Tag Archives: CBD

New tenants in CBD as global banks exit or downsize

http://www.btinvest.com.sg/dailyfree/new-faces-cbd-global-banks-exit-20140813/
As the global banks in Singapore restructure and downsize their offices in the central business district (CBD), a crop of tenants – new media, consumer products and insurance companies – have steadily taken over.

Global finance houses, comprising banks and private equity firms, still take up three-fifths – a massive 11 million square feet – of downtown office space, but their expansion has slowed markedly.

Chris Archibold, JLL’s head of markets in Singapore, said: “From 2005 until slightly after the global financial crisis, the financial houses were major contributors to the net take-up in Singapore, but now, they are no longer contributing to the take-up.”

These global financial houses have given up 500,000 sq ft of space in the city in the last three years. For example, Barclays has given up two floors in Marina Bay Financial Centre, and LinkedIn has moved in.

Credit Suisse is said to be planning a phased exit from One Raffles Quay this year; Citibank is looking into releasing some space at its Capital Square office.

Mr Archibold said: “Banks have been shrinking their capital-intensive businesses such as investment banking, as a result of regulations put on them since the financial crisis.

“Compliance requires them to hold more capital, which makes these businesses less profitable. Banks are now more focused on costs than ever before because margins are down for a lot of their core and non-core segments. They are thus less prepared to hold onto surplus space.”

Among the newer downtown tenants is Google, which has expanded its Asia-Pacific headquarters here, taking four floors in Asia Square. The same Marina Bay building now also houses a cluster of re-insurers such as Swiss Re and SCOR.

Twitter, Booking.com and eBay have all been opening new offices or expanding existing ones.

PayPal is housing its international headquarters in Singapore, split between Suntec Tower 5 and Millenia Tower; Facebook plans to double its space at 158 Cecil Street.

The mix can make for strange bedfellows.

Hugh Andrew, who heads asset management for the Asia-Pacific at BlackRock, which owns Asia Square, said: “You have this very bizarre dichotomy of Citibank bankers in their shiny shoes and guys in flip flops and shorts in the same elevator.”

General Motors has moved its Asian headquarters from Shanghai to OUE Bayfront, taking over 30,000 sq ft from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Insurer Aon is building its Asia-Pacific hub in SGX Centre, and toy maker Lego has set up office in Marina Bay Financial Centre.

From the landlords’ perspective, the diversification is a plus because it makes their properties less susceptible to the peaks and troughs of financial market cycles.

Retailers in the CBD also welcome the new tenant mix; the new-media firms, especially, do not necessarily operate on the traditional Monday-to-Friday, 9am-to-5pm routine, so they can provide a catchment to support a seven-day trade.

Most CBD retailers are now open only five days a week.

To be sure, no other industry comes close to owning the space the global financial houses still occupy. The new industries are not replacing them “by any stretch of the imagination”, said Mr Archibold.

But the phenomena of global banks’ shrinking spaces is not peculiar to Singapore; it is also playing out in the major financial centres of Hong Kong, London and New York.

GB Building floors for sale

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/premium/singapore/three-gb-building-office-floors-sale-20140722

ABOUT 16,000 square feet of office space spanning three contiguous floors in GB Building in the Central Business District (CBD) have been put on the market for between S$32.1 million and S$33.7 million, or between $2,000 and $2,100 per square foot.

Each floor of the space, occupying the 20th to 22nd storeys of the Cecil Street building, ranges from 5,210 sq ft to 5,425 sq ft in size, is rectangular and column-free.

DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) is marketing the property, which is being sold with vacant possession.

GB Building comprises a 23-storey office tower atop three storeys of commercial space and has 67 years left on its lease.

It has three levels of basement carpark lots and is within walking distance of Tanjong Pagar MRT station on the East-West Line and the upcoming Shenton Way MRT station on the Thomson Line.

DTZ investment advisory services director Tan Chun Ming said that the property was a “rare opportunity” for owner-occupiers.

Given that the space is strata-titled, he expects keen interest from a range of investors looking to capitalise on the rising rental rates in the CBD.

A DTZ report has noted that average gross monthly rents in Marina Bay rose 6.5 per cent to S$12.25 psf in the second quarter from the first.

But average gross monthly rents for Shenton Way, Robinson Road and Cecil Street – older areas of the CBD – had stagnated at S$8 per sq ft.

Average office prices in those three areas inched up 0.2 per cent in Q2 from the previous quarter, supported by continued interest in strata-titled office units and en bloc office deals, as further rental increases are expected, said the report.

Based on caveats information from URA Realis, the top three strata floors of SBF Centre on Robinson Road, were transacted at an average price of S$3,069 psf in April. Last November, one strata floor at Eon Shenton on Shenton Way went at S$2,550 psf.

