Teck Whye Shopping Centre gets S$1.35m facelift

Teck Whye Shopping Centre gets S$1.35m facelift

 

SINGAPORE: Chua Chu Kang residents will soon enjoy a new shopping experience. The 20-year-old Teck Whye Shopping Centre will soon undergo a major facelift.

 

The 79 shops located at Blocks 137 to 146 in Teck Whye Lane will be improved at a cost of S$1.35 million.

 

The upgrading comes under Hong Kah Town Council’s five-year Town Renewal Plan. So the project will be fully funded by the town council and shop owners don’t need to bear any part of the cost.

 

The groundbreaking ceremony was officiated on Saturday morning by Acting Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong, who’s also the MP for Chua Chu Kang.

 

Construction work will be conducted in phases beginning next week and will take about a year to complete. The new shopping centre will be ready by next May.

 

Teck Whye Shopping Centre has also been selected for the HDB’s Revitalisation of Shops Scheme (ROS). Under the scheme, assistance will be provided to help shop owners to pay for items that benefit the shops directly, such as awnings and gateways.

 

The HDB and Town Council will bear 50 per cent of the cost, subject to a cap of S$10,000 per shop, while the shop owners will pay the remaining amount.

 

The Chua Chu Kang Merchants’ Association is currently working out the package of improvement items for the ROS for Teck Whye Shopping Centre. – CNA/vm

 

Source: Channel NewsAsia

Nassim Park Residences: Wee family goes condo-shopping

Nassim Park Residences: Wee family goes condo-shopping

 

Its members pick up three units in Nassim Park Residences for $40m

 

MEMBERS of the Wee family have bought three units at Nassim Park Residences near Botanic Gardens for a total of nearly $40 million, a filing by UOL Group to Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Wednesday shows.

 

Wee Ee Cheong, CEO of United Overseas Bank and son of UOL chairman and controlling shareholder Wee Cho Yaw, picked up a penthouse for $18.33 million or $2,670 per square foot (psf).

 

Two of his siblings bought a sky unit each in the five-storey freehold condo at about $10.6 million each. Wee Ee Chao, who sits on the UOL board, bought a unit with his wife Jennifer for $3,308 psf, while his sister Wei Chi snapped up a unit for herself for $3,293 psf.

 

The SGX filing also showed that UOL director Alan Choe’s son Jonathan, through his company Montgomery Hills, bought a ground-floor unit, that comes with its own pool, for nearly $11.5 million or $2,513 psf.

 

Buyers of the four units received a special 2 per cent discount. More than 40 units have been sold in the development, which has a total 100 units, since its preview began the week of Vesak Day.

 

The average price achieved is said to be somewhere in the $3,000-$3,200 psf band, although analysts expect the developer to raise prices slightly when the project is officially launched next week. The project is being marketed by CB Richard Ellis and Savills.

 

The units in the development are priced at $10 million and above, with each having at least four bedrooms.

 

Nassim Park Residences has drawn a good mix of local and foreign buyers, and market watchers attribute its encouraging take-up to its ‘reasonable pricing’.

 

‘Had this project been launched a year ago, it could have been priced in the mid to high-$3,000 psf range, on average,’ a market watcher said.

 

UOL is developing Nassim Park Residences jointly with Kheng Leong group (a privately owned vehicle of the Wee family) and Japan’s Orix Corporation, on the former Nassim Park condo site that UOL bought in August 2006 for $380 million.

 

Its land cost worked out to about $1,131 psf of potential gross floor area inclusive of an estimated development charge of $8 million at the time. The breakeven cost then for a new development on the site was estimated at $1,600-1,700 psf.

 

UOL has also sold over 40 units of its 88-unit Breeze by the East condo along Upper East Coast Road near The Bayshore since it began selling the project around mid-April.

 

The five-storey freehold project was initially priced at about $950 psf on average, but this has since been raised to $980 psf, BT understands.

 

Even so, the pricing is considered attractive compared with the $1,600-$1,700 psf average price that Tiong Aik picked for its 20-storey freehold Parc Seabreeze in the Marine Parade/Joo Chiat area in early May.

 

Tiong Aik has since withdrawn the project from the market.

 

Source : Business Times

Raffles Hotels makes its mark in Moscow

Raffles Hotels makes its mark in Moscow

 

RAFFLES Hotels & Resorts yesterday signed a management contract to stamp its brand on a 130-room luxury hotel a stone’s throw from Red Square and the Kremlin.

 

Opening in 2011, Raffles Moscow will be housed in a mid-17th century building – and is likely the oldest heritage building in Raffles’ portfolio of 22 hotels.

 

Located in Moscow’s Kitay-Gorod district, it is a three-minute walk from Red Square and the Kremlin, and 10 minutes from the Bolshoi Theatre, plus being right next to the ‘Tretyakovsky Proyezd’, a strip housing the most luxurious and prestigious shops in Moscow.

