Today Forum: Allow only one en bloc shot

Allow only one en bloc shot


Friday • January 4, 2008


Residents unsettled by renewed attempts


Letter from YEO HAN TIONG


I refer to the concept of the en bloc refugee as introduced by Lucy Huang, “Help, we are en bloc refugees” (Dec 27), and the subsequent letters that followed on Dec 28 and Jan 2.


I hope guidelines can be put in place to stop condos which have failed to go en bloc, or which have spent substantial funds on upgrading, from trying to do so again.


I note in my condo — Cle-menti Park (picture) — the renewed dissent by residents against the recent forming of yet another sales committee to try for en bloc. Our condo is in the process of being upgraded at a cost of $2 million. This will only be completed in the middle of the year and an en bloc attempt is just a sheer waste of funds.


There is currently no mechanism in place to deal with this. Many residents have been unsettled, and such upheaval is becoming all too common here.


Perhaps en bloc discussions could be banned — say, for 10 years — for condos which have spent money on upgrading, or if an attempt has failed.


Some mechanism to reflect and honour decisions made by subsidiary proprietors should be in place.


When a windfall is a whammy




I refer to “Help, we are en bloc refugees” (Dec 27).


Such situations are becoming more common and they are no laughing matter.


There are people going around speculating, and often, the ones who suffer are innocent homeowners oblivious to what is happening until it’s too late.


The media can play its part by publishing stories to put some perspective into things — about those who find that such a “windfall” often means having to downgrade against their wishes. Stories of en bloc riches have spawned an army of speculators and homeowners who don’t want to miss the boat.


My condominium, Bayshore Park, is currently trying for an en bloc sale. The original sales committee, which had to disband because some residents sent a legal letter questioning their validity, is again trying their luck and have called for another extraordinary general meeting on Jan 12.


Unless there are further changes to the legislation, this will be a perpetual affair. After one sales committee fails, another will be set up.


How can you live in peace under the perpetual spectre of an en bloc sale? How can you decide if you should renovate your home in case the money is soon to be wasted?


In my estate, there are also families who moved there after their previous homes were sold en bloc. Needless to say, they are extremely unhappy at the current developments and constant attempts to go en bloc.


Sometimes, it’s not just about the money …


Source: Today Newspaper

CBD parking icon to fall before demand for office space?

CBD parking icon to fall before demand for office space?


Friday • January 4, 2008


Esther Fung and Ng Jing Yng



IT WAS the first multi-storey car park built in Singapore, and today serves the office-workers of Shenton Way with some 700 valuable parking lots.


But by the end of the year, it could be torn down to make way for an even more priceless commodity these days — office space.


Plans are afoot to transform the iconic Market Street Car Park, built in 1964, into a Grade A office building possibly by 2011, according to CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT), the real estate investment trust (Reit) that owns the eight-storey edifice.


The move comes as a surprise as less than two years ago, the car park underwent a $14-million renovation that saw the old crowded sidewalk kopitiams replaced with hip air-conditioned food and beverage outlets.


Even so, the Reit manager has been constantly looking for ways to “enhance the value of its assets”, said CCT chief executive Lynette Leong.


The proposed redevelopment would both “maximise the full potential of the site which is currently under-utilised” and cater to financial and business institutions that want to be located “in the heart of the Central Business District”.


The plan is subject to financial viability and a decision should be made in “a few months”, Ms Leong added.


News that the building could be torn down, however, came as an unpleasant jolt to both motorists and the hub’s F&B tenants.


“It’s a pity as many people working in this area are dependent on the car park,” said Knight Frank property consultant Nicholas Mak. There are some 4,800 parking lots in the vicinity, according to CCT, and Mr Mak was concerned the loss of 700 lots could send parking fees rocketing.


The tight demand for prime office space has caused office rental rates as well as car park fees to escalate in recent years. Drivers now pay about $290 a month for season parking at the Market Street Car Park.


“(The closure) is unfair to us as rentals were recently increased following the renovations,” said Mr Eugene Chay, 35, who has been using the carpark for two-and-a-half years. He used to pay about $250 a month. “Where are we going to park if it is pulled down?”