The expression of interest exercise for the GB Building space closes on Aug 21. Interested parties may submit bids for single or multiple floors.

Burlington Square

BSQ 6 BSQ 5 BSQ 1

Address: 175 Bencoolen Street
Type of Development: Apartment / Commercial
Tenure: 99 years
District: 07
No. of Units: 179
Year of Completion: 1998
Developer: Wintrust Investment Pte Ltd (WingTai)
Unit sizes:
Studio: 667 sq ft
2 bedrooms: 861 – 990 sq ft
3 bedrooms: 1,119 – 1,350 sq ft
Penthouse: 3,035 sq ft

Burlington Square is primarily used for Office rental and sale. Burlington Square is close to Bugis MRT Station (EW12) and Bras Basah MRT Station (CC2). Upcoming new MRT station Rochor Station (DT13) will be less than 2 minutes walking distance from it.

It is near to several bus stops located opposite Burlington Square – 07517, after Sim Lim Square – 07531 and at Fortune Centre – 07518.

 

Condo Facilities at Burlington Square

Facilities are full and include covered car park, 24 hours security, swimming pools, BBQ pits, gym, tennis courts, steam bath, and a multi-purpose hall. Some units have roof gardens and there is also a communal viewing terrace that offers residents an outstanding view of the city skyline.

 

Amenities Burlington Square

Reputable schools such as Laselle College of the Arts and Singapore Management University are both within walking distances.

Cinema, restaurants and eating establishments, supermarkets, and shops are located at the nearby Bugis Junction Shopping Centre. Residents can go to the neighboring Sim Lim Square for a range of computer and electronic products at competitive prices.

Numerous other restaurants and eating establishments are scattered around the development. In addition, there are numerous pubs and bars located at Selegie Road, which is a stone’s throw away. Burlington Square has several eateries located within its buildings such as Café Lyubi Menya and Burger King Fast Food Restaurant.

Attractions like Fort Canning Park and Little India are just around the corner and interested residents can scour through the huge collection of books and electronic media available at the nearby 7-storey Singapore National Library.

For vehicle owners, travelling to the business hub and the buzzing Orchard Road shopping belt takes about 5 minutes, via Victoria Street and Bukit Timah Road respectively.

Burlington Square is within reasonable distance to NTUC Fairprice Supermarket. It is also an array of amenities such as grocery, retail shopping, banks and more.

Burlington Square is accessible via Bencoolen Street, Rochor Road and Jalan Besar.

 

Pearl Bank still special after all these years

American architect Ed Poole was so set against a proposal to put Pearl Bank Apartments up for a collective sale in 2007 that he hired a lawyer and rallied his neighbours.

The attempt failed.

“Pearl Bank is irreplaceable,” said Mr Poole, 54, who lives in a penthouse unit in the landmark building along Outram Road. “There is no way you can find another apartment like Pearl Bank in Singapore.”

Indeed, for residents such as Mr Poole, architectural devotees and ordinary Singaporeans alike, the horseshoe-shaped building atop Pearl’s Hill, overlooking Chinatown and as far as Sentosa, is unique and should be preserved carefully.

Most of the apartment owners living there are now seeking a conservation order for the 38-storey Pearl Bank, the tallest residential building in Singapore when it was completed in 1976.

This is part of a plan thought up by the building’s architect, 77-year-old Tan Cheng Siong.

The management committee plans to apply to the authorities to extend its 99-year lease and increase its gross floor area to build a 27-storey residential block above the existing carpark.

If the plan goes through, the new area can be sold and the money collected can pay for upgrading works and a lease extension, without residents having to pay extra.

While some residents of the 272 apartments and eight penthouses had wanted to cash in through a collective sale, most had feared that selling out to developers would lead to the destruction of the beacon-like building.

The conservation order will ensure that the building is kept, while helping to finance the sprucing up it badly needs, say supporters of the plan.

Residents have had to put up with peeling paint, water leaks and even rats sometimes.

“Last year, we caught about three rats in our home. We have no idea how the rats climbed up 37 floors. Maybe through the pipes,” said a penthouse resident in her 40s, who gave her name only as Ms Ling.

Others complained of chipped steps in the stairwells and lifts that break down frequently.

Madam Too Poh Eng, 70, tries to take the newer of the eight lifts there. “Some lifts are so old that I recite a chant each time I take them. You never know when it will stall,” said the resident on the 14th floor.

– See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/pearl-bank-still-special-after-all-these-years#sthash.8JVAXutY.dpuf

BT: Inspiration behind MBFC

Picture

THE recently released Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Master Plan 2013 highlights Marina Bay as the new financial and residential district in the urban city centre.

