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More excitment ahead!!!
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Business Times - 07 Sep 2004

Conversion of CBD offices is taking off

Two more developers apply after Far East gets okay to convert Natwest Centre into 280 flats


(SINGAPORE) The Urban Redevelopment Authority has received two more applications from developers to turn CBD office blocks into apartments, sources have told BT. And other office buildings could go the same way.

The latest applications come after Far East Organization received provisional permission to convert its Natwest Centre in McCallum Street into 280 apartments.

Some owners are looking at converting older CBD office blocks into apartments because residential values there are higher than office values, which have been weighed down by a glut.

For instance, City Developments and AIG are said to be eyeing $1,000 per sq ft for their joint-venture condo in the New Downtown, while older offices nearby are worth only $500-$600 psf.

URA won't say which office buildings are involved in the two latest applications - or even confirm whether the change will be for residential use.

But sources say a residential component is probable, given the big gap between office and home prices in the CBD.

Scores of older office buildings with unused plot ratios in Cecil Street, Robinson Road and Shenton Way could be turned into homes.

A prize candidate could be CityDev's No 1 Shenton Way (formerly known as Robina House), right next to the New Downtown. Gerry de Silva, spokesman for CityDev's parent the Hong Leong Group, said: 'Since the government is open to giving developers flexibility on other uses for their older office buildings in the CBD, we are looking into this possibility.'

Mr de Silva would not say which buildings the group could look at redeveloping, but it owns about 20 per cent of the offices in the CBD. These include the Anson Centre, Marina House, Hong Leong Centre, City House and No 1 Finlayson Green. However, the newer Republic Plaza, and Hong Leong Building, which has been refurbished, are likely to remain offices.

Analysts say owners looking at redeveloping office buildings could also be exploring mixed uses - perhaps offices, some shops and apartments on upper floors with sea views.

Buildings in Shenton Way - including UIC Building and No 1 Shenton Way - have such views from high floors. Converting older office blocks into homes would be one way to keep the existing CBD alive as the New Downtown comes up next door.

But not every office building would be suitable. For instance, some office buildings have strata-title units in many hands, which would require the consent of all owners for redevelopment or collective sale.

Also, office blocks on smaller sites - especially those sandwiched between other buildings - may not be suitable for redevelopment into apartments because of access or parking problems.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said in April that the government is prepared to give building owners in the existing CBD incentives to rejuvenate the area to ensure it isn't overshadowed by the New Downtown. 'I suspect some of them (buildings) may be viable for conversion to residential,' he said. 'As more people get used to the idea of inner-city living, that may be one viable alternative.'

Asked what incentives it could provide to spur such redevelopment, URA said recently: 'The government will let the property market take its course and adjust to changes in demand for office space within the CBD.' Also, many CBD office buildings, especially around Shenton Way and Cecil Street, can be developed further under existing guidelines, URA said.

It would not say whether it would award the same plot ratio - the ratio of potential gross floor area to site area - for residential use as it would for commercial use for a given site. Some market watchers believe it will, and that the government could in future zone many existing CBD sites 'white', with a range of uses allowed for a specified plot ratio.

'The idea would be to let market forces and the building owners decide on what is the best use for these properties,' said a property consultant.

Copyright © 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

By Spirit
25,912 Posts
43-storey apartment for CBD

First of a kind CBD homes to be launched next year

10 Mar 05

Far East's project on NatWest site slated for completion in 2009


(SINGAPORE) Far East Organization expects to launch a project with slightly over 300 apartments in the Central Business District early next year.

"Singaporeans are starting to appreciate the benefits of city-centre living, especially in a development with full facilities.'
- Mr Chia

At 43 storeys, the new tower will be more than double the height of the existing 17-storey NatWest Centre now standing on the site.

This will be the first office block in the CBD to be redeveloped into homes. The Urban Redevelopment Authority has supported an 11.2 plot ratio (or the ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to land size) for the project, which is the maximum allowed for the site based on commercial zoning under Master Plan 2003.

The URA's approval is for a residential project with commercial space on the first level.

The government has indicated for some time that one way for owners of older CBD office blocks to rejuvenate their properties in the face of competition from the New Downtown would be to redevelop them into residential projects. However, the authorities have been silent on whether such residential projects could receive the same plot ratio as for commercial use.

So the ratio granted for Far East's Natwest Centre development is noteworthy and should set the benchmark for other redevelopment applications in the area, say property market watchers.

Analysts say that it makes sense for new residential developments in the CBD to be given the same plot ratio as for commercial use, since there are already tall office blocks in the area.

However, this policy of awarding the same plot ratio for residential as for commercial use would probably only apply to the CBD office district, at least for now, say market watchers.

Far East's deputy chief operating officer (retail and lifestyle concepts) Chia Boon Kuah, said the group's decision to redevelop the 17-year-old NatWest Centre was in response to the planning authorities' aim to repopulate the city by introducing inner-city housing. 'Our Icon project underscores this trend,' he says.