 

Interestingly, Kitay- Gorod popularly translates into ‘Chinatown’ although ‘Kitay’ which means ‘Cathay’ is likely to be derived from the architectural style of the old walls of the quarter.

 

The building, which is under an investment contract between Moscow government and ALT Corporation, will soon be redeveloped.

 

It’s also part of a larger development that will include apartments, high-end retail galleries as well as historic buildings, such as an 18th century Russian Orthodox Church and a house where Napoleon Bonaparte had stayed before.

 

The contract was signed by Vladimir M Pereverzev, chairman of the board of directors, ALT Corporation, and Diana Ee-Tan, president, Raffles Hotels & Resorts yesterday, witnessed by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, who were also in Moscow.

 

Raffles Moscow will also feature six restaurants and bars and RafflesAmrita Spa, which at 1,300 square metres, will be one of the largest spas in Moscow.

 

Ms Tan said that Moscow is a fascinating destination with great appeal to world travellers.

 

‘In terms of tourism growth, the city enjoyed a robust growth of 7.5 per cent in international tourist arrivals last year and a phenomenal growth of 16 per cent in revenue per available room.’

 

Mr Pereverzev said that the company chose Raffles after examining several global hotel brands and chains, because the brand’s standards correspond to the requirements of the luxury hotel

 

Source : Business Times

Macau casinos urged to target mass market

Macau casinos urged to target mass market

 

Macau’s casino industry, which surpassed the Las Vegas Strip in gaming revenue in 2006, should lure more mass-market tourists instead of relying on high rollers from China, analysts and industry officials said.

 

The former Portuguese colony, the only place in China where casinos are legal, is in a ‘perilous situation’ because companies are chasing ‘growth that cannot be sustained’, Norman MacKillop, the Macau head of gaming industry investigator Spectrum OSO Asia, said in an interview.

 

Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts are among those investing at least US$25 billion in Macau, where gaming revenue may more than double within three years to more than US$20 billion.

 

That’s mostly driven by catering to gamblers who spend at least a million patacas (S$169,500) each visit. VIP gaming accounted for 67 per cent of Macau’s total gaming revenue last year, up from 63 per cent in 2006, according to the city government.

 

Investing in ‘VIP rooms is actually more risky and less sustainable’ than targeting slot-machine players and tourists who play low-stakes table games, Ricardo Siu, associate professor of gaming management and economics at the University of Macau, said on Thursday. The VIP market’s ‘profit margin is much smaller than in the mass market’.

 

Before Las Vegas Sands opened Macau’s first foreign-owned casino in 2004, 78 per cent of gaming revenue in the city came from high-rolling gamblers taken to the casinos by junket operators, who also lend money.

 

The growth fuelled by high rollers, who provide about two-thirds of gaming revenue for MGM Mirage’s Macau casino, ‘isn’t sustainable in percentage terms’, said Gabe Hunterton, MGM Grand Macau’s vice-president for casino operations. ‘Profit margins in the mass market are much, much higher than in the VIP segment,’ he said in an interview at the Global Gaming Expo Asia 2008, an industry conference held in Macau.

 

Macau’s gaming revenue grew 45.7 per cent last year to 83.8 billion patacas. That may expand 29 per cent in 2008, according to Las Vegas-based gaming research firm Globalysis. — Blooomberg

 

Source : Business Times

Yongnam secures 2 more deals worth $83m for Marina IR

Yongnam secures 2 more deals worth $83m for Marina IR

 

STRUCTURAL steel fabricator and engineer Yongnam Holdings has won two more sub-contracts totalling $83.35 million for the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

 

The first deal is worth $41.35 million and was awarded by Penta-Ocean Construction. Yongnam will supply, fabricate, deliver, and erect structural steelworks for the construction of the resort’s ArtScience Museum. The museum is located at the IR’s Bayfront Promontory and boasts a unique lotus-inspired design.

 

The second subcontract, valued at around $42 million, was given by Sembawang Engineers & Constructors. It covers the structural steelworks stanchion for the construction of the IR’s casino and theatre podium. It also involves supplying, installing and removing temporary struts, walers, bracings and associated fittings and decking posts, as well as around 10,500 square metres of metro decking.

 

‘The IR development is based on a fast-track schedule, and we are proud to be tasked with quite a number of projects for the IR, which reaffirms Yongnam’s capabilities to deliver quality steel construction and engineering solutions on time,’ said Yongnam’s chief executive officer Seow Soon Yong.

 

Yongnam said the two new contracts are expected to have a material impact on its FY2008 performance. The latest windfall comes on top of the four IR-related contracts totalling $177.7 million which Yongnam won between November 2007 and May this year. They covered structural steelwork requirements in other IR features such as its hotel tower and North podium.

 

Besides the IR, Yongnam is also riding on the construction boom resulting from other major projects in Singapore such as the Formula One race and the upcoming Orchard Turn mall.

 

Yongnam was earlier awarded a contract to supply, fabricate and erect structural steelwork for a three-storey recreation and commercial complex at Republic Boulevard for the F1 race. At Orchard Turn, Yongnam will provide similar services and infrastructure for its shopping mall and multi-storey car park.

