Category Archives: Conservation buildings

Shophouses in the vogue again among investors

Investment in Singapore shophouses has stabilised and shows signs of picking up after taking a hit following the introduction of a loan curb in 2013. Total transaction value has been rising in the past two years even though the number of caveats lodged remained fairly steady at just over 100 a year.

Transaction value rose by about 7.6 per cent to $707.07 million last year, from $657.3 million in 2015. Demand for shophouses fell off a cliff in 2014, after the imposition of the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework at the end of June 2013.

Three adjoining 999-year tenure shophouses in Amoy Street in Tanjong Pagar were recently acquired by an institutional fund for $59.6 million, or about $2,500 per sq ft, based on the floor area. In another deal, a family office bought a shophouse at 54 Boat Quay for $12.9 million or about $2,985 psf on the floor area.

Office properties, seen as a proxy for shophouses, have faced challenging leasing environment as a deluge of new office buildings weighed on rents in recent years. The average rental yield for shophouses ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 per cent, depending on the tenure of the asset.


Chinatown shophouses bought by Fragrance 

Fragrance Foodstuff which is famous for Bak Kwa, bought 2 prime adjoining shophouses along New Bridge  Road where it leased the ground floor space for its flagship outlet for about 12 years. It paid S $20.5M for the shophouses, which sit on 99-year-tenure land. The land they sit on has a balance of 77 years remaining. The  combined landed area is 1728sqft, thus translate the purchase to around $3535 psf based on gross floor space of 5800sqft. The seller is Yeah Capital Pte Ltd, which is owned by the family controlling ValueMax Group of pawnbroking shops. 

Dempsey gets a new lifestyle quarter

Tanglin Village started out in the 1860s as army barracks. In the 1990s, it became known for its furniture shops. After the turn of the century came upmarket restaurants such as PS. Cafe, as well as art galleries.

Now, Tanglin Village is undergoing a makeover and is getting Dover Street Market a well-known multi-label fashion store in  a new lifestyle quarter.

Chang Korean BBQ Restaurant and antique store Shang Antique – will move out when their leases expire on Feb 29, to make way for the new tenant.

Como Dempsey, a complex housing Dover Street Market, is an edgy concept store conceived by Comme des Garcons’ Rei Kawakubo, and a specially conceptualised restaurant and bar by renowned French restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The 5,268 sq m site, comprising blocks 17 and 18, will also have a new dining concept offering signature dishes from around the world. Popular local Peranakan restaurant Candlenut has been included in the proposal.

The new project is expected to “significantly contribute to creating and sustaining the vibrant Dempsey atmosphere and Singapore’s tourism scene”, said Ms Ranita Sundramoorthy, STB’s director of attractions, dining and retail.
Como Lifestyle offered to pay a monthly rent of $106,300 for an initial lease term of three years, renewable up till Dec 31, 2022.
The debut of “Como Dempsey” will mark the latest chapter in the area’s transformation.
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A Family Business, a Heritage Legacy

Kampong Glam, an ever hip arts enclave, is a heritage district in the city. It is distinctive as being the former palace of the sultan, it has an immersion of rich cultures from Malay, Arab, Turkish, Javanese influences, while also having Indian, Chinese and Eurasian touches in the neighbourhood. Sultan Gate, a road leading to the former Sultan Palace which is currently a Malay Heritage Centre, is also a “gate” to a wealth of Art and Legacy.

pic2Just located outside the Malay Heritage Centre, lies a row of shophouses that are full of art and heritage. Within a wall of street art, a shop strikes out. Within a glass frontage, one can see the unique Malay and Javanese craft welcoming you into the interiors.

SAMSUNG CSC “Kiah’s Gallery” is a Batik-inspired arts showsroom. Started by a Malay family, one can see the family legacy passed down to the modern age. Yati, the founder of the gallery, started the business together with her family, including her husband and daughter Ain, three years ago. They called this business “Kiah’s Gallery”, with inspired with the name of Ain’s nenek or grandma, as part of keeping the family legacy.

