Category Archives: Leisure and recreation

Villas at Somerset area

Went to an Open house at Brentwood Villa and Villa Madeleine this week. There are beautiful houses right at the periphery of Orchard area. Convenience is definitely is an understatement. The interiors were also luxurious. At 2300sqft of luxury living space right in the prestigious district of district 9 it is only at $10k per month ie slightly over $4psf. A bigger house at Villa Madeleine that is twice the size is available for only $15.2k. That’s only $3.7psf.






Verge sold to Tang Scion

In last week’s Straits Times, Verge, the Little India property near Tekka Centre, is being sold for $317 million to be redeveloped into a mixed project, including a mall and serviced apartments.

The buyer of The Verge, once called Tekka Mall, is Mr Keith Tang, chairman of privately held hospitality company Heritage Group, The Straits Times has learnt.

The buyer is the grandson of the late founder of Tangs department store, Mr Tang Choon Keng.The seller is Hicom Megah, a unit of Bursa Malaysia-listed DRB-Hicom, which owns 90 per cent of it. The other sellers are Little India’s retail giant, Mohamed Mustafa & Samsuddin, and B.I. Distributors. According to reports,  Mr Tang plans to redevelop the property into “Studio by Tang” serviced apartments, a mall and a “Signature” block which is likely to be offices or retail spaces. It will be his first commercial property here. This is in line with his Heritage Group chain’s intention to expand its hospitality portfolio, he said.

The property has almost 80 years left on its lease and outline planning permission has already been obtained.

Changes in the Singapore retail landscape amidst the headwinds

In Business Times last week, a report on the retail landscape of Singapore wrote about hot the retail landlords are adapting to the current market lull. Recently the retail landlords are moving from the heyday trends which involved slicing retail spaces into smaller units to lease out at higher rents per square foot, to luring back the bigger tenants they were once inclined to shoo away. The emphasis is about maintaining occupancy and preserving rents, keeping a balance in large and small retail tenant mix.

In the current phase of softening rents and dwindling tenant sales is leading to an anticipated fall in retail rents next year, with retail rental declines in 2016 go as far as 5 per cent. The looming supply of retail space is also a worrying factor, together with issues of manpower crunch, lower tourist arrivals and the strong Singapore dollar as well as competition from e-commerce.

Based on the past three-year average annual net demand for retail space to project the level of space take-up ahead, it will take close to four years to absorb the upcoming new retail space, which is more than 2 million sq ft of gross retail space to be completed next year.

Anchor tenants like as childcare, daycare centres, fitness centres, commercial schools and medical centres provide ready and captive customers during the weekdays to shopping malls.

A large tenant compared to more smaller tenants results in less work for the landlord in terms of lease management. Among them, Raffles Medical opened a multi-disciplinary medical centre at newly renovated Shaw Centre in June and Harvey Norman just expanded its store space at Millenia Walk with the opening of its new 100,000-sq-ft flagship outlet in the mall.

There are also emerging new-to-market concepts, for e.g

  • Top Japanese cooking school ABC Cooking Studio at Takashimaya,
  • Urban Ski, a new indoor snow sports centre, at Millenia Walk,
  • Singapore’s first Apple store at Knightsbridge next year,
  • Emporium Shokuhin, Singapore’s first integrated Japanese emporium that took up over 34,000 sq ft of space in Marina Square,
  • South Korean Pororo Park, which opened its first and largest South-east Asian character-themed indoor playground spanning 11,000 sq ft at Marina Square’s new retail wing last month.
  • A major commercial school taking up some 100,000 sq ft of space at Marina Square.

Retail andlords are now more open to new retail concepts which are either destination-centric or offer unique brand positioning. For e.g. the strategy of attracting activity-driven tenants is paying off for Pontiac Land’s Millenia Walk, like the specialised F&B offerings with the opening of Nihon Street. For the department stores, they will likely continue to consolidate in the near term amid weak retail sales, high business cost and manpower constraints.

Marks & Spencer vacated The Centrepoint, John Little closed its Marina Square and Tiong Bahru stores and Metro closed its outlet at Compass Point in August and will be closing its City Square Mall outlet by the end of this year. Wing Tai, which carries brands such as G2000 and Topshop in Singapore, has said it plans to close some of its retail outlets.

The challenging retail environment is keeping landlords on their toes to refresh their mall offerings. CapitaLand recently converted Tampines Mall’s level 5 open roof to a new education hub with well-known educational centres such as Yamaha Music School, Julia Gabriel Centre, MindChamps and Stalford Learning Centre. It is also redeveloping Funan DigitaLife Mall into an integrated development. For FCT, the proportion of F&B tenants has increased in malls like Causeway Point, Changi City Point.

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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Sentosa Cove Bungalow fetches S$2775 psf

A bungalow in Sentosa Cove fronting the Serapong Golf Course and overlooking the sea, has changed hands for S$23.8 million or S$2,775 per square foot (psf) on the land area of 8,576 square feet.