 

Together with its production facilities in Pontian, Malaysia, Yongnam is able to produce 42,000 tonnes of fabricated steel per year.

 

Source : Business Times

PM Lee highlights JTC’s new focus and priority

PM Lee highlights JTC’s new focus and priority

 

Into its 40th year, JTC Corporation will be shifting its focus to industrial master-planning and strategic projects by selling assets in the flatted factories and business park segments, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at its anniversary dinner yesterday.

 

PM Lee highlighted the organisation’s evolving role as competition from rapidly emerging economies intensifies. From building and managing industrial facilities, JTC will now turn its attention to master-planning industrial estates, allocating land for industries and preparing land with the right configuration of facilities.

 

‘JTC’s priority is to meet the industrial land and infrastructure needs of existing and emerging industry clusters, be it the chemical companies at Jurong Island, the pharmaceutical players at Tuas Biomedical Park, or the new aerospace hub at Seletar,’ he said.

 

To take on these tasks, JTC will divest its flatted factory and business park assets substantially – it is selling its ready-built industrial facilities to Mapletree at the end of this month.

 

The private sector will play a greater part in developing these market segments instead. ‘Private developers like Boustead, Mapletree, Soilbuild and United Engineers have built up considerable expertise in flatted factories and business parks, and are well able to meet industry demands,’ said PM Lee.

 

Just last Monday, Soilbuild Group Holdings clinched a JTC award to build, own and operate a business facility at Tanjong Kling.

 

In turn, JTC will focus on filling market gaps. It is already involved in special projects which the private sector may find too large, risky or complex to handle, although they may foster future economic growth. The one-north development for the media, life sciences and infocomm industries is one such example.

 

Another challenge for JTC is to create more usable space to maximise the country’s economic potential. ‘Land will always be scarce in Singapore, but with human creativity and ingenuity, we can find new ways to do more with the limited amount of land we have,’ PM Lee said.

 

Such plans are already in the works. JTC is studying the use of very large floating structures out at sea for the storage of petrochemicals and oil products. It is also exploring the feasibility of increasing water depths around Tuas View to create more usable industrial waterfront land.

 

According to PM Lee, manufacturing remains an important growth engine for Singapore. Having done well in shaping the industrial landscape, JTC will have to remain dynamic to sustain the sector’s competitiveness.

 

JTC chairman Cedric Foo said the organisation will conduct a strategic review exercise to meet the new challenges.

 

Around 600 of JTC’s clients, partners and former management attended the dinner yesterday. Long-time customer Natsteel Asia, which leases about 38ha of land, appreciates the agency’s support over the years.

 

Natsteel’s senior vice-president of systems operations Eng Poh Tzan also hopes that JTC will keep land rentals affordable to help businesses.

 

Source : Business Times

Murdoch Uni unveils $1m S’pore campus

Murdoch Uni unveils $1m S’pore campus

 

By LEE U-WEN

 

AUSTRALIA‘S Murdoch University has opened a $1 million international study centre in the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District.

 

Located at the Singapore Manufacturers’ Federation (SMa) School of Management campus in North Bridge Road, the six-storey facility will offer students almost 20 different majors.

 

The number of Singaporeans studying at Murdoch has increased sharply in the past four years. From just 22 in 2004, more than 900 are enrolled today. With the opening of the new study centre, Murdoch plans to double this to more than 1,800 by the end of next year.

 

Speaking at the official opening yesterday in front of 100 lecturers, students and alumni, Murdoch’s deputy vice-chancellor (Faculty, Enterprise & International) Gary Martin said: ‘The centre, which was previously SMa-branded and hosted various international universities, is now solely dedicated to Murdoch University courses.’

 

The Singapore centre is the third such overseas facility for Perth-based Murdoch, after Dubai and Tokyo.

 

The Singapore centre – a skip away from the National Library – has a dozen classrooms, a computer lab and a newsroom for journalism students, among other facilities.

 

Prof Martin said the centre will cater to Singaporeans that, for one reason or another, are unable to study at any of the three Murdoch campuses in Perth. Students also have the option of transferring to Perth or Dubai to study at any time.

 

‘Courses delivered at the Singapore centre are the same as courses offered at the Murdoch campuses in Perth,’ he said. ‘The curriculum on offer is identical and at the completion of studies, the degree is the same as that awarded in Australia.’

 

Murdoch University, which turns 35 this year, is the latest Australian varsity to strengthen its presence in Singapore.

 

In March, another Perth institution, the Curtin University of Technology, announced that it would set up a campus here by year-end.

 

The most high-profile Australian university in Singapore so far – the University of New South Wales – pulled out of a plan last year to build a $147 million campus at Changi South, citing poor enrolment figures and high financial risks.