Its centralised location has made it a favourite of many drivers, and those TODAY spoke to are not looking forward to being put on the waiting lists for other locations such as the Golden Shoe Car Park or AIA Building.


It was only “a few weeks ago”, said Ms Leong, that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) granted CCT what it had been lobbying for for several years – the Outline Planning Permission (OPP) to redevelop a site. This allows the land use to be changed from transport to commercial use.


“This is the first REIT to have been granted it,” she said.


The lifting of the land use restriction is subject to two conditions: CCT will have to pay a development premium which is 100 per cent of the enhancement in land value, instead of 70 per cent. And there will be no extension of the existing land lease, which expires in 2073.


The new building can be as tall as One Raffles Quay, which hits 50 storeys, while the maximum plot ratio is 14.49 and the estimated gross floor area totals 850,000 sq-ft, said Ms Leong


The bill for CCT could be as much as $1.5 billion. Ms Leong said various ways of raising the funds would be explored — including a joint venture, setting up a business trust and issuing convertible bonds.


“If we go into joint venture with a partner, we may not have to issue new share units,” said Ms Leong, addressing one potential concern of the Reit’s shareholders. “Whatever we do, we are guided by the principle that we will not undertake any yield dilutive activity, so it will have to be yield accretive for our investors.”


She also revealed that CCT had been lobbying for the Golden Shoe Car Park to be granted OPP – but as the integrated hawker centre is owned by the Singapore Land Authority, this would be “trickier” and take more time.


Source: Today Newspaper

Manhattan bucks homes trend with prices going through the roof

Manhattan bucks homes trend with prices going through the roof


NEW YORK – THE United States housing market may be a seller’s nightmare but Manhattan’s was a dream in the fourth quarter as foreign buyers pushed up demand while supply stayed tight, sending the average sales price to a record high.


Two swanky condominium projects, The Plaza and 15 Central Park West, helped propel the average price of a Manhattan apartment to a record US$1.44 million (S$2.1 million), up 17.6 per cent from a year earlier and 5.1 per cent from the third quarter, according to Prudential Douglas Elliman Manhattan Market Overview.


‘Foreign demand has been a big part of the story,’ said Mr Jonathan Miller, director of research at Radar Logic and author of Prudential’s quarterly overview reports, but foreigners are not permitted to buy cooperatives.


‘In a lot of new development, we’ve seen significant activity from domestic purchasers as well,’ Mr Miller added.


The average price per sq ft of US$1,180 set a record, up 18.2 per cent from a year earlier and 3.1 per cent from the prior quarter, according to the Prudential report.


The median price – the midway point between the highest and lowest sales prices – rose to US$850,000, up 6.4 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Prudential report.


The average sales price of a US home declined last year.


Prospective buyers in many US markets have found prices still too high, and stiffer mortgage requirements arising from the sub-prime crisis have also sidelined them.


The overall market suffers from a 10.3-month overhang of supply of homes for sale. But supply shrank in Manhattan.


The number of apartments for sale fell by 13.5 per cent to 5,133, according to the Prudential report, while the number of sales rose 3.2 per cent to 2,518 units.


According to Terra Holdings, sales prices at The Plaza, a former luxury hotel, and 15 Central Park West averaged nearly US$7 million in the fourth quarter, helping to fuel a 51 per cent increase in the average price of a Manhattan condominium.


Stripping out The Plaza and 15 Central Park West, the average selling price would have been US$1.37 million, a 12 per cent rise over the 2006 fourth quarter’s US$1.22 million, said Terra, the parent company of residential brokerages Halstead Property and Brown Harris Stevens.


Prices for condominiums, which usually make up half of new sales, rose 51 per cent in the fourth quarter to a record US$1.85 million according to Terra.


The average sales price of a cooperative apartment rose by 21 per cent to a record US$1.07 million in the fourth quarter from a year earlier.


The average sales price for all Manhattan apartments rose by 34 per cent to a record US$1.43 million in the fourth quarter, while the median price was up 14 per cent at a record US$828,000, according to Terra.


Figures from the Terra and Prudential reports differ because of the different times at which the organisations receive notice and prices of closed sales.


