Makeover to turn Paya Lebar into commercial node

Makeover to turn Paya Lebar into commercial node


Traditional Malay character to add unique flavour to area’s development


By Fiona Chan Property Reporter


Paya Lebar was one of Singapore’s earliest commercial hubs, but it now stands neglected and underdeveloped, with the Singapore Post Centre building its sole marker of modernisation.


Within the next 15 years, however, all that will change.


The neighbourhood around the Paya Lebar MRT station is slated for a major makeover as part of the Government’s recently unveiled draft masterplan.


It will be transformed into Paya Lebar Central, a suburban commercial node nestled between the city centre and the bustling Tampines commercial hub.


About 12ha of land around Sims Avenue and Geylang Road will be put up for development, yielding some 5.4 million sq ft of commercial space.


More than half of this space has been earmarked for offices. The rest will be for shops and hotels with about 1,400 rooms.


While Paya Lebar will be positioned as a fringe hub along the lines of Novena and Buona Vista, the area’s traditional local Malay character will add a unique flavour.


Apart from the new commercial buildings, some upcoming developments include landscaped public spaces around the cleaned-up Geylang River, a pedestrian mall along Geylang Road, and a new plaza square and civic centre next to the rebuilt Geylang Serai Market.


All these exciting plans make Paya Lebar an ‘interesting sub-


regional centre’, said Mr Chia Ngiang Hong, the group general manager of property developer City Developments.


‘It has the potential to become as successful as Novena,’ he said at the masterplan’s launch last month.


But what does this all mean for potential investors and current owners of Paya Lebar properties?


Property consultants say it is a bit premature to predict any trend in property values right now or even in the next few years.


Over time, however, starting from about five years from now, properties in the area will almost definitely become more valuable, they add.


Office buildings and shopping centres are the most obvious beneficiaries, said Dr Chua Yang Liang, the head of South-east Asia research at property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle.


‘The plans to improve Paya Lebar will have a long-term impact on the properties around the area,’ he said. ‘The first thing that comes to mind is that the commercial assets will benefit from the increased activity once things start to take shape.’


There are limited avenues for small-time investors to take advantage of, though, as there are not that many strata-titled commercial properties in the immediate area. The few that exist include City Plaza.


Dr Chua said, however, some properties in the nearby Geylang area might enjoy a spillover effect. Prices and rents of office and shop units there, such as coffee shops, have been on the rise recently.


Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) Research, also said hi-tech industrial buildings in the vicinity of Paya Lebar Central were likely to rise in value over time.


As for residential developments, there are currently no plans for new housing sites in Paya Lebar. This, however, may prove a boon to existing homes in the area.


Their prices and rentals are expected to rise, as the critical mass of workers that will flow into the commercial hub look for homes nearby to buy or rent, consultants say.


Currently, there are few major projects in the vicinity. Most apartment blocks are boutique developments around Guillemard Road, Guillemard Crescent, Sims Avenue, Haig Road and Geylang.


Prices differ widely, depending on the area, according to CBRE, citing data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.


CBRE’s analysis show some recent launches, such as Esta Ruby in Guillemard Road and Cosmo in Guillemard Crescent, have commanded prices well above $1,000 per sq ft (psf).


Latest transactions for nearby developments along Haig Road, such as Butterworth 8 and Haig Garden, have fetched prices hovering around $1,000 psf.


Others, such as Sunflower Regency in Lorong 20 Geylang, are hovering at between $500 psf and $600 psf.


The same trends can be seen for completed projects. Homes in Geylang proper – including those in Sims Green, The Sunny Spring, Wing Fong Mansions, The Waterina and Aston Mansions – have been transacted recently at well below $600 psf.


On the other hand, homes in Geylang East, in projects such as Simsville and Central Grove, have been sold for $600 to $900 psf.


Le Crescendo, one of the rare condominiums along Paya Lebar Road, is fetching between $800 psf and $1,000 psf for its newly completed units.


As for public housing, prices for a three-room flat in the Geylang town range from $170,000 to $300,000, according to sales in the last three months. Prices are lower in estates along Paya Lebar Way, Eunos Crescent, Balam Road and Circuit Road, and higher in Haig Road and Aljunied Crescent.


Five-room flat prices range from below $300,000 in the Ubi area to well above $400,000 in Eunos Crescent.


 Source: Straits Times

Can Orchard Road’s clubbing scene get its groove back?

Can Orchard Road’s clubbing scene get its groove back?


Industry veteran Dennis Foo is trying to revive it, but scorching rents and fickle crowds are major obstacles


By Shuli Sudderuddin


If you are a clubber, the harvest in the Orchard area these days is poor.


Sure, there is a smattering of clubs in Orchard Towers, but these target clients who come for ladies of the night from Thailand and the Philippines.