 

Source : Business Times

Chips are down for Las Vegas as reality bites

Chips are down for Las Vegas as reality bites

 

Gambling revenues fall, gaming stocks plunge but Asian casinos may weather the storm

 

By LEE U-WEN

 

(SINGAPORE) Las Vegas, the world’s gambling and entertainment heaven, was supposed to be recession- proof.

 

The ongoing sub-prime mortgage crisis and the broader economic slowdown have changed all that. And nothing has been hit as badly as its casinos.

 

This year, for only the second time since 1970, Las Vegas is likely to see gambling revenues plunge compared to the previous year. In the first two months of 2008, gaming revenues fell 4 per cent, partly due to a 10.4 per cent drop in conventions and lower average hotel room rates.

 

There are further signs that the city – which relinquished its stranglehold to Macau as the world’s biggest gambling hub in 2006 – is hardly firing on all cylinders.

 

Three of the biggest US gaming stocks – Las Vegas Sands Corp, Wynn Resorts Ltd and MGM Mirage – have all seen their share prices take a steep tumble after recording highs as recently as last October.

 

MGM stock, for instance, hit a high of US$99.75 on Oct 9, 2007, but is now trading at just below US$50. The Las Vegas Sands Corp stock recorded a high of US$144.56 a week earlier on Oct 2 but is currently trading close to US$70.

 

More tellingly, gaming stocks in the US have lost more than US$50 billion in value since their peak last year, according to a June 5 report in the Las Vegas Sun.

 

As for future casino expansion, even that seems to be hitting a snag. Just this week, Australian casino operator Crown Ltd said that it had scrapped joint-venture plans for a new casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

 

Crown said that it had written off S$57.4 million on the project, due to ‘recent upheavals in world credit markets’ that led to concerns over the project’s commercial viability.

 

Room rates – a common method used to identify signs of an economic slowdown – are even going for a song in Sin City.

 

A check with some of the more popular hotels found that rooms at Harrah’s are priced at just US$75, Bally’s at US$69 and even a stay at the lavish Wynn Las Vegas and the Venetian hotels can be possible for below US$200 – a fraction of the rates a year ago.

 

According to recent figures from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, room rates in the Nevadan city were down 3 per cent in January 2008 from the same month a year ago – the first decline after three straight years of double-digit increases in room rates. Occupancy, too, went down a percentage point in that month.

 

Which bodes the question: Will Asia, where the eyes of the world are currently focused, suffer the same fate as the US where gaming revenue and casino expansion is concerned?

 

Not quite, if the findings of a new survey released this week are anything to go by. More than 80 per cent of 23 industry experts polled felt that Asia is likely to surpass the entire US in terms of casino gaming revenue by as early as 2012.

 

Their confidence stems from the fact that Singapore is on track to open its first two integrated resorts (IRs) with casinos by 2010, while many more casinos are already being mulled in countries such as Japan and Taiwan.

 

Across the US, casinos raked in US$34.1 billion in 2007, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA), which conducted the survey. Asia’s take was estimated at US$15-20 billion.

 

Macau, the southern Chinese gambling enclave, saw gaming revenue soar 45 per cent last year, according to latest government figures.

 

The boom has not gone unnoticed by US casino operators eager to get a slice of the pie, with Las Vegas Sands Corp and Wynn Resorts investing over US25 billion to date to meet growing demand from increasing numbers of affluent gamblers from neighbouring China.

 

‘(Macau) will still be the leading market in the region in 10 years’ time simply because of the numbers of properties that are already here,’ AGA president Frank Fahrenkopf said in Macau on Tuesday at the start of a three-day gaming expo.

 

One industry analyst told BT that the influx of gambling tourists from China and other countries such as Malaysia and Hong Kong would help sustain the growth of the gaming industry across Asia for the next few years.

 

‘There are still many more new casinos that will open in Macau, and it is quite certain that gaming revenue there will again outstrip Las Vegas this year. With the hype in other cities across Asia, I am fairly optimistic that the industry can weather any storm for now,’ he said.

 

Besides Singapore, the Philippines is now likely to be the next Asian country in line to open its own casinos after legislation was passed to allow the granting of gaming licences. Already, four casino projects are under consideration for development in Manila Bay.

 

Japan is now considering a law that will allow the registration of casinos, while Taiwan, South Korea, Guam and India have also began discussing their own possible foray into the industry.

 

Source : Business Times

 

 

Going, going, gone

Going, going, gone

 

Modern buildings of Singapore as an emerging nation deserve closer look before they go under the wrecker’s ball or replaced quietly

 

EVERY now and then, a middle-aged man shuffles into the Boys’ Brigade headquarters in Ganges Avenue, off Zion Road, taking pensive looks at its wooden windows, sunny corridors and tiny canteen fitted with a quaint chimney.

 

Its staff ask: ‘Can we help you?’

 

And the man goes: ‘Oh, I used to study in this school.’

 

The beige 1950s-era blocks used to house Havelock Primary School. These nostalgic visitors can count themselves lucky. It is one of the few – if not the last – remaining single-storey school buildings left in Singapore.

