Listed developer unveils terraced houses designed by Mok Wei Wei and priced from $2.67 million

 

Architect Mok Wei Wei says that to create something extraordinary, one sometimes needs to be highly critical and mean. The managing director of W Architects often plants himself in front of his architects’ computers when they are drawing and says: “Is this absolutely necessary? Is this useful? If not, take it out.”

That was how W Architects arrived at the design of Bukit Sembawang Estates’ latest landed property development, Nim Collection, which has a three-dimensional, tiered façade of varying elevation.

Located on Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, off Nim Road, the first phase of Nim Collection comprises 47 houses, 45 of which are terraced houses, including corner terraced units and two semi-detached units. The houses occupy sites that measure 1,615 to 4,101 sq ft, but their internal builtup space is from 4,252 to 4,768 sq ft. Construction of the first phase has begun, with completion expected by 2020.

 

Exterior shot of two of the 45 terraced houses at Phase 1 of Nim Collection

Phase 1 of Nim Collection will have 45 terraced and two semi-detached houses (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)

 

Mok says, “When you drive along the street, you will see that the façade of the terraced houses is a lot more interes t ing and exuberant than a typical subdivision with its box-like exterior, screens and louvres.”

Mok was the architect behind luxury condo The Nassim at Nassim Hill, 500-unit Highline Residences in Tiong Bahru and boutique high-end condo The Oliv on Balmoral Road. His portfolio includes the master plan of Victoria Park Villas, the restoration of Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and the design of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Mok was also the winner of the President’s Design Award in 2007.

 

Pioneering ‘envelope control’ scheme

At Nim Collection, W Architects and Bukit Sembawang Estates were pioneers in adopting URA’s new “envelope control” landed housing guidelines. Introduced in 2015, the new guidelines give architects more flexibility in configuring the interior spaces of a house.

Mok was therefore able to to vary the spatial heights and volumes to create a tiered three- and four-storey façade for the terraced houses, offering multiple views and connections to the outdoors on different levels. Yet, he did not compromise on the usability of the interior spaces.

“There are many ways to interpret this envelope guideline,” he says.

 

Medium shot of architect Mok Wei Wei of W Architects

Mok: The façade of the terraces is a lot more interesting and exuberant than a typical subdivision with its box-like exterior, screens and louvres (Credit: The Edge Singapore)

 

Another URA guideline that Mok capitalised on was the conversion of the rooftop of the car porch into a roof terrace. Each terraced house at Nim Collection therefore has two roof terraces — one on top of the car porch and the other on the fourth level.

The living and dining area on the first level has double-volume ceiling height and a view of the roof garden on top of the car porch. The wet and dry kitchen is at the rear end of the first level, together with the utility area.

 

The living and dining area of the show house at Nim Collection Phase 1

The living and dining area has a double-volume ceiling height (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)

 

Air, light and space

In most typical terraced houses, the granny room or guest room is either in the basement or at the rear end of the first level, along with the utility area.

At Nim Collection, however, it is slotted into a mezzanine floor. “The rear end of the first level is, therefore, not so crammed,” explains Mok.

On the mezzanine level, a bridge leads to the roof terrace that sits on top of the car porch. On the second level is the master suite and a second en suite bedroom. To bring in more natural light and cross-ventilation, a courtyard garden sits on the second level as well. The third level contains two additional en suite bedrooms and an air well with a view of the courtyard garden below. Above the third storey is the roof terrace.

 

Part of the greenery of the roof terrace on the mezzanine level, visible from the first floor

Part of the greenery of the roof terrace on the mezzanine level is visible from the first floor (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)

 

All the terraced houses at Nim Collection have been designed with a north-south orientation to minimise heat gain. This led to interesting iterations for some of the terraced houses, including corner terraced units and odd lots that came with an interesting twist to their façade. “Great design doesn’t require fanciful materials such as stone cladding. Just plaster and paint,” says Mok.

Prices of the intermediate terraced houses at Nim Collection start from $2.67 million, and the corner terraced houses are from $3.198 million to $4.018 million.

 

The master suite on the second level of the show house at Nim Collection

The master suite on the second level of the show house at Nim Collection, where all five bedrooms are en suite (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)

 

Previews of Nim Collection Phase 1 started in early February, and a handful of intermediate terraced units have already been sold at prices ranging from $2.673 million to $2.7 million, according to caveats lodged with URA Realis. Bukit Sembawang Estates will launch Phase 1 of Nim Collection early this month.

“The buyers are generally professionals and businessmen in their 40s and 50s,” says Ng Chee Seng, CEO of Bukit Sembawang Estates. “It appeals to those with children or multi-generational families who want to live under one roof.”

 

‘Enhancing development value’

Over the years, Bukit Sembawang Estates has established a reputation as a quality developer, building houses with functional spaces and quality finishing. All the terraced houses at Nim Collection come with five en suite bedrooms and a home lift. The common bedrooms are big enough to fit a queen-sized bed comfortably. The houses come with marble flooring on the first level, timber flooring on the upper levels and full marble bathrooms. Kitchens are fully fitted with cabinetry and top-end appliances from brands such as De Dietrich.