Terra’s Mr Gregory Heym said the Manhattan apartment market had not yet felt downward pressure from cuts in bonuses on Wall Street, where jobs are on the line as big investment banks take huge write-downs due to the sub-prime crisis.


‘Somebody who’s worried about his bonus is going to be hesitant to buy,’ Mr Heym said. ‘Somebody who’s worried about losing his job is going to be incredibly hesitant to buy.’


But any real estate effect probably will not show up until the second half of the year, he said.


Source: Straits Times

Market Street Car Park may convert to $1.5b office site

Market Street Car Park may convert to $1.5b office site


Move comes as concerns rise over Raffles Place’s parking crunch


By Jessica Cheam


MORE premium office space may soon be offered in Raffles Place – at the expense of fewer parking lots in an area where drivers often battle to find a spot to park.


Property trust CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT) yesterday announced plans to redevelop Market Street Car Park (MSCP) into a $1.5 billion office building.


CCT chief executive Lynette Leong said outline planning permission from the Urban Redevelopment Authority came ‘in the last few weeks’.


This is on condition that the property will be developed for office use only, with retail space on the first storey, Ms Leong said.


CCT estimates the total cost to be $1 billion to $1.5 billion, depending on the development charge.


‘The decision to proceed is subject to its financial viability,’ said Ms Leong.


CCT is looking into a joint venture or a possible business trust to finance the investment, she added.


MSCP, with a land area of 5,478 sq m, opened in 1964 and was Singapore’s first multi-storey carpark.


The eight-storey building, which offers 704 parking lots and 46 shop units on the first two levels, is one of the largest carparks in the Central Business District (CBD).


It was recently refurbished for $14 million.


This is the first time a property trust is redeveloping a carpark into an office space, said CCT.


The move comes amid concerns that Raffles Place’s carpark crunch is worsening.


Early last year, it was reported that about 2,000 lots in the CBD area could disappear in the next few years, as development plans took shape.


Newer buildings tend to have fewer lots due to the higher revenue that office space generates.


A CCT spokesman confirmed that the new office building would not offer as many lots as MSCP.


If the project goes ahead, CCT will begin construction by year-end or early 2009 and complete the building within four years.


Ms Leong said CCT was preparing to give notice to its tenants and season-parking holders, pending project approval.


CCT said the new tower would be ‘as tall as One Raffles Quay’, with a gross floor area of 850,000 sq ft and a maximum plot ratio of 14.49. It expects to achieve monthly rentals of $12 to $14 per sq ft.


The office sector has had a bull run, with Grade A office rents up 96 per cent, CB Richard Ellis said recently. There are concerns, however, that Singapore will face a supply glut from 2010.


Still, analysts that The Straits Times spoke to were bullish about the project.


If Singapore’s economy keeps doing well, the market will be able to absorb this much supply, said Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.


‘But the carpark crunch will be even worse now.’


Mr Colin Tan, Chesterton International’s head of research, said while the project could be ‘a bit late,…in the long term, this is a sound investment due to its prime location and proximity to the new Marina Bay Financial Centre’.


Source: Straits Times

Bridging Keppel Bay to mainland

Bridging Keppel Bay to mainland


PRESIDENT SR Nathan opened a $30 million bridge last night linking Keppel Bay to mainland Singapore for the first time.


The ceremony to open Keppel Bay Bridge – spanning 250m – was witnessed by more than 300 guests.


During the ceremony, the President activated a launch sequence, which kick-started a pyrotechnics and bridge- lighting display.


The bridge links Marina at Keppel Bay and future waterfront residences on Keppel Island to the mainland.


The bridge is part of major development in the area aimed at transforming Keppel Bay into a premier waterfront precinct that integrates exclusive waterfront residences, a private marina and prime offices, said Keppel Corp’s group senior executive director, Mr Teo Soon Hoe, at the ceremony yesterday.


Source: Straits Times

Condo-like flats in Boon Keng going on sale

Condo-like flats in Boon Keng going on sale


Hot demand expected for second lot of public housing offered by private developers


By Tan Hui Yee


A FLURRY of applications is expected for the latest batch of flats that look like condominiums but sell for just about two-thirds the price of condo units in the same area.


