came in at 366,000 sq ft. One factor is tourism. Tourist arrivals fell from 15.6 million in 2013 to 15.1 million last year, the first drop since 2009. There were 2.4 million visitors in the first two months of this year, a 5 per cent year-on-year decline.

Retail sales, largely depressed over the last year, fell 3.3 per cent in February over January. The manpower crunch has a varying effect on how much space tenants want.

A retailer may find it is not deploying manpower efficiently if it has too many branches; and may choose to add space in a selected outlet instead.

Rents reflected the poorer retail outlook, sliding 0.3 per cent quarter on quarter, after rising 0.5 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Median rents fell across all three areas – the Orchard area; the rest of city area, including Shenton Way and Selegie Road; and the suburbs. The steepest fall was in Orchard, where median rents slid seven cents to $10.89 per sq ft (psf) a month. They were down three cents to $6.72 in the rest of the city area, and down one cent to $6.04 in the suburbs.

In Orchard Road, where retailers depend on tourists, average monthly rents for prime ground-floor retail space dipped 0.9 per cent quarter on quarter to $35.83 psf a month after easing 0.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, said Ms Chia Siew Chuin, Colliers International director for research and advisory.

Major retailers have been withdrawing from Orchard and the Downtown Core, and possibly Rochor and Outram areas as well, said Dr Chua Yang Liang, JLL research head for Singapore and South- east Asia. Prices for retail space stayed flat in the first quarter, after rising 1.5 per cent previously.

Research by Colliers International found that the average imputed capital value for prime Orchard Road strata-titled retail space dipped 2 per cent quarter on quarter to $6,803 psf in the first quarter.

It had been unchanged for the past seven quarters. But capital values for regional centres fared better, being unchanged in the latest period. A further 1.2 million sq ft of gross retail space is set to be completed this year, largely in the suburbs, noted Dr Chua of JLL.


Looming supply, interest rates concerns weigh on private home prices in Q1 #sgbayhomes

CONCERN about the looming supply in the private residential market and uncertainty over interest rates have kept homebuyers on the sidelines, sending overall private home prices slipping one per cent in the first quarter. Rents also fell 1.7 per cent in a soft leasing market.

The latest quarterly data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which showed a sixth straight quarter of decline for both private home price and rental indices, reinforced views that the downcycle will persist.

Amid subdued interest from homebuyers, some developers offered discounts to lure them back into the market, said Colliers International director of research and advisory Chia Siew Chuin.

Among them, GuocoLand dangled discounts of up to 19 per cent from the original price list at Sims Urban Oasis during Chinese New Year, and CapitaLand offered a 10 per cent discount at Marine Blue from listed prices during its preview.

“As both home sellers and developers direct their strategies towards an increasingly price-sensitive group of homebuyers, private home prices are anticipated to soften by about 5-8 per cent in 2015,” she said.

“This is also taking into consideration developers’ measured bids in recent land tenders that give them more flexibility in adjusting prices downwards where necessary,” said Ms Chia.

URA’s data released on Friday showed price weakness across all segments of the private residential market.

Prices of non-landed properties fell 0.4 per cent in the Core Central Region (CCR), 1.7 per cent in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) and 1.1 per cent in the Outside Central Region (OCR). Prices of landed properties also slipped 0.9 per cent.

Chua Yang Liang, JLL head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia, noted that the slower pace of price decline in CCR over the past three quarters suggests that prices of higher-end condos are now closer to the bottom.

The steeper price fall in the OCR, however, suggests “a lack of support from HDB upgraders as resale prices and volume in the HDB market continued to soften by one per cent and 10.8 per cent quarter on quarter respectively”.

Overall rents of private homes also fell 1.7 per cent in the first quarter, with the decline seen across all segments. Rents of non-landed homes in CCR fell the most by 1.9 per cent, followed by 1.8 per cent in OCR, and 1.6 per cent in RCR. Rents of landed properties fell 1.2 per cent.

The vacancy rate of completed private residential units (excluding executive condominiums or ECs) eased to 7.2 per cent at end-Q1, from 7.8 per cent at end-Q4. Vacancy rate for available non-landed units came down to 8.3 per cent from a peak of 9.1 per cent in Q4 2014.