SAMSUNG CSCBeing inspired by a Batik piece they bought from a trader, they grew to love this art, despite it being a dying craft in Singapore. With their personal love of the art reaching its peak three years ago, the family decided to convert their personal love to share with the lovers of this unique Batik art.


SAMSUNG CSCFor the first 18 months, the business was tough. Being new in this line and having to compete with other players in the neighbourhood, Kiah’s Gallery had to find a place in this business. From purely retailing batik-designer pieces, they have extended their services into tailoring and customization, as well as introducing other art pieces like paintings and sculptures.

SAMSUNG CSCSince then the business has been growing well. Their customers consist of a mix of locals as well as tourists. Kiah’s Gallery also carry designer pieces and artefacts that reflect the cultural influences of the Nanyang and Malay heritage. Art pieces from internationally renowned Batik painter Sarkasi Said are also displayed and sold here.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCEvery Batik piece is an art. There are several techniques in the craft. It has influences involving Chinese, Dutch, Indian, Malay and Javanese cultures, as this part of the world has such infuses of these cultures throughout the centuries. Different emblems, like the phoenix and other legendary icons symbolizes the influence of the associated culture. Now there are also modern touches to the craft, like Japanese incursions, to make Batik an exciting artpiece to wear. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSC If you are interested to visit the gallery and explore for yourself, please note the following information.

Name: Kiah’s Gallery (look for Yati and Ain)

Address: 71 Unit B Sultan Gate Singapore 198496

$16.5m price tag for 3 Jalan Besar shophouses

Three adjoining shophouses in Jalan Besar have been put up for sale with a guide price of about $16.5 million.

CBRE, the sole marketing agent, yesterday called for expressions of interest in the double-storey freehold shophouses, each of which has an attic.

The shophouses, with a combined land area of 4,353 sq ft and a total gross floor area of 9,719 sq ft, are in an area zoned for commercial use in the Historic District (Little India) Conservation Area in the 2014 Master Plan, said CBRE.

 CBRE’s associate director of investment properties Sammi Lim said the guide price of $16.5 million for all three shophouses works out to $1,697 per sq ft.

With 14m of street frontage for all three shophouses, they are highly visible in Jalan Besar.

The site is a short walk from Farrer Park MRT station. The upcoming Jalan Besar MRT station will be about 100m away.

Ms Lim said: “Shophouses along Jalan Besar are always tightly held and it is extremely rare for any to be available for sale. For 138 to 142 Jalan Besar, the vendor has been occupying the premises over the past few decades.” She added that there has been “increased interest from the market for such quality shophouse assets on the fringe of the Central Business District for mid- to long-term hold”.

“We term these shophouses as a limited-edition asset in the property market that comes with a distinctive facade, unique charm and rich historical value; and three adjoining shophouses in a row in a centrally located area is an extremely rare opportunity,” said Ms Lim.

An expression of interest sale gives potential buyers a specific period of time to view the properties and to make their offers to purchase by a specified time and date.

Since the property is a commercial one, the expression of interest exercise is open to both locals and foreigners, with no additional buyer’s stamp duty or seller’s stamp duty imposed on the purchase of the property, said CBRE.

The expression of interest exercise will close on Aug 28 at 3 pm.

Jurong Town Hall will be gazetted as national monument

Jurong Town Hall has become the first conserved building to be gazetted as a national monument.

The National Heritage Board (NHB) said on Monday that Jurong Town Hall’s national monument status ensures that its historical features will be accorded the highest level of legal protection.

In 2005, the hall, located at Jurong East, had been awarded conservation status by the Urban Revedelopment Authority (URA) in recognition of the historical significance it played in Singapore’s economic and industrial progress.

Jurong Town Corporation, which was formed in 1968 to develop the Jurong area, moved into the hall in 1974.

NHB said the hall’s change in status from conserved building to national monument ensures that it will be protected by preservation guidelines.