 

The wet kitchen within the show house at Phase 1 of Nim Collection

The wet kitchen will come fully fitted with cabinetry and appliances (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)

 

Phase 2 of Nim Collection will have 51 houses, also predominantly terraced units. Running across the length of the entire development is a 100m wide linear park fronting Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5. The park extends to Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 Park Connector, which has walking and cycling trails leading towards Punggol Park and Waterway in the northeast.

Phases 1 and 2 of Nim Collection are developed on a site previously known as Lot 12949 MK 18, an agricultural land of 117,906 sq m, which has been converted into a 99-year leasehold residential site, “which enhanced its land use and development value”, according to Bukit Sembawang Estates in its annual report for FY2017 ended March. The move to convert the plot of land resolved a dispute with the Singapore Land Authority dating back to 2002. In return, SLA reissued a fresh 99-year lease without building restrictions.

The company started as a rubber plantation company in 1911 before it diversified into property development in the 1950s. It converted its legacy landbank, mainly agricultural land with freehold, or 999-year leases, into residential properties. Besides Seletar Hills, where it has developed 2,500 homes, Bukit Sembawang Estates has developed 1,000 houses in Sembawang and 500 elsewhere over the course of more than 50 years.

 

Landed property price appreciation

Near Nim Collection, Bukit Sembawang Estates has another landed housing estate called Luxus Hills, also built on its legacy landbank. Since Phase 1 was launched in 2009, the developer has already completed and fully sold Phases 6 and 7. In the pipeline for launch are Phases 8 to 10, which will be deferred for now because Luxus Hills has a 999-year lease. Thus the pace of launches can be slowed.

 

Houses within Phase 1 of Luxus Hills

Buyers of Phase 1 of Luxus Hills have seen capital appreciation (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)

 

If prices at Luxus Hills are anything to go by, buyers of Nim Collection can likewise expect price appreciation over the long term. New phases at Luxus Hills have also been launched at progressively higher prices. For instance, an intermediate terraced house with a land area of 1,615 sq ft at Luxus Hills (Phase 7) was sold for $3.02 million ($1,870 psf) in September 2016.

Those who bought in earlier phases (1 to 5) have seen capital appreciation. For instance, the latest caveat lodged at Luxus Hills was for an intermediate terraced house sitting on a land area of 1,615 sq ft that changed hands for $2.61 million ($1,616 psf), according to a caveat lodged in January. The previous owner had purchased the house on Seletar Green Walk for $1.71 million ($1,059 psf) in August 2009. It was one of the earlier phases of Luxus Hills that were completed in 2011.

 

Visitors at Watercove showflat during its preview in May 2017

Watercove, which previewed in May 2017, is the only freehold project in the Wak Hassan Drive neighbourhood (Credit: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore)

 

Last year, Bukit Sembawang Estates launched its last development in Sembawang: the 80-unit strata landed development Watercove. It is the only freehold project in the Wak Hassan Drive neighbourhood; all the other houses in the vicinity are 99-year leasehold.

Watercove has 76 terraced and four semi-detached houses. The project is located just across the street from Sembawang Park and the beach of the Straits of Johor. Intermediate strata terraced houses have floor areas from 3,466 sq ft; corner terraced houses have floor areas of up to 4,521 sq ft. Forty-four units have been sold at $2.27 million to $2.86 million, based on caveats lodged in January and February.

 

Legacy landbank

The biggest shareholder of listed Bukit Sembawang Estates, which has a market capitalisation of $1.59 billion, are the entities controlled by the Lee family of OCBC Bank, which together hold a 29.87% stake, accordi ng to Bloomberg. While Bukit Sembawang Estates’ landbank may be depleting, it is by no means exhausted. According to Maybank Kim Eng analyst Derrick Heng in a report on Feb 21, the company’s remaining parcels in Seletar Hills can yield 1.1 million sq ft of saleable area.

Bukit Sembawang Estates was also recently granted written approval to convert its 85-unit Paterson Collection into 112 serviced apartments, while retaining three existing residential units, according to Maybank Kim Eng. In 1Q2018, the company paid $31.8 million in additional buyer’s stamp duty for Paterson Collection, but is no longer subject to extension premiums under the Qualifying Certificate rules.

Another much-anticipated launch later this year is Bukit Sembawang Estates’ high-end, freehold condo, the 250-unit 8 St Thomas on Saint Thomas Walk, off River Valley Road.

Maybank Kim Eng’s Heng believes the recent increase in buyer’s stamp duty announced by the government during Budget 2018 is unlikely to derail the housing recovery. He sees Bukit Sembawang as “a concentrated proxy for Singapore’s residential market”, as almost all its assets are in this market. As such, it is a prime beneficiary of a property market upturn.

 

This article, written by Cecilia Chow, appeared in EdgeProp Pullout, Issue 820 (March 5, 2018).