 

But it may have to go soon. The area sits on the fringe of the Orchard Road shopping belt, home to an increasing number of luxury condominiums and malls. The Boys’ Brigade can renew its lease only one year at a time, which means it can be sent packing quickly if the increasingly valuable land it stands on is slated for redevelopment.

 

The school is just one of the many properties marking modern Singapore’s early years under threat from the current construction boom. Unlike colonial-era shophouses, bungalows and stone-columned monoliths, these relatively modest properties or structures tend to exist out of the limelight until they disappear altogether.

 

Yet, they are equally, if not more, significant. They were built at a time when Singapore was finding its own feet as a nation and laying out the first of its infrastructure on a shoestring budget.

 

This brave new post-colonial world required new ways of thinking – about the way people lived, worked, learnt and shopped – and the utilitarian buildings that consequently emerged reflected such ideals.

 

The heavy ornamentation of the past gave way to clean lines as architects embraced Modern architecture with climate-sensitive touches like perforated concrete screens that provided a clever mix of natural light, shade and ventilation. These resulting schools, libraries, homes and offices were the workhorses for the emerging nation, and the original icons of Singapore before the word ‘iconic’ became commonplace. Today, they are fast disappearing.

 

Many still rankle at the demolition of the red-bricked National Library building in 2004 to make way for the Fort Canning tunnel. Other significant properties have also quietly disappeared.

 

Architectural historian Lai Chee Kien, for example, laments the loss of three blocks of red-bricked flats in Albert Street built by the early housing authority Singapore Improvement Trust in 1949 amid the post-war shortage of building materials. The facade of red brick and panel work were important experiments for future housing designs and a key part of Singapore’s housing heritage, he says.

 

Similarly, 14 blocks of six-storey emergency flats that were built in a year to house victims of the terrible 1961 Bukit Ho Swee fire – which propelled the then-newly formed Housing Board into the spotlight – have been demolished.

 

None of the 6,800 buildings conserved so far comprises public housing, one of the major components of modern Singapore’s built heritage. About 6,400 of those conserved were shophouses, and another 100 were bungalows.

 

Typically, the facades and major structures of conserved properties cannot be altered. While the URA identifies buildings and structures for conservation, owners can also volunteer their own properties for such protection.

 

The first and only batch of government-built housing to be conserved are 20 blocks of pre-war homes in Tiong Bahru currently classified as private flats.

 

The HDB declines to reveal how many blocks it demolishes every year, but says its plans to redevelop Queenstown and Yishun incorporate ‘heritage corners to feature local history and landmarks’. It tries to retain the character of ageing estates by upgrading instead of demolishing them, but resettles residents to higher-rise flats nearby where that is not feasible.

 

The URA says that its conservation officers have systematically combed the island over the years to create an inventory of buildings worth conserving. But it does not reveal what these buildings are apart from those already gazetted for conservation.

 

While the Urban Redevelopment Authority has, in recent years, given legal protection to newer buildings like the former Jurong Town Hall, architects and heritage lovers say there are many more that deserve a far closer look.

 

Quiet heritage markers

 

THEY include the Queenstown Community Library in Margaret Drive – the first full-time branch library in Singapore – the subtly graceful former Ministry of Education headquarters in Kay Siang Road and the striking former Singapore Polytechnic campus in Prince Edward Road, now rented out for office use under the moniker ‘Bestway Building’.

 

Add to that list a rare batch of brick-walled flats in the Dakota Crescent area built by the SIT in 1958, as well as the 32-year-old Tanjong Pagar Plaza, a high-rise, high-density living environment that incorporated spaces for living, shopping and mingling in the heart of the city.

 

Humble bus stops erected in the early years similarly combined modern style with heavy-duty function. Some of the oldest bus stops still standing can be found in Old Choa Chu Kang Road. The elegant concrete structures will be replaced with pre-fabricated ones by 2011, as part of an upgrading exercise by the Land Transport Authority.

 

Finally, there are private strata-titled buildings, of which talk of conservation is most contentious. Owners of noteworthy properties like Pearl Bank Apartments and Golden Mile Complex have made plans to sell the buildings collectively for higher returns. Conservation would probably hurt their chances for a sale as it is more typical for developers to tear down old condos rather than refurbish them for sale again.

 

Pearl Bank is a distinctive 38-storey horseshoe-shaped building in Pearl’s Hill and was the tallest residential building in Singapore when completed in 1976. Golden Mile, meanwhile, is an innovative mixed-use terraced complex in Beach Road, which was feted as a regional pioneer for such developments when completed in 1973. Both were considered hip dwellings for the well-heeled but have today turned scruffy with age as foreign tenants and businesses move in.

 

Long-time Golden Mile resident Ande Lai, 60, harbours no illusions of permanence about the place he calls home, where he also runs a photography shop. He says quietly: ‘There’s no turning back to the good old days. Many people who bought the place and live here are not the people who want the building conserved. They see it as an old building and want it to be torn down.’