Located along Lakeshore View, the property is on a site with a balance lease term of 89 years.

The psf price is the highest for a bungalow transaction in Sentosa Cove in the past two years. However, it is shy of the S$2,922 psf and S$2,952 psf that two nearby villas on the same road fetched in June and May 2013 – both prior to the introduction of the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework in late-June that year.

The latest bungalow transacted at Lakeshore View has three and a half levels, including a roof terrace with a jacuzzi. In all, the property has four bedrooms, a theatre room and a swimming pool; the total built-up area is around 10,000 sq ft.

The buyer, a Chinese businesswoman, has lodged a caveat for the property – having been granted an option to purchase the bungalow and exercised it, both last month. The sellers are three siblings from a Hong Kong family, two of whom are British citizens and the third, a Singapore citizen.

Sentosa Cove bungalow at Lakeshore View fetches S$2,775 psf

Over the past two years, from October 2013 to October 2015, villas on Sentosa Cove have sold at between S$1,386 psf and S$2,612 psf, going by URA Realis data.

That said, he highlighted that the discount between the latest transaction and the S$2,900-plus psf for the two nearby villas is a reflection of sellers lowering their price expectations in the face of softening demand due to the property cooling measures.

Mr Tay said that he was confident that there would be a couple more deals by year end. BT understands that, including last month’s Lakeshore View deal, he has brokered the sales of three villas on Cove this year.

The other two are a property at Treasure Island that was sold for S$14.3 million or S$1,706 psf to a Chinese citizen who is a Singapore permanent resident, and a bungalow on Pearl Island sold by the developer, Ximeng Land. The price for the second property, which spans three storeys and basement, with about 8,000 sq ft built-up area, is believed to be S$14-plus million or over S$1,900 psf. The Pearl Island villa purchase was not caveated.

Foreign buyers eyeing villas on Sentosa Cove are mostly Asians, noted Mr Tay. Some Singaporeans are also keen on investing in a villa in the waterfront housing district. “Ultimately, Sentosa Cove is an enclave with only 360-plus bungalows. There is no more land that is to be released on Sentosa Cove for villas.”

While viewing activity by potential buyers in the Cove is higher compared to a year ago, transaction volumes are nowhere near pre-TDSR levels. Inclusive of the Lakeshore View transaction, six bungalows would have changed hands year to date. This is double the three deals for the whole of last year. In 2013, the figure was 18 transactions while that for 2012 was 23.

Back in 2009, there were 36 deals, followed by a record 54 transactions in 2010 before activity began slowing to just 24 deals in 2011 – due to the onset of property cooling measures.

Church builds $50m arts hub in Bukit Merah

An arts venue being built by the Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) will open in Bukit Merah Central early next year.

Costing about $50 million, the nine-storey building will house facilities similar to those in major performance venues such as the Esplanade, said its operator, Gateway Entertainment, a production entertainment firm founded by the church’s pastor, Mr Lawrence Khong.

These include a movable orchestra pit, a 10m stage and a stage lift for its 950-seat, three-storey-high theatre, said Gateway Entertainment deputy chief executive Ban Jiun Ean.

Called Gateway Theatre, it will be rented out to arts groups on weekdays. Church services will take place on weekends.

The new building, which replaces the three-storey Touch Community Theatre at the same site, is largely funded by church members, who have contributed more than $29.5 million to the project so far. Work started in April last year.

Mr Ban said Gateway Theatre will bring the arts to the western part of Singapore and give performing groups the option of staging shows at an affordable mid-size space.

Other mid-size venues here include Capitol Theatre, with its 900 seats, and Republic Polytechnic’s Cultural Centre, which has a 1,000-seat theatre. Venues at the Esplanade and Marina Bay Sands seat about 2,000 people each, while larger spaces, such as the Singapore Indoor Stadium, take about 12,000.

In 2012, New Creation Church’s business arm, Rock Productions, opened the $500-million Star Performing Arts Centre in Buona Vista, with fund contributions from members. It has a 5,000-seat auditorium, which is also a venue for hire.

Other features at Gateway Theatre include a 300-seater black box theatre space with an LED wall, a dance studio and a sky terrace with public access.

Mr Ban said it will also likely be home to an arts school, which will run programmes such as dance classes for 50 to 100 underprivileged children and youth at risk.

Gateway Entertainment was founded 15 years ago by Mr Khong to transform the arts and entertainment industry and “to bring good values into peoples’ lives”, said Mr Ban.

The church’s website also said that Gateway Entertainment aims to reach those in the arts and entertainment industry , “many of whom are LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and many of whom would not come to church”.

Designed by architectural firm Ong and Ong, the new building sits on land that was zoned for commercial use and bought by the church in the late 1990s on a 99-year lease.

It has a gross floor area of 4,550 sq m, almost twice as big as the Touch Community Theatre, which was used by the church and its charity arm, Touch Community Services, for more than 15 years. The building was originally home to the Dalit Theatre, which screened Tamil movies in the 1980s.