In the stretch between Scotts Road and Centrepoint, you can pop into Bar None, Balcony in the Heeren, Brix at the Grand Hyatt and a cluster of small pubs such as the Acid Bar and Alley Bar in Peranakan Place.


But revellers used to party harder, louder and in bigger spaces in Orchard.


Older partygoers recall the three-floor Fire disco in Orchard Plaza, which opened in 1989, and the posh Studebaker club in Pacific Plaza, which was set up in 1992.


In 1993, Sparks opened in Ngee Ann City and was famous for its tea dances for teens. In 1998, Venom opened in Pacific Plaza.


All these feel-good places have since closed.


No wonder, then, that both the owners of pubs and clubs as well as the patrons feel that the party lights have dimmed considerably in Orchard, while rival locations such as Clarke Quay, Dempsey Village and St James Powerhouse rule the night.


Veteran clubber and part-time singer Linda Hamid, 42, lamented: ‘Orchard Road used to be a cool hangout 10 years ago, but now it’s quiet.’


Advertising executive Jewel Tay, 25, said: ‘Ten years ago, places like Sparks were completely packed. There aren’t establishments like them any more.’


But hope was ignited recently when industry veteran Dennis Foo, 55, moved back into the area.


The chief executive of the 10-club St James Power Station acquired Bar None and The Living Room in the Singapore Marriott Hotel last month.


Bar None, a 10-year-old nightspot, was relaunched on May 20 with two bands playing top 40 and classic rock. Mr Foo noted that business in the first week tripled from the levels before the relaunch.


Said the man who managed nine nightclubs in Orchard in the late 1990s, from Ridley’s at the ANA hotel to Xanadu in the Shangri-La: ‘Nightlife in Orchard has gone down as there are new places like Clarke Quay and Dempsey. But Bar None’s performance indicates that Orchard’s still the place to go to.’


One reason that Orchard’s nightlife has gone tame is the rentals.


Mr Deen Shahul, 50, who managed Fire disco and Sparks in Orchard Road during its heyday, feels that the soaring rent hurts the viability of running big clubs.


‘Seven years ago, Fire cost about $60,000 a month in rent. Now, as the landlord, I can collect over $100,000. The industry is not as lucrative as before,’ he said.


The Fire space is now rented out to a disco and a KTV cantopub.


When Sparks opened in 1993, it generated $30 million in sales in its first year. Five years later, when an economic downturn struck, it shared the space with a restaurant to cover the rent.


Ms Tracy Phillips, 30, marketing manager for Zouk, said that clubs in Orchard may fail because of rentals and fickle loyalties.


Mr Sam Nor, 40, a partner at the Cuscaden Patio cafe-pub, noted that, while business had been constant, the Orchard scene was not as lively as customers seldom stayed faithful to a club.


‘Clubs need to be run by people with experience to keep customers coming back and most clubs can’t do that,’ he said.


A spokesman for the Grand Hyatt Singapore, which manages 30-year-old Brix, said: ‘Unless clubs recognise the fundamentals of offering quality in entertainment, food and drinks, business will not be sustained.’


Industry experts suggest that nightlife in Orchard has to shift from big clubs to smaller, cosier establishments.


Mr Mohan Mulani, 48, chief executive of Harry’s Holdings, said: ‘Clubs are going in the direction of large concepts or as parts of clusters. In Orchard, rental increases mean smaller spaces, but those with niche concepts can do well.’


He added that the Harry’s Bar at Orchard Towers has had steady business since it opened in 2005. One big draw is its resident veteran band Tania.


Over at Balcony, Ms Anna Tan, 31, its marketing manager, attributes its staying power to location: ‘It’s centralised and people come here after shopping.’


Ms Ying Ong, director of the Peranakan Place Group, said the family business has taken nothing for granted since 1988.


‘Back then, the clubbing scene was much simpler and rent was a lot lower. The rates today can go up to more than $100 per sq ft. We remain relevant by doing surveys and making trips overseas to look for new concepts,’ she said.


Ms Lynette Pang, director for cluster development, events and entertainment at the Singapore Tourism Board, said: ‘Orchard Road possesses the potential to develop more nightlife buzz.’


And that can also benefit from the $40 million rejuvenation works for the area, which will be completed next year.


Certainly, Mr Foo has high hopes.


‘So many hotels, high-end offices and tourists are located here. Everything is there for Orchard Road to make a comeback,’ he said.


Source: Straits Times

Joo Chiat: From sleazy to trendy

Joo Chiat: From sleazy to trendy


The bars and Vietnamese women have not deserted Joo Chiat Road, but new businesses have nonetheless sprouted to give the area a more upmarket feel.


The newcomers, which moved in within the last year or so, include eateries, a chic furniture retailer and even an enrichment school for kids.


Joo Chiat’s rich cultural heritage was the reason for art gallery artoholic’s opening last December, said its general manager Gerlene Tan. ‘We’re trying to add to this by having our gallery here. It’s a marriage of both art and heritage.’