 

But the URA’s deputy director for conservation and development services, Mrs Teh Lai Yip, feels that such pessimism is premature. Collective sales, she says, can be a good thing for conservation if the developers who buy such properties retain and refurbish them. That is probably easier than dealing with hundreds of owners with competing interests in a strata-titled building, each with little stomach for the financial commitment needed to overhaul an ageing building.

 

This is a growing reality as modern buildings are bigger – and hence would have more and more stake-owners.

 

But as it stands, no developer has conserved a property after a collective sale. The much-vaunted 32-year-old elliptical condo Futura in Leonie Hill Road will soon make way for ‘a new ‘Futura’ – one that would be iconic, distinctive and futuristic’, according to its en-bloc buyer City Developments.

 

Public awareness of modern buildings is also low, which makes it easy to dismiss the value that they hold. But as architectural writer Dinesh Naidu, who is writing a book about modern Singapore buildings, says: ‘A city should have layers of history in it. You should have a sense of the age of a city and all its different periods through its spaces, and streets and buildings and so on.

 

‘You don’t want to feel like you are living in a city that was built yesterday, even though it’s a 200-year-old city.’

 

A money game

 

TYPICALLY, the Government picks buildings for conservation not just for their architectural merit, but also their importance in Singapore’s history and society. But it treads a policy tightrope. While it dishes out only a slim set of benefits to building owners whose properties are conserved, it is wary of imposing too much of a financial cost on them.

 

The URA extends some owners extra saleable space on the plot where their conserved property stands. If the authority reclassifies a conserved building to allow for a more valuable use – like commercial use – its owner does not have to pay a development charge for improvement work he does on the property.

 

In contrast, authorities in the United States and Australia dole out many sweeteners. They let owners sell off the extra development potential in return for conservation work on their heritage property.

 

Re-use and recycle old buildings

 

TAX credits are also given to owners of heritage buildings in the US on a portion of the costs to rehabilitate a heritage building.

 

The URA does not plan to adopt any financial incentives currently offered overseas. Instead, it is appealing to civic-mindedness.

 

As Mrs Teh says hopefully: ‘It is important to have ‘white knights’ – buyers who recognise and appreciate the value of conservation – to step in to save a building and unlock the untapped potential by embracing conservation.’

 

But heritage advocates here say that conservation is as much about dollars and cents as it is about preserving history. The fact that buildings in land-scarce Singapore always cost less than the land they stand on already acts as a disincentive for conservation.

 

Developer Daniel Teo, chairman of Hong How Group which is currently restoring and redeveloping some heritage properties in Armenian Street, reckons it costs about 10 per cent more to keep and restore a heritage building than to tear it down for another development.

 

‘It’s all a money game. If there is enough incentive, I’m sure more would take it up,’ he says.

 

Architect Tay Kheng Soon, who designed Golden Mile Complex, moots using taxpayer funds to help maintain private heritage buildings. ‘There is such a thing as collective ownership because of our obligations as citizens.’ Even if such buildings are closed off to the public, Singaporeans would at least still have ‘visual’, ‘historical’ and ‘emotional’ access to them, he reasons.

 

Wanted: Fresh ideas

 

IN THE near term, the best way to keep Singapore’s early modern buildings alive is probably to find new uses for them when old ones run out.

 

The former Ministry of Education headquarters is safe from the wrecking ball for now because New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia has turned a part of it, formerly used by the now defunct Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore’s TV studios, into a ’shabby chic’ campus, after a $9 million refurbishment.

 

Tisch president Pari Sara Shirazi will not have traded it for brand-new premises. She says: ‘I don’t want anybody to tear it down. You have stories you tell about buildings – this was once a TV studio during a special time in Singapore’s life…Maybe the next Oscar winner will be educated here.’

 

The former Telok Kurau West Primary School in Telok Kurau Road, meanwhile, houses an art gallery and the studios of about 30 artists. One of them, performance and installation artist Amanda Heng, points out: ‘We have a lot of these abandoned old schools which have to be maintained. When they are converted to art premises, artists can help maintain these buildings.’

 

Ingenuity will also work. Enlightened owners, says Mr Naidu, can help refurbish a modern building well enough to make people see them in a new light. ‘People will start to say, hey, I used to think that was a very grotty heap of concrete – just like people used to say I used to think shophouses were slums – but now after you did yours up, I think that is quite cool, I want to live there!’

 

But leave it to chance, and the alternative scenario could be grim – Singapore will be left with little more than photographs and memories to understand how it got there.

 

He says, almost matter-of-factly: ‘As we lose them, they will become so rare and precious that we will cling to them, just like shophouses today.’

 

Source : Straits Times

Endangered landmarks

Endangered landmarks

 

TAN HUI YEE looks at some special buildings and structures currently not protected

 

 

Pandan Valley condominium

Ulu Pandan Road

 

Then: Built in 1978, this was one of Singapore’s first condominiums. The pioneering design by Archurban Architects Planners made use of the natural contours of the valley to create a spacious condominium with terraced gardens. The development was also built up to a lower density than the maximum allowed to create more open spaces for residents.