The old building was rundown and had maintenance issues, said Mr James Tan, chairman of the building committee and deputy executive director of Touch Community Services. “Rather than keep the old building in land-scarce Singapore, we decided to construct an arts venue that will be well utilised on weekdays. Revenue will go into running the site,” he said.

Mr Tan said rental rates have yet to be decided but will be “reasonable”. “We won’t overcharge. We’re not about investments and there are no shareholders,” he said.

The congregation currently worships at two other venues – its Marine Parade Central Touchcentre and at Suntec City. The church was established in 1986.

Mr Tan believes the project is timely as it can inject more life into Bukit Merah Central.

FCBC member Ada Chua, 24, a law student, said church members like her are supportive of the project.

“Pastor Khong has been accountable and clear about the aim of the building. The new building will build up interest in the arts and make it accessible to those in the west,” she said.

Unauthorized use of restaurant as bar result in $35K fine

Project Lifestyle, which runs Witbier Cafe (left), was fined $35,000 yesterday for flouting a ban on bars and pubs in the Kampong Glam conservation area. It is the first such case to be prosecuted in court. The firm had ignored repeated enforcement notices to rectify the breach in planning permission.

Project Lifestyle, which runs Witbier Cafe, was charged with making an unauthorised change in the use of its premises from a restaurant to a bar – the first such case to be prosecuted in court.

The company was fined $20,000 earlier this year by a district judge, but the prosecution appealed for an increase to $50,000.

Witbier Cafe, located on the first storey of a two-storey shophouse in Kandahar Street, opened in July 2011. The premises are allowed to be used only as a restaurant.

Since September 2005, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has not allowed the setting up of new pubs, bars and nightclubs in Kandahar Street and certain other roads in Kampong Glam.

In 2012, URA officers raised concerns that Witbier Cafe could be construed as a bar.

Under planning regulations, the primary purpose of a restaurant is the sale of food to be consumed on the premises; the sale of alcoholic drinks is incidental.

The rules state that a bar, on the other hand, is a place where the primary activity is the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks.

The company then took steps to change the menu and the layout, and the URA took no further action.

The agency even wrote to Project Lifestyle thanking it for its cooperation in reverting Witbier Cafe to the approved use.

It also reminded the company that the premises could not be used for a bar.

But when URA officers dropped in incognito some time between November 2013 and January last year, they found logos and names of alcoholic drinks displayed inside and outside the shop; a layout consisting of a bar counter and several high tables with bar stools; and a “happy hour” for alcoholic drinks prominently advertised.

These changes had been made without permission.

A URA spokesman told The Straits Times that the operator was brought to court because it chose to ignore repeated enforcement notices to rectify the breach in planning permission.

In raising the fine to $35,000 yesterday, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon pointed to the company’s persistent offending and lack of remorse, as well as the need to disgorge its wrongful profits.

“The background facts strongly suggest a calculated or cynical breach, possibly motivated by the hope that enforcement might not ensue or that any consequent sanctions might be worth their while,” said the Judicial Commissioner.

But he did not think a $50,000 fine was warranted, given that there were no structural or physical alterations, nor any change in the appearance of the building.

He also noted that the district judge had already considered the cultural sensitivities, given the cafe’s proximity to Malay-Muslim landmarks.

The offence of carrying out unauthorised works in a conservation area carries a fine of up to $200,000. Further fines of up to $10,000 per day can be imposed if a breach continues after conviction.

The URA spokesman said: “Should the operator continue with the unauthorised use, we will not hesitate to take further action.”

Tiong Bahru Plaza reopen next year after major revamp

Tiong Bahru residents will soon have a newly refurbished mall to go with the hipster joints and boutiques their estate is known for. By the end of next year, the 21- year-old Tiong Bahru Plaza will fully reopen with a more modern look after renovations, which began a year ago, are completed.

The makeover, which costs more than $90 million, aims to draw younger residents and families already living there.

After its makeover, the mall, which draws 1.2 million visitors each month, will cover 215,000 sq ft, up from the previous 190,000 sq ft. It will have new communal spaces for people to mingle, including an open terrace on the fourth level, and a plaza, which may be used for events like flea markets or music performances.

On the third level, there will be a new 800 sq m playground, with a structure in the shape of a bird – inspired by the mosaic ones found in older public housing estates.

The mall in Tiong Bahru Road will have 155 shops on five storeys, up from 150 previously. It will also have an air-conditioned, two-storey link with shops to Central Plaza, the mall’s office tower.

So far, nearly 85 per cent of tenants have confirmed their interest in opening shop. Some are returning brands like foodcourt operator Kopitiam and IT chain Challenger, while others are new ones such as Thai restaurant Bangkok Jam.

The mall, owned by a real estate fund managed by investment manager Pramerica Investment Management Singapore, is hoping to attract more visitors as more people move into the area.

Over the next three years, Tiong Bahru will have 11 new residential developments, with about 2,800 units. For instance, Highline Residences, a condominium within walking distance of the mall, is expected to be completed by 2018.