“(The hall) will undergo a regular cycle of inspections to ensure its proper upkeep,” said the board.

Ms Jean Wee, NHB’s director of preservation of sites and monuments division, said the board has made a conscious decision to preserve landmarks other than colonial buildings.

“After 50 years, what helps define us, is our heritage and our attitude towards wanting to discover it and preserve it,” she added.

Jurong Town Hall was built based on a winning entry by local firm Architects Team 3 in an architectural design competition. It was opened officially by former Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen on June 2, 1975.

The hall is the 69th national monument. Other buildings which have been awarded this status include Cathay Building, Macdonald House and City Hall.

Conserve the old but add some new extra space – Pearl Bank

That is the gist of a plan by owners of the historic Pearl Bank Apartments – and they have won tentative backing from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The URA sees merit in conserving the horseshoe-shaped project in Outram, at 38 storeys the tallest residential building here when built in 1976.

It is also prepared to consider supporting some increase in gross floor area (GFA), in line with the management committee’s plan.

The owners want a conservation order for the building and propose that the GFA limit be lifted so a new residential block can be added. If they get the approvals, they then hope to entice a developer to rejuvenate the building.

The committee has called an extraordinary general meeting with owners tomorrow to seek consent from subsidiary proprietors.

A URA spokesman said that as the proposal affects the entire development and interests of subsidiary proprietors, all of them must be aware of the plan and agree. But she also said it “welcomes the ground-up initiative by the management committee to conserve Pearl Bank Apartments as there are merits for its conservation”.

“When the distinctive horseshoe-shaped building was completed in 1976, it was the tallest residential building in Singapore and had the highest density for residential development,” she told The Straits Times.

The conservation bid was set in motion last month, when owners representing about 45 per cent of overall share value voted to submit the application for voluntary conservation and redevelopment to the URA. More than 98 per cent were in favour.

The committee said in the letter to owners that it received a positive reply from the URA, as the authority is prepared to consider a maximum 15 per cent increase in GFA over and above the existing approved GFA of 55,102 sq m. This is subject to a cap of 430 units in all, including the 280-unit existing block, it said.

Under the plan, drawn up by the firm of Mr Tan Cheng Siong, who designed the original block, a 27-storey residential block may be built on the area now occupied by a five-storey carpark.

It will have a rooftop garden, a swimming pool and a bridge to the existing block’s 28th-floor common space. The owners will also ask the Singapore Land Authority to extend the 99-year lease.

The bid for conservation and redevelopment comes after three attempts at a collective sale from 2007 to 2011 – with no takers, owing to the high asking price.

Corner shophouse block opposite The Central sold for $18.5M

A CORNER shophouse block at the junction of New Bridge Road and Hongkong Street has been sold for S$18.5 million, based on the caveated price.

Located opposite The Central and Clarke Quay MRT Station, the property comprises three shophouses on two land lots with separate lease expiries. One lot has a balance lease term of 25 years and the other, 34 years.

The seller is a Chinese investor who is also a Singapore permanent resident. The buyer is believed to be a company controlled by a property investor of Indonesian origin who is a US citizen.

The property is five storeys high; the fifth storey is part offices and part roof terrace. The ground floor is leased to traditional Chinese medicine chain Ma Kuang. Expedia used to occupy levels two to five; the space is now available for lease.

The building is on 4,317 sq ft of land and is said to have a gross floor area of around 13,500 sq ft, shy of the maximum 18,131 sq ft allowed based on the 4.2 plot ratio for the site, which is zoned for commercial use under Master Plan 2014. There is potential to build a five-storey extension in a void area at the rear. The building is in a secondary conservation area.

By some industry players’ estimates, it could cost around S$8 million to top up the site’s lease to 99 years, and S$2.8 million in exchange for rights to tap the unutilised gross floor area (GFA). Both sums are payable to the state.