 

Architect Evi Syariffudin, 29, who has been living there for 24 years, likes the fact that the gardens and other communal facilities are nestled within a valley. ‘It may not look luxurious, but it’s an architectural masterpiece.’

 

Now: Surprisingly for a private condominium, Pandan Valley is something of an ‘education hub’ as its retail podiums brim with small set-ups providing all sorts of extra-curricular classes for children.

 

Future: Apartments there fetched between $809 psf and $1,000 psf from January to April. There is talk that residents are gunning for an en-bloc sale. If that succeeds, the condo could be torn down.

 

 

Queenstown Community Library

Margaret Drive

 

Then: Completed in 1969, it was the first full-time branch library in Singapore. Generous use of glass windows allowed the reading rooms to be lit with direct light, while clever orientation of rooms allowed the library to stay cool with natural ventilation. The queues to borrow and return books used to snake outside the two-storey building.

 

Now: A major renovation in the 1990s moved its trademark central staircase (below) to one corner and the children’s section has shrunk as young families have moved out to new towns served by newer branch libraries.

 

Mrs Kiang-Koh Lai Lin, the National Library Board’s director of reading initiatives who worked at Queenstown library from 1980 to 1982, says: ‘The library really served a function at that time. Nobody can demolish these memories – how people grew up with it, how they used the library. It’s good enough that we have helped so many people acquire reading habits.’

 

Future: The lease of the building comes up for renewal in 2010. The former thriving Margaret Drive neighbourhood around it is shrinking. The polyclinic next door has been relocated and the blocks of flats opposite will be demolished under a HDB resettlement scheme by end-2011.

 

The HDB plans to incorporate a market with a parabolic-shaped roof nearby into its future plans for a new generation estate in the area. It is not clear if a library will be part of the new scheme of things.

 

Singapore Improvement Trust flats

Dakota Close, Dakota Crescent, Old Airport Road and Jalan Enam

 

Then: The 17 intimate brick-clad blocks in the area were built by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1958 and handed over to the HDB management in 1960. Some of the two- and three-room flats in the area come with breezy balconies. The cluster has an eye-catching variety of designs created out of low-cost materials, like crushed stones set in panels that line external walls.

 

Now: Some of the flats are let out to lower-income residents, while others are under the care of managing agents. Resident and odd-job worker Choo Yew Seng, 46, has lived there all his life. He says: ‘The rooms are bigger than what you can find in new flats, and the environment here is very nice. I hope they can conserve them.’

 

Future: The HDB says it has no plans to redevelop the blocks, so it is safe for the immediate future.

 

 

Former Ministry of Education headquarters

Kay Siang Road

 

Then: Built in the late 1960s, the sprawling modern complex comprises a 12-storey main block, a seven-storey annex, an educational television production building and four three-storey blocks.

 

Now: In 2000, the MOE moved to a new site in Buona Vista after the URA earmarked Kay Siang Road as a site for residential and commercial development in the long term. After it moved out, however, part of the site was used as temporary premises by Republic Polytechnic, and later the ill-fated University of New South Wales Asia.

 

That section of the compound is now occupied by the Youth Olympic Games organising committee, while another part which used to house TV studios has been overhauled by New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia to become a ‘New York shabby chic’ campus for budding filmmakers.

 

Future: The complex (right) is safe for the time being, given the long-term plans of both institutions using it.

 

 

Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Tanjong Pagar Road

 

Then: This high-rise 1,116-flat Housing Board project was designed as a mammoth self-sufficient development with an internal courtyard and a hawker centre, market and banks on the lower levels, and flats going up the 27 storeys. Blocks 1 to 5 were built in 1976, while Blocks 7 and 8 were built in 1979.

 

Now: The HDB flats in the heart of the city are much sought after by home buyers, while white-collar workers from nearby offices throng its shops at lunchtime. Elderly folk exchange gossip in its courtyard, while giant orchid motifs adorn the side panels of the blocks.

 

But to many residents like Mr Mark Chee, 40, it’s just a very convenient place to live. The businessman laughs when asked about the architectural value of the development: ‘There is nothing special about it. It’s nothing impressive.’

 

Future: The seven blocks have been scheduled to have their lifts upgraded, which means that the flats will stay for now.

 

 

Golden Mile Complex

Beach Road

 

Then: Built in 1973 and conceived by Design Partnership, the much-feted example of an early mixed-use building houses apartments, shops and offices. This ‘vertical city’ has a sloping slab form which aids natural ventilation and shades a concourse above the shopping podium.

 

The signature terraced design of apartments – all of which come with balconies with a sea view – maximises natural lighting within each unit. Long-time owner Ande Lai, 60, who runs a photography shop, says: ‘This design is like a typewriter, where all of us are able to see the sky…If you have good neighbours, you can stand at the balcony and talk to each other.’