SLP International executive director Nicholas Mak observed that rents in the RCR and OCR are falling at faster clips than previous quarters, dragged by declining rental budgets of some tenants and the growing supply of private and HDB housing units for lease.

The impending supply of non-landed homes in the RCR and OCR is expected to weigh on rents in the next two years, and in turn keep prices of units in these localities soft, Mr Mak said. He is expecting a 4-7 per cent fall in overall rents in 2015 and a 3.5-6 per cent fall in prices for non-landed units islandwide.

From the first quarter, URA started using a new index methodology for price and rental indices to better control for finer details of the property attributes. It also expanded its data coverage to capture all private home transactions by supplementing its existing data with stamp duty data from the tax authority.

Amid market caution, developers also launched fewer units in the first quarter – 1,189 uncompleted private homes, excluding ECs, compared to 1,592 units in Q4. They sold 1,311 units, down from 1,376 units in Q4.

This marked the lowest quarterly launch and sales volumes since Q4 2008, during the onset of the global financial crisis, Colliers’ Ms Chia noted.

In addition, developers launched 378 EC units in the first quarter, and sold 326 EC units over the same period.

As at end-Q1, there was a total supply of 68,201 uncompleted private homes (excluding ECs) in the pipeline, of which 27,061 units remained unsold at end-Q1. There were another 15,441 EC units in the supply pipeline.

Alice Tan, Knight Frank head of research and consultancy, cautioned that “a looming supply glut could heighten vacancy rates” as some 19,000 private residential units are expected to be completed this year. “This is likely to exert further downward pressure on prices in the upcoming quarters.”

Overall, private home prices and rents are expected to drop 3.5-4.5 per cent and 3-5 per cent for the full year, she projected.


Increases in price, rental for industrial properties ‘slowed sharply': JTC #sgbayhomes

Increases in the price and rental of industrial space have “slowed sharply”, according to data from JTC on Thursday (Apr 23).

The slowdown follows the increase in supply of industrial land and space in recent years, and in tandem with moderation in occupancy rates, it said in a news release.

The rental rate movement in for all industrial properties fell 2 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2015. Similarly, the occupancy rate movement for all industrial properties fell 0.9 per cent year-on-year during the same period.

However, the price movement for industrial properties was up 0.5 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter.

As at end-February 2015, about 1,700 units in uncompleted multiple-user developments, totalling more than 500,000 square metres (sqm), were still available for sale. More than 50 of the unsold units are larger than 1,000 sqm in size, said JTC.

Going forward, about 2.1 million sqm of industrial space, which includes 420,000 sqm of multiple-user factory space, is expected to be released in the next three quarters. In addition, 2.5 million sqm of industrial space is estimated to be available in 2016.

“This is significantly higher than the average annual supply and demand of around 1.5 million sqm and 1 million sqm in the past 3 years, and is likely to exert further downward pressures on occupancy rates,” JTC said.


Singapore to become test bed for urban solutions #sgbayhomes

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on leading entrepreneurs and investors from around the world to use Singapore as a test bed for solutions to urban challenges such as healthcare, transport and an ageing population.

While other countries face similar challenges, he said Singapore has an edge as it can quickly test prototypes and scale up projects because of its compact size and ability to get such scaling done.

“And if you can make it work in Singapore, you can get it to work in other contexts. If it doesn’t work in Singapore, then it’s worth a re-think,” he added.

This was how Singapore pioneered electronic road pricing and carved out a niche in water-purification technologies, which became examples for others to follow, he said. “We are embarking on our Smart Nation journey with the same determination.”

Mr Lee was speaking to more than 200 local and foreign investors, entrepreneurs and corporate bigwigs at a dinner last night to launch an event called Founders Forum Smart Nation Singapore, to be held at Raffles Hotel today.

He did his wooing on the verdant grounds of the Istana. Fleshing out Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative launched last year to find ways for technology to solve social and economic problems, he said it has three key areas.

These are healthcare for the elderly, transport, and a safe and secure data marketplace.

With technology, the elderly can live independently when sensors, mobile apps and remote monitoring are integrated for them to connect with one another as well as stay in touch with relatives.