Currently, the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC), which saw its second phase completed earlier this year, is the only development on the new Marina Bay site. Consisting of five buildings – two residential and three commercial, MBFC was designed as a landmark development, artistically merging the older part of the business district with future developments by Marina Bay.

Developed as a joint venture (JV) by Cheung Kong (Holdings), Hongkong Land and Keppel Land, MBFC was envisioned by the developers to provide a dynamic urban environment that would create a strong profile on the Singapore skyline.

To achieve this vision, international architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), the lead designers behind MBFC, incorporated the idea of a crystalline language using sloping surfaces and slanted tops to give a sense of layering and depth.

KPF architects Robert Whitlock and Bruce Fisher explained that while the design team started out with a more dramatic concept for the buildings, the concepts had to be reconciled with both the height limits of the area and the fundamentally commercial nature of the development.

“The tops of the buildings in the original design were conceived with steep angles and poetic expressions,” explained Mr Whitlock, design principal at KPF, during an interview with BT at the firm’s New York head office.

“From an architectural point of view, there was a lot of pressure to balance the architectural expression, in terms of an iconic set of buildings, with numerous client requirements, particularly efficiencies, that tempered building forms,” said Bruce Fisher, director, KPF.

Owing to the massive scale of the MBFC projects, which spans a four hectare site – synonymous in scale to London’s Canary Wharf, the KPF team worked closely with two local architectural firms – DCA for Phase 1 and A61 for Phase 2 – to ensure the project kept to its tight deadline and met all the requirements.

“Our role for the project was to advise on local authority guidelines and how to achieve the design intent while complying with the stringent requirements. We were more involved in the layout of the residential units based on the developer’s complex unit mix, working closely with KPF to fit the units within the building form and external envelope,” explained Khoo Poh Bin, director, DCA.

The A61 team, on the other hand, worked more closely on the commercial towers given their past expertise on such projects, including working on One Raffles Quay with KPF.

Although the tasks were distributed, the team essentially worked as one to ensure coherence and continuity in fulfilling the developers’ vision. As Mr Khoo noted: “The 12-hour time difference meant work continued without interruption 24/7. We would finish our part in Singapore and update KPF in New York for them to carry on and vice versa, which proved to be an ideal arrangement for the developer.”

According to Mr Whitlock, the developers had very exacting guidelines on how they envisioned the buildings to look and perform with full glass façades and no curved elements in the form.

“The JV’s brief was based entirely on the perceived needs of the financial services community, with a requirement for very efficient floor plates and unlimited views. The horizontal sunshades gave us a way to provide some variation and environmental performance to the facades while delivering floor to ceiling glass, edge to edge,” said Mr Whitlock.

Furthermore, given that MBFC was primarily a commercial venture, there was no need for it to be as dramatically configured, per se, added Mr Fisher.

The workhorse

“The MBFC is really the incredible work horse of Singapore and perhaps, because of that, a little less expressive than say the casino or the Esplanade,” Mr Fisher said.

The URA, too, had a list of requirements. For one, they required that the buildings’ glass exterior meet a minimum glazing level and not have a green tint.

“One Raffles Quay and the NTUC building, which create a sort of gateway to Marina Bay, were clad in green glass and the URA requested a different expression for the MBFC project so that there would be more visual diversity to the area,” commented Mr Whitlock.

Additionally, URA’s guidelines stipulated that there be a street wall, at least 19 metres in height, surrounding most of the site, to create continuity between adjacent development sites. “At heart, this is an urban planning gesture that helps to provide a sense of defined space,” explained Mr Fisher.

However, based on the design of the site, the architects felt that a solid wall would not fill the space adequately, and hence offered alternative solutions.

The design team proposed that the site have 19-metre canopies, instead of a wall, to allow for an open, less restrictive, appearance. “With the canopies, we ended up with a structure that defines the street edge but is very porous,” said Mr Fisher.

“The wall requirement was not working for the architecture, so we had to present alternatives. The URA gave us guidelines, but as with most zoning guidelines, the authorities cannot always predict exactly how guidelines will translate into the final build-out,” he continued. “It is really up to the architects to take this abstract concept and challenge it, to achieve the best results for all parties.”

In consideration of the different requirements – both from the developers and the URA, the architects eventually altered the designs to showcase a lesser degree of dramatic expression to allow for more efficient and dense buildings that complemented the surrounding architecture.

In addition, as Mr Whitlock explained: “The MBFC buildings needed to be more than what you see in the old city where you have a lot of distinct buildings coming together to represent an urban identity, just by virtue of proximity and density.”

“We were trying to find a common architectural language that is appropriate for both commercial and residential uses to allow the architecture of each building to be a little bit subordinate to the collective identity.”

Although the architects faced challenges in trying to deliver a design that met demands of both the developers and the URA, the MBFC site was an area they were extremely familiar with.