 

Now: Many professionals who moved in when it was first built have left. They have since been replaced by foreign tenants. Some owners have covered their balconies to create more space, resulting in an unsightly mish-mash of metal sheeting on one side of its facade. The retail section is known for its authentic Thai food and groceries, and the lively Thai community that gathers there to eat and chat on any given day.

 

Future: An apartment there fetched $864 psf in January. Owners have made plans to sell the building collectively. If it succeeds, the building may go.

 

 

Singapore Polytechnic (former)

Prince Edward Road

 

Then: Built in 1958 to house Singapore’s first polytechnic, the handsome complex featured an 150-seat auditorium supported by four stonewash columns which doubled as an entrance porch. Within the leafy compound of the institution on the edge of the Shenton Way financial district, many technologists and professionals were trained to support Singapore’s industrialisation efforts.

 

Now: Singapore Polytechnic moved to its new Dover campus in the late 1970s. In 1994, the state tendered out the space to developer Bestway Properties (right) for use as offices. Today, it is home to MediaCorp’s TV12 and a host of other firms.

 

Future: The lease of the building comes up for renewal next year. It is not clear what are the Government’s plans for the site. Bestway director Anthony Tan says: ‘Other institutions like Harvard University keep their buildings, too. In time, when Singapore Polytechnic becomes one of the best around, (but the building has been demolished), we’ll feel like we’re missing something.’

 

 

Havelock Primary School (former)

Ganges Avenue

 

Then: Believed to be built in the 1950s. This is possibly the last remaining single-storey school compound in Singapore.

 

Now: The Boys Brigade has been using the premises as its headquarters since the mid-1980s, with a lease that is renewed yearly. The charming, laid-back compound has many kinks: Rotted wooden doors fall off their hinges. It’s difficult to find replacement tiles when the ones on the roof break. Termites once chomped through books in the storeroom.

 

But the building attracts film producers looking for period settings.Boys’ Brigade executive director Desmond Koh says it’d be willing to put more money into refurbishing the premises if the building is conserved and the organisation can stay there for the long term.

 

Future: With the lease renewed every year, it could be turned over for redevelopment at short notice. Property consultant Ku Swee Yong from Savills Singapore thinks it could be used for new homes as there are an increasing number of condominiums sprouting up in the vicinity.

 

Nan Chiau High School (former)

Kim Yam Road

 

Then: It was designed by James Ferrie and Partners, and built at a cost of $2 million in 1969. The C-shaped complex, which used to house 2,700 students at its peak, hugs a five-lane running track and two basketball courts.

 

Classrooms were flanked by corridors on both sides and distinctive pointed roof vaults capped its auditorium. Chemistry teacher Tien Chee Wai, 37, recalls: ‘Everyone could see everyone in the building. It was very open and airy.’

 

Now: The school moved to Sengkang in 2001 and its former premises in the gentrified River Valley neighbourhood have been vacant since.

 

Future: The site has not been identified by the authorities for any particular use. But property consultant Ku Swee Yong from Savills Singapore thinks it could be used for art galleries or cafes instead of condominiums since the surrounding district is too crowded with homes.

 

 

Telok Kurau West Primary School (former)

Lorong J Telok Kurau

 

Then: The compact four-storey building was completed in the 1960s and is typical of many built by the Public Works Department during that period. The use of materials like brick and precast concrete vents give it a distinctive look and tropical feel.

 

Telok Kurau West eventually merged with Telok Kurau East Primary to form Telok Kurau Primary and relocated to Bedok Reservoir Road.

 

Now: From 1986 to 1995, the building housed the then-LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts. In 1997, it became studios for about 30 artists under the National Arts Council’s arts housing scheme. Performance and installation artist Amanda Heng, who occupies a ground floor studio, says: ‘You need all this – some space where you can see the sky and be quiet. Being quiet in Singapore is very difficult these days.’

 

Future: The lease on the building is up for renewal next year. After which it could be redeveloped.

 

 

Bus stop

Old Choa Chu Kang Road

 

Then: This particular concrete design, created in the 1970s, served generations of military men from the army bases around sleepy Old Choa Chu Kang Road. It was where young men bade lingering goodbyes to doting sweethearts and caught their last glimpse of civilian life before they booked into camp.

 

Now: The elegant concrete and metal structure looks none the worse for wear even after multiple coats of paint. It is the oldest bus stop in Singapore.

 

Future: It will not be around by 2011. The Land Transport Authority is replacing it with a new one that will incorporate facilities like lighting and bins.

 

But architectural writer Dinesh Naidu says: ‘Its an artefact, and it’ll get more valuable with time. Someone should kidnap it, if it really has to be replaced, and park it somewhere. It’s going to be a great fixture for some museum or park – maybe an urban history or transport museum or an outdoor rest area or part of some sort of art installation.’

 

VOTE & SAVE

 

YOU’VE studied in them, lived in them, worked in them, and travelled past them. But have you realised how important these early modern icons are to Singapore’s landscape? Tell us which landmarks you will like to see conserved. Cast your vote.

 

Source : Straits Times