On top of that, construction cost to build the additional GFA of around 4,600 sq ft as well as to enhance the existing building could amount to some S$7 million.

Adding all the above costs to the S$18.5 million purchase price, the total outlay works out to S$2,000 psf of potential GFA. Assuming the ratio of net lettable area (NLA) to GFA is 90 per cent, the breakeven cost would be around S$2,224 psf on NLA.

“For a location with prominent frontage and on the basis of a freshly topped up 99-year lease, that sounds like reasonable pricing,” said a seasoned agent.

A stone’s throw away, a shophouse along Hongkong Street changed hands in March for nearly S$17.21 million – which works out to about S$1,900 psf based on the property’s GFA of around 9,060 sq ft. The seller had maximised the plot ratio and had the site’s lease topped up to 99 years in 2013.

Nearby at North Canal Road, a pair of adjacent shophouses on a site with balance lease term of about 32 years changed hands at S$15 million last month.

Historic hilltop mosque near CBD set for upgrade

Perched on a hill at the edge of the Central Business District is a shrine where the remains of a beloved Muslim saint rest.

Every day, up to 100 visitors from Singapore and beyond make their way up its 49 steps to pray and lay flowers on the marble grave of renowned healer Habib Noh, who died in 1866.

The Haji Muhammad Salleh mosque management board called a tender in January – which closes at the end of this month – to upgrade the worn-out facilities at 37 Palmer Road, where the 1903 shrine is housed.

The rejuvenation effort will include repairs to its leaking walls and ceilings, as well as a new paint job. A lift will also be installed to allow elderly visitors easy access to the hilltop shrine.

“These additions and alteration works have been a long time coming,” said management board chairman Izammuddin Mohamed Ali. “The last time we upgraded the place was in the 1980s.”

The mosque started a fundraising drive for the upgrading project about six years ago and has raised $2 million so far.

The upgrade will also mean a refreshed prayer hall and better toilet and ablution facilities.

The mosque, which can hold up to 1,200 worshippers, will also be better ventilated.

The renovation will start in the middle of this year and take about nine months. There will be a temporary worship area at an open space nearby.

Mr Izammuddin said “great care” has been taken to ensure the historic structures’ key architectural features remain untouched during the upgrade.

It is hoped the compound will one day be given preservation or conservation status by the National Heritage Board or the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Ensconced near hotels, banks and the Keppel Viaduct, the fate of the Tanjong Pagar site is uncertain.

Members of the mosque management board fear it could be at risk of redevelopment since it sits on prime land.

“We hope it can stay for the long term and be here for future generations since it provides solace and tranquillity to visitors in this busy area,” said Mr Izammuddin.

The shrine and the larger Tanjong Malang area have been flagged by the Singapore Heritage Society for years as having heritage value.

The society said the area has important layers of history from the colonial period to the present day that are hard to find elsewhere in Singapore.

The URA told The Straits Times the mosque is part of a larger area where “longer-term plans have not been firmed up”.

Its spokesman added: “The conservation of any of the buildings in the area will be studied as part of the longer-term plans for redevelopment of the area.”

Driver Salim Saman, 52, who has been worshipping at the mosque for decades, said: “It will be a shame if it isn’t protected. It is well- known to people from all walks of life, even beyond our shores, and is an important part of Singapore’s landscape.”

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Social crowd still drawn to Ann Siang Hill

Quaint shophouses line Ann Siang Road. Most of them were constructed between 1903 and 1941 and were restored in 1993. Many retain pre-war features such as mosaic-tiled floors, double-leafed doors and five-foot walkways. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

They were once home to Chinese clan associations and private social clubs, and for decades, the rows of shophouses lining the streets of Ann Siang Hill would bustle with activity every night.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, scores of Chinese immigrants residing in nearby Chinatown would stroll up the hill to these associations to socialise over mahjong and opera performances.

These nights, a different sort of crowd winds up the sloping road. And the clack of mahjong tiles and the high-pitched nasal tones of opera singers have progressively given way to the clink of glasses and the babble of chatter of office workers from the nearby Central Business District.