Back in 2001, KPF was independently commissioned by Mapletree Investments to conduct studies on the type of programmes and density that should be put on the Marina Bay site.

This was because the master plan that had been in place for a decade needed revision, based on a new understanding within the URA on how the landfill site might be developed to meet today’s needs.

“We did a study for them to look at the application of a mixed-use model that would bring multiple uses to the site and make the most of its adjacency to both Marina Bay and the traditional banking centre,” explained Mr Whitlock.

According to KPF, Mapletree used the study to carry out their own research internally before releasing tender conditions to bidders in 2003, for the Marina Bay white site.

The development guidelines eventually released to interested bidders took KPF’s preliminary studies to an entirely new level.

“There is a huge leap from deciding that you want to develop a site to establishing a framework that will set up the proper moves for later development,” said Mr Whitlock.

Balancing all needs

While KPF’s underlying concepts of connectivity to the traditional city centre, provision of public open space and introduction of the mixed use model were implemented in Mapletree’s revised plans, the main difference was the requirement for a higher density area and for the site to be fully integrated with all of the city’s other systems and infrastructure.

With the new guidelines they received, KPF spent a great deal of time contemplating the layout of the buildings to allow for architectural expression, without compromising on the practical and utilitarian needs of the site. “A traditional master plan development might have placed the buildings as squares on a chessboard where everything lines up. We chose however to subtly rotate the towers to maximize views in all the buildings and relieve the feeling of density on the site,” Mr Whitlock said.

However, despite the stringent guidelines and myriad requirements, the architects felt that such a process enables better architecture.

As Mr Whitlock noted: “When you work on a project like this, you start to have a different understanding of architecture. Typically, an architect is trying to design a building that is built on a site. They want it to be beautiful and expressive of both the owner’s and architect’s aspirations. With any luck, it tries to find some clues with the local context so it does not feel like it has been dropped from a spaceship.

“But when you have to design a whole city within a city in a way where it has some richness, some subtlety, and an endless play between the built environment and public spaces, all of which must relate to the rest of the city – it takes things to an entirely different level.”

Commercial space crunch in central area

Space crunch drives up office rents in CBD and Suburbs, as reported in today’s ST.

A space crunch in the Central Business District (CBD) and the completion of new suburban developments drove up office rents islandwide in the second quarter, consultants said.

The data underlines two key trends: One is that firms that do not need a downtown address are relocating to the cheaper sites on the outskirts while CBD rents are rising on the back of robust demand for limited space.

Average rents for Grade A office space in the CBD jumped 10.7 per cent overall to $10 psf per month in the second quarter from the preceding year, according to property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield.

The average gross rent in Marina Bay was $12.95 psf per month, a marginal 0.4 per cent higher than in the first quarter.

Another consultancy, DTZ, also estimated yesterday that average gross rents in Marina Bay rose 6.5 per cent to $12.25 per sq ft per month in the second quarter from the preceding three months.

Consultancies may come up with different rental estimates due to the varying baskets of properties that they track.

Rents in the Raffles Place and Shenton Way areas were cheaper than in Marina Bay.

In Raffles Place, Cushman said the average gross monthly rent grew 3.5 per cent in the second quarter from the first to $10.25 psf per month.

Rents in the older part of the CBD around Shenton Way, Robinson Road and Cecil Street stayed stagnant at $8 psf per month on average, said DTZ.

Cushman said the leasing momentum in the CBD would likely continue in this half of the year, with keen interest expected from companies in the business services and technology sectors.

Businesses that do not need to have a presence in the CBD are relocating to city fringe areas or the suburbs where rents are more competitive, it added.

Still, suburban rents shot up faster than those in the CBD in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, according to a report by consultancy Chestertons.

They leapt 22.6 per cent in April through June over 2013 to $5.70 psf per month on average while CBD space climbed 4.7 per cent to $9.64 psf per month.

This jump in suburban rents was mainly because newly completed Grade A office space there bumped up prices.

These completions include The Metropolis in Buona Vista and Jem in Jurong.

However, he said that landlords were unlikely to raise rents much soon.

“We expect landlords to adopt a tenant-retention strategy instead of raising rents significantly in 2014 or 2015, losing ‘loyal’ tenants and facing looming vacancies in 2016 when supply and relocation options are aplenty.”

DTZ said yesterday that around 2.7 million sq ft of office space will be completed between now and the end of next year.

Beyond next year, however, the pipeline supply of office space will reach a new peak of about 3.9 million sq ft in 2016, with about 60 per cent of that located in the CBD, it said.

Major buildings expected to be completed in 2016 include Guoco Tower in Tanjong Pagar and Duo Tower in Bugis.