For commuters, it can give reliable and timely transport information for them to plan their journeys efficiently.

And for firms, Singapore wants to be a centre where they can easily and safely tap data to get insights on, say, consumer trends.

But for Singapore to make a quantum leap to becoming a Smart Nation, an entrepreneurial culture is crucial, said Mr Lee, adding that it is starting to flourish.

The Launchpad, Singapore’s start-up enclave in Ayer Rajah, is “almost full, with start-ups, incubators and venture capitalists”.

But he wants even more talent, noting that many Singaporeans hold key engineering positions in Silicon Valley in California.

“We need more of them back home. We have to attract the best and the most dynamic – Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans – to come to tackle ambitious projects and to start up their companies here,” Mr Lee said.

The Government is leading the way by upgrading its engineering and IT schemes, and changing the way organisations work by creating small teams to work on interesting problems.

Company founders at the dinner, which is part of a series of events this week to advance Singapore’s goal to be a Smart Nation, said Mr Lee’s words had inspired them to look at the Republic as a destination for tech innovation and investment.

Ms Viktoriya Tigipko, founding partner of venture capital firm TA Ventures, said her discussions with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs here confirmed Singapore had many opportunities in her interest areas of healthcare for the elderly, transport and financial technology.

“I will fund start-ups here focused on doing business in South-east Asia. Singapore is a good hub for the region, the Government is supportive and there is affordable office space and other services,” she said.

Mr Michael Birch, co-founder of social network Bebo, said Singapore is on the right track in making it very apparent that it wants investors and entrepreneurs to come here and do business.

“The Prime Minister’s speech is also very clear the Government supports entrepreneurship.”


PORTFOLIO of nine freehold shophouses and two 9,999-year leasehold strata shop units is up for sale #sgbayhomes

A PORTFOLIO of nine freehold shophouses and two 9,999-year leasehold strata shop units is up for sale to a single buyer.

The seller is The Bamboo Group, a six-year-old boutique property investment and development company specialising in repositioning shophouses.

With a total floor area of 31,774 square feet, the portfolio has an indicative price of S$77 million and is up for sale through an expression of interest (EOI) exercise being conducted by Cushman & Wakefield. The offer will close on May 21.

Included in the portfolio are five two-storey conservation shophouses along Tanjong Katong Road and three shophouses along South Buona Vista Road. The Tanjong Katong Road properties comprise No 362 (at the junction with Wilkinson Road) and four adjoining properties at No 332, 334, 336 and 338 (at the Branksome Road corner).

Along South Buona Vista Road, two adjoining properties, No 30 and No 32, are available along with No 38 a few doors away.

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Master Plan 2014, all these eight shophouse properties are zoned “residential with commercial at first storey” and have a 3.0 plot ratio (ratio of maximum gross floor area to land area).

The ground-level space in the shophouses is either leased to or approved for use as food and beverage/retail outlets.

The upper level contains furnished boutique residential studio units with tenancies of six months or longer.

Also part of the portfolio is a corner freehold two-storey shophouse at 101 Soo Chow Walk, off Upper Thomson Road and a stone’s throw from the future Upper Thomson MRT Station. Zoned for commercial use within a two-storey envelope control streetblock plan, the property has five shop lots on the ground floor and a single large shop lot on the upper floor. Negotiations are ongoing with potential tenants.

The final component of the portfolio for sale comprises two adjoining corner strata commercial units at 1 & 1B Figaro Street, at the junction with Jalan Tua Kong. The units have two separate titles with 9,999-year leasehold tenure. Both units are leased.

Scorpio East building on Tai Seng Ave up for sale #sgbayhomes

A seven storey industrial building situated at 25 Tai Seng Ave has been put up for sale by expression of interest. The building has an indicative price of S$30M, standing on 27,000 sqft of site area with remaining lease of 51 years. Gross floor area is estimated to be 68,000 sqft. Scorpio East is currently used for media production and office operations. Home to a 38-seat theatre and exhibition area in first storey as well as a production studio on the seventh level.

Prime Waterfront Homes and Living in Singapore


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,482 other followers