In May 2003, the property company managed to draw out home buyers after the Sars outbreak with the release of its Icon project in Tanjong Pagar. To date, it has sold about 90 per cent of Icon's 646 apartments, for an average of about $750 per square foot for the 99-year leasehold development.

Following its experience with Icon, Far East expects the majority of units at the NatWest Centre redevelopment to comprise studio and one-bedroom units.

The remaining apartments will be of one-bedroom lofts and two-bedroom units, Mr Chia says. In addition to the usual facilities such as a swimming pool and gym, the project, which is being designed by DP Architects, will have a sky garden on a high floor above the 30th level. With shops on the ground floor and carparks above it, the apartments will be located from 10th floor upwards. The project is slated for completion in 2009.

Far East plans to sell all the apartments but retain the ground-floor shops - the same strategy as with Icon.

It has paid about $9 million to the state for the NatWest Centre site. This sum includes a land premium to upgrade the lease for the site to 99 years (from the remaining 74 years) as well as a differential premium for the additional plot ratio.

NatWest Centre's current gross floor of 128,672 sq ft (11,953 square metres) is 6.57 times the site area of 19,586 sq ft, said Mr Chia.

The 47-year-old father of two, who holds an MBA and a degree in mechanical engineering, noted the revival of inner-city living not just in Singapore but also in other popular cities. 'People want to live in the city again because it has become more habitable - unlike in the old days when it was polluted and congested.

'And Singaporeans are starting to appreciate the benefits of city-centre living, especially in a development with full facilities. And there's the added convenience of not having to spend so much time travelling to and from work,' says Mr Chia, who was Singapore Airlines' area vice-president (Singapore) before he joined Far East Organization two years ago.

NatWest Centre, located at the corner of McCallum and Telok Ayer streets, is flanked by office blocks on one side and restored conservation shophouses on the other, set in the historic district of Stanley, Telok Ayer and Boon Tat streets.

The area was teeming with lunchtime crowds thronging the local eateries when BT interviewed Mr Chia. 'These people will live here,' he says.

3,637 Posts
Hmm... I think Natwest is OK... Why not tear down ugly Afro-asian building instead ? :-/
Btw, 43 storeys means probably less than 150m tall only, for residential...

By Spirit
25,912 Posts

yah although mildly ugly, Natwest has an interesting base.....I wonder when the demolition starts.

then again, here is a chance to have something taller and interesting, to add more density to the CBD and make it more lively :cool:

By Spirit
25,912 Posts
yes..more might be on the way :happy:

From office building to homes in CBD

11 Mar 05

By Joyce Teo

CITY living, a largely untested concept here until recently, will get a boost with a new residential project in the Central Business District (CBD).

Far East Organization has been given the go-ahead to convert the 17-storey NatWest Centre, at the junction of McCallum Street and Telok Ayer Street, into a 43-storey residential tower with 3,500 sq ft of commercial space on the ground floor.

And more developers could soon follow.

Recent inner-city projects have seen brisk sales. Far East's 646-unit Icon, near Tanjong Pagar MRT station, is now 90 per cent sold. City Developments' The [email protected] Bay, at the new Downtown, has sold 640 units of one 681-unit tower. Prices range from $650 to $1,000 psf for Icon and about $950 to $960 psf for The Sail.

Targeted at a cosmopolitan crowd, the NatWest project will have more than 300 units of studios, one-bedroom lofts, one- and two-bedroom units, and food and beverage outlets.

Far East's deputy chief operating officer Chia Boon Kuah said the company plans to launch the project not later than the first quarter of next year. They hope to have the units ready by 2009. 'When it is occupied, the nightlife there will be transformed,' he said.

It is in line with the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) plans to liven up the CDB area. 'With the Government wanting to promote Singapore as a hip and happening place, city living is one of the ways to boost the image,' said National University of Singapore's Associate Professor Yu Shi Ming.

The URA said there have been three applications so far to convert CBD offices into homes.

Mr Nicholas Mak, a director at property consultancy Chesterton International, said: 'Old buildings need to be revamped anyway. Instead of spending millions to make it look like any other office building, it makes sense to convert them, as residential space is easier to sell than office space. But it is a time-consuming exercise and the developer has to make sure all the tenants vacate around the same time.'

Potential office buildings that could be converted include Lian Huat Building, Union Building and 1 Shenton Way, consultants said.

Typically, these are more than 20 years old, with obsolete designs and facilities, that command rentals of around $2 psf, said Cushman & Wakefield's managing director Donald Han.

192 Posts
Far East territory - Tanjong Pagar area
CDL territory - Shenton Way area

Makes sense? Resources can move between sites easily? As well as creating a niche in selling specialised areas :D

11,842 Posts
I am not too sure how it looks like, but I am quite happy over this development. Mainly coz I am wondering how this tower is going to fit in when it is at one corner of the high-rise clustter right beside low rise shophouses!
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