Over the last two decades, many of the 20 or so Chinese clan associations along Ann Siang Road have sold their properties to eateries and watering holes.

Only a handful of associations, such as Fa Yun Wui Kwun and Ching Yoon Wooi Kwoon, are left. But with dwindling membership numbers and rising costs, they are barely holding on.

Change is inevitable, admits Mr James Lee, chairman of the Kwong Wai Siew Li Si She Shut clan association at 25 Ann Siang Road. The Cantonese clan has slightly more than a hundred members, down from about 600 about 50 years ago.

“We can’t remain like it was 50 years ago,” says the 61-year-old retiree, adding that some of the existing associations have chosen to rent out the ground floor to restaurants and bars, and moved to the upper floors. “We need the funds to keep our operations going.”

Next year, the 140-year-old association, which has been in Ann Siang Road since 1954, will lease out its second floor to an IT services company. Since last year, the space had been taken up by an abstract artist.

“We have no intention of selling this place. We have many good memories here,” says Mr Lee, adding that he has been approached by three

businesses wanting to buy over the building.

Named after Malacca-born Hokkien merchant Chia Ann Siang, who used to own the land, Ann Siang Hill was formerly a nutmeg and clove estate, but saw the introduction of clan associations in the late 19th century as the Chinese population in the area rose.

Today, the hill, and the streets leading up to it, including Ann Siang Road, Erskine Road and Club Street, are taking in a new breed of businesses – mostly eateries and bars – such as gentleman speakeasy Manor Bar, and Oxwell and Co, a rustic multi-concept restaurant and bar.

They join long-time Ann Siang stalwarts like luxury boutique hotel The Scarlet Hotel, and The Screening Room, a food and beverage venue cum film theatre.

As an indication of the area’s popularity with drinkers and revellers, on Friday and Saturday evenings, Ann Siang Road and the adjacent Club Street are closed from 7pm to 2am. Dining tables are brought out and revellers pour out onto the two-way streets.

“The road closures create a really cool street party vibe that is hard to come by in a lot of other areas,” says British chef and restaurateur Ryan Clift, who heads restaurant and bar Ding Dong.

Quaint shophouses, first restored in 1993, now boast colourful shopfronts and painted-over timber window shutters. Most of them, constructed between 1903 and 1941, have retained pre-war features such as mosaic-tiled floors, double-leafed doors, and five-foot walkways.

However, many businesses have had to undergo extensive and often expensive restoration works to rewire cables, fix up roofs and reconfigure water pipes.

“Due to age, rainwater can sometimes seep through,” says Mr Zedy Ng, marketing manager of boutique hostel 5footway.inn in South Bridge Road.

“We have to identify these problems and patch them up to minimise inconvenience.”

But for shops in the former hipster enclave, a hit with the indie crowd in the late 2000s, a leaky roof is the least of their problems. Their very popularity was their own undoing.

With rising rental costs, some of the smaller stores and boutiques selling a variety of products, such as patisserie cake shop Kki and design- inspired shop The Little Drom Store, have been priced out and had to relocate out of Ann Siang.

In fact, most of the quirky little shops and boutiques have disappeared, leaving just a bunch of bars and restaurants, says Ms Samia Ahad, founder of The Screening Room.

In the last 10 years, rent has increased by 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

Mr Marc Nicholson, chief executive officer of the local franchise of old-style barbershop Truefitt and Hill, said: “Many of the buildings nearby have been bought over recently. The higher value is going to put even more pressure on rents.”

For some, the area has lost its magic.

“It is not as quirky and charming as it used to be. It is just rowdy with drinking crowds,” says Kki co-owner Delphine Liau. The cake shop operated out of its 990 sq ft unit for four years till it moved to its current space at the School of the Arts last year.

“It is getting more tourists for sure, but for locals, it is losing its charm as the quaint Ann Siang Hill we used to know.”

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