The second batch of public housing being offered by private developers goes on sale tomorrow, one year after the first lot was launched to overwhelming demand.


Like the first project in Tampines, the latest 714-unit project in Boon Keng, to be ready in September 2011, offers condo-like trappings such as timber flooring, built-in wardrobes and kitchen cabinets, and air-conditioning.


In fact, some boast features condo owners would love.


Some flats will have wall-to-wall balconies in living rooms and master bedrooms that look out onto the Kallang River and beyond.


Large bay windows will extend to all bedrooms – and even the shower stalls in the bathrooms. And lift lobbies will come equipped with a card access system.


Giving a sneak peak of showflats at the development called City View @ Boon Keng yesterday, developer Hoi Hup Sunway Development said it is offering 72 three-room flats, 168 four-room flats, and 474 five-room flats – housed in three 40-storey blocks.


Under this programme, private developers are given a free rein over the design, pricing and sale of the homes, as long as they adhere to the general rules of public housing.


For the Boon Keng development, three-room flats units are priced at $349,000 to $394,000; four-room units at $523,000 to $597,000; five-room units at $536,000 to $727,000. On average, they are going for $520 psf.


Their prices are wedged between those of resale Housing Board flats and private 99-year leasehold condos in the same area.


A five-room, 11-year-old HDB flat near the project site changed hands for $545,000 in November, for example, while units at private condo Kerrisdale in Sturdee Road sold for $731 psf to $786 psf late last year.


Property agency chief Chris Koh, from Dennis Wee Properties, expects demand to be good. He said that the prices are ‘very reasonable’, considering the flats are near central Singapore and owners of HDB flats in the area are asking for $50,000 to $70,000 above the valuation of their properties, even if they are more than 10 years old.


Potential buyers are also watching closely. Hoi Hup Sunway has received about 1,000 inquiries in the past month. Those who sign up for a unit face a computer ballot to decide who books a unit.


The 616-unit project in Tampines attracted nearly 6,000 applications – just before the property market recorded a huge upswing. Last month, 316 surplus flats offered by the HDB in the outlying towns of Hougang, Sengkang and Punggol attracted a staggering 5,147 applications.


Competition for these Boon Keng flats is expected to be intense. Businesswoman Serene Sia, 38, wants a unit ‘badly’ as she thinks private property is out of her reach. Asked what she thought her chances would be, she said: ‘I seriously don’t know.’


Those interested can apply online at from 9am tomorrow. Applications close on Jan 16.


Other similar developments – which could house about 2,500 more units – are being planned for Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Toa Payoh, Simei and Bedok.


But Hoi Hup Sunway spokesman Wong Chee Herng does not think it will dent the response to his project. ‘The demand is still very much greater than supply,’ he said.


Source: Straits Times

Circle Line key to higher plot ratios: JLL

Circle Line key to higher plot ratios: JLL


Study looks at how Master Plan 2008 could change landscape, usher in new initiatives




(SINGAPORE) When Master Plan 2008 is unveiled sometime this year, certain areas are likely to see an increase in plot ratios. A study by Jones Lang LaSalle has tried to zero in on which areas could be allowed more intensive use of land.


Its conclusion: Look out for undeveloped state sites within walking distance of Circle Line MRT stations, particularly those that intersect with existing MRT lines. They are the top candidates for higher plot ratios.


The property consulting group specifically highlighted the areas near Paya Lebar MRT Station, Buona Vista MRT Station (which will see the Circle Line intersecting with the existing East-West Line) and HarbourFront MRT Station (Circle Line crosses North-East Line). Also, while Buona Vista is shaping into an R&D/commercial hub, the HarbourFront district’s redevelopment potential is increasing because of projects in Sentosa and Keppel Bay nearby.


Another promising area is in the vicinity of the Circle Line Station at Telok Blangah. Although it does not intersect with an existing MRT line, it will benefit from a spillover from the ongoing redevelopment in Sentosa and HarbourFront.


JLL does not see major, across-the-board increases in plot ratios in MP 2008. But it argues that intensifying land use for undeveloped state plots along these stations will spread social benefits from the government’s investment in the Circle Line to more people and also improve accessibility.