Hess Enrichment Centre relocated to Katong Junction, a mini mall in Joo Chiat Road, from Centrepoint last October. Its language enrichment classes target those between 18 months and 12 years.


Said administration manager Lorraine Foo: ‘Joo Chiat is the ‘in’ place right now. It’s bustling with life and culture.’


Another newcomer, fashion and home accessory retailer Egg3, opened its doors last August. Its owner Mike Tan believes the area is morphing into a trendy lifestyle hub.


Echoing his sentiment, Ms Susan Ye, managing director of Isabel Redrup Agency, said: ‘A lot more yuppies are moving into the area. Joo Chiat is value for money compared with places like Emerald Hill and Cairnhill. It’s near the city and in the East Coast which is full of local flavour,’ she said.


‘The pre-war shophouses are a hit with the well-educated and ‘arty’ professionals, ” added Ms Ye, whose agency specialises in commercial and residential conservation houses.


But it was not that long ago – early 2005 to be precise – that the 1.3km-long Joo Chiat Road housed 44 pubs, 38 massage parlours and eight hotels.


Residents then voiced concerns about the presence of gambling dens, noise from the pubs and prostitutes plying their trade there.


Since 2005, however, there has been a moratorium on new licences issued to pubs and stricter licensing rules. Today, gambling dens and massage parlours ‘are not issues any more’, said MP for Joo Chiat Chan Soo Sen.


The Sunday Times, in a recent visit, counted 29 pubs, three massage parlours and six budget hotels.


Joo Chiat is shedding its sleazy image and moving towards becoming an arts, food and heritage hub, said Mr Colin Chee of the Save Joo Chiat workgroup.


Set up in 2004, the group is made up of residents who wish to promote its Peranakan heritage.


Mr Chee, 58, a manager in a multinational company, noted that ‘sleaze is now concentrated in a few small pockets’, which is why new businesses have been launched.


Ms June Lee, co-owner of pastry boutique Obolo, which opened in June last year, believes the area promises good pickings for eateries. ‘We were looking for a specific area for our first shop and Joo Chiat fit the criteria and at a lower price.’


Renowned painter-art teacher Lin Lu Zai, 45, owner of Miao Zai Xuan art gallery which opened in July last year, hopes that Joo Chiat will evolve into a place for the arts.


‘In other countries, you’ve entire streets dedicated to art supplies, schools and galleries. It would be nice if Joo Chiat could also be where like-minded folk meet,’ he said.


Added Obolo’s Ms Lee: ‘I believe that Joo Chiat has the potential to be the next Holland Village, yet retaining the neighbourhood’ s family-oriented ‘kampung’ feel.’


Source: Straits Times

Desperately seeking help to get sister to sell mum’s flat



Desperately seeking help to get sister to sell mum’s flat


Q My mom made a will under my sister’s advice that, upon her death, her flat should be sold and divided equally into three shares for her three children. My sister put her name as an executor of the will.


At this moment, my sister is living in my deceased mother’s flat after selling a flat she co-owned with her ex-husband. She asked our permission to stay in the flat, as she had no home for herself, her three children and a granddaughter.


We allowed her to use the flat for six months and then to sell it as soon as possible or, as she wanted, to buy over the flat at valuation price. Now, after 10 months, she made another request that we sell her the flat at $30,000 below the valuation price because she could not get a higher housing loan.


As an executor of a will, can she sell the flat at any price she wants and divide it according to the will? What would be a fair option for all of us? What legal rights does the executor have over the will of the deceased?



A Your sister, as the executor, is duty-bound to administer your late mother’s estate in accordance with the contents of your mother’s will.


She has no right to act in any way other than in accordance with the will. In doing so, she must also protect the beneficiaries’ interest.


She should, therefore, sell the flat within a reasonable period of time from the date of your mother’s death and distribute the proceeds equally among the three beneficiaries.


She may postpone the sale only if there is a good reason to do so in the exercise of her honest discretion and prudence. For example, if she is genuinely using her discretion to wait for a price better than the existing offers because the existing offers are below market rates or because property prices are moving up.


In your case, it appears that your sister has put herself in a position of conflict of interest or duty.


Her duty conflicts with her desire to postpone the sale, so that she may benefit herself by living in the flat or buy it at a price below the market rate. Her procrastination and intended purchase will deprive the beneficiaries of the prompt receipt of a greater amount of sale proceeds.


It appears that your sister has ignored your request to promptly sell the flat at valuation price.


From what you shared, there is no good reason for your sister to withhold the sale other than for her own benefit. In this case, you may seek your remedy in court, either for an order directing your sister to sell the property without further undue delay or to hold her personally liable to the beneficiaries for the profit they should receive if she uses due diligence in the administration of your late mother’s estate.


Lie Chin Chin



Source: Straits Times