Raising plot ratios (ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to land area) will also address the issue of rising demand for Singapore’s properties and prevent overcrowding in specific areas such as the central and CBD regions.


Although the Circle Line also touches locations near Dhoby Ghaut and Bishan MRT stations, JLL excludes them as these areas already have high plot ratios.


The study also suggests that white sites – with a range of uses and change in use mix allowed – will be more readily available islandwide instead of being confined largely to the CBD. ‘It further promotes creativity in future projects,’ says JLL’s head of research (South-east Asia) Chua Yang Liang.


He also sees the Urban Redevelopment Authority introducing more mixed use, rather than traditional single-use zones, to ‘further provide the flexibility needed to accommodate changing demand patterns as a result of shifting demographics’. MP 2008 could also be more tolerant of non-traditional types of residences. For instance, obsolete industrial buildings could be re-modelled along the lines of New York’s Manhattan lofts. ‘This will accommodate shifting market forces and tastes,’ Dr Chua argues.


JLL also suggests that URA may realign traditional industrial estates to support demand needs of the knowledge-based economy or rezone them for other uses. ‘For example, industrial areas within housing estates such as those found in Jalan Pemimpin could potentially be rezoned to residential or possibly an education hub,’ it said. After all, the area is near Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College.


MP 2008 could also extend the ‘work, live and play’ concept beyond Marina Bay into the suburbs as Singapore cannot live by its business image alone, JLL predicts. ‘We can expect to see more areas designed for cultural developments, for example, the civic, cultural and retail complex in Buona Vista, and new conservation areas that serve to retain the fabric of the collective memory,’ Dr Chua said.


JLL also expects to see many more recreational zones across Singapore. ‘The likes of the recent Punggol announcement will be more common,’ the study said.


On the back of Sentosa Cove’s success, JLL expects other islets around Singapore like Southern Islands and Pulau Ubin to be put for waterfront residential use.


In the existing CBD, JLL suggests that Shenton Way will see a further shift towards a mixed-use (including residential) district, once the current office supply crunch eases. In May last year, URA announced a temporary ban on conversion of office use in the central area, including the CBD, to other uses until end-2009.


Last year, the government identified Jurong East and Paya Lebar for development into business hubs. Dr Chua says land around Paya Lebar MRT Station will be intensified in line with government plans to transform it into a sub-regional centre and that the location will be ideal for cost-conscious office tenants.


However, Dr Chua suggests that the area around Jurong East MRT Station is more suited for research and development because of its proximity to universities, the Science Park and one-north rather than as an alternative backoffice hub along the lines of Tampines.


National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan last year also ruled out massive, across-the-board islandwide increases in plot ratios for MP 2008 to cope with a higher population target of 6.5 million. The Master Plan, a detailed land use plan that guides Singapore’s medium-term physical development, is reviewed every five years.


Source: Business Times

Market St Car Park may be redeveloped into offices

Market St Car Park may be redeveloped into offices


The total project cost could range from $1 billion to $1.5 billion




CAPITACOMMERCIAL Trust (CCT) has been granted outline planning permission by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to redevelop Market Street Car Park into an office tower that could cost up to $1.5 billion.


Lynette Leong, chief executive of CCT’s manager CapitaCommercial Trust Management Ltd, said the viability of the project would depend on the development premium to be paid for changing the use of the 58,964 sq ft site from a car park to an office tower.


The premium will depend on the enhancement in land value as assessed by the chief valuer, which CCT expects to be made known by May.


Ms Leong said the outline permission is subject to the payment of 100 per cent of the enhancement in land value, instead of the standard 70 per cent, as well as there being no extension of the present lease, which runs to 2073.


Assuming a land value for 99-year commercial land of $900 psf per gross floor area, and adjusting for the shorter leasehold of the site, CCT estimates the land and development premium to be $800 psf.


Including construction and other costs, the project cost would be $1.25 billion.


But CCT said that depending on the development premium, the total project cost could range from $1 billion to $1.5 billion.


Assuming that necessary approvals are granted, a new office tower with an estimated gross floor area of 850,000 sq ft could be built within 36 or 40 months. Ms Leong said that existing tenants, who only moved into Market Street Car Park in end-2006 after a $14 million renovation, will be given notice soon.


Currently, there are 704 car parking spaces, 28 tenants, and 21,205 sq ft of net lettable area. As at June 1, it was valued at $59 million.


Saying that CCT has no plans to divest the office tower if built, Ms Leong added: ‘When completed, the property would augment the core assets in CCT’s portfolio which currently includes landmark office buildings such as Capital Tower and 6 Battery Road.’


She said she was bullish on the office sector. While she did not reveal estimated yields for the development, she said that it was looking at projected rents of $12-$14 psf per month.


The outline planning consent comes years after CCT parent CapitaLand first mooted plans to redevelop both Market Street Car Park and Golden Shoe Car Park.


It was reported that the URA first rejected redevelopment plans for the car parks as earlier as in the mid-1990s when the properties belonged to the now defunct Pidemco.


Ms Leong said there are currently no plans to redevelop Golden Shoe Car Park, although it has also applied for a change of use for the site.


Source: Business Times

Keppel Bay Bridge: a new waterfront icon

Keppel Bay Bridge: a new waterfront icon


SINGAPORE‘S newest bridge was officially opened by President SR Nathan yesterday evening to the accompaniment of a spectacular pyrotechnics show. It is the first public bridge to be built by a private developer and will be handed over to the Land Transport Authority.


Spanning 250 metres, Keppel Bay Bridge is the longest cable-stayed bridge locally.


About 300 guests attended the grand lighting-up ceremony. The bridge links Marina at Keppel Bay and future homes on the private Keppel Island to the mainland.


Designed by DCA Architects and TY Lin International, the bridge cost $30 million to build and forms part of the 32-hectare waterfront living precinct of Keppel Bay.


Programmable special effects lighting allow the pylon and stay cables to be spotlit, and the dynamic LED lights along the span of the bridge can be changed for different occasions.


To commemorate the historical significance of Keppel Harbour, informative plaques are placed along both sides of the bridge.


These plaques feature images and nuggets of information on places of historical significance such as Sentosa, Labrador Park, Mount Faber and the former Keppel Shipyard.


Source: Business Times

Goodman Group set to manage JTC Reit

Goodman Group set to manage JTC Reit




JTC Corporation is set to appoint Australian-listed property and wealth management company Goodman Group to manage its upcoming real estate investment trust (Reit), sources say.


The news follows last month’s report in the Australian Financial Review that Goodman Group beat competitors – including Singapore’s CapitaLand and Mapletree Investments – to become the manager of Singapore government-owned JTC Corporation’s upcoming trust.


Other names in the running included Challenger Financial Services Group and CapitaLand subsidiary Australand, both of which are listed on the Australian stock exchange, the report said.


The report also said that UBS, Goldman Sachs and DBS are in line to underwrite the offer.


Industry players said the Reit’s initial property portfolio is expected to be worth more than $1 billion.


When contacted by BT, JTC said that the selection is still ongoing. JTC said in July 2007 that it would announce the winning manager and underwriter by the end of that year.


‘We are in the process of selecting the Reit manager and we will give updates at the appropriate time,’ said a JTC spokeswoman.


Goodman already has substantial assets in Asia, including a 40 per cent stake in the manager of Singapore-listed Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust (A-Reit).


Goodman is looking to expand in the region, market watchers have said. In mid-2007, Macquarie and Goodman ended a partnership that began in 2001. Macquarie paid more than A$730 million (S$922.4 million) to divest its investment in Goodman.


JTC, Singapore’s biggest industrial landlord, said last July that it will divest some $1.4 billion-$1.6 billion worth of assets and focus its attention on strategic developments with a longer payback time.


The bulk of the assets to be sold will be pumped into a Reit, chief executive Ow Foong Pheng told reporters at the time.


JTC also said at the same time that it has short-listed seven Reit managers and would announce the winning manager by the end of 2007. The Reit was scheduled to be listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in the second quarter of this year.


A-Reit, Singapore‘s second Reit, was set up by JTC unit Ascendas five years ago. The trust has since expanded by acquiring industrial buildings.


Source: Business Times