The Assembly Place taps student housing market, launches 426-bed Campus at Telok Kurau

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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Co-living operator The Assembly Place has just launched its premium student housing project — the 426-bed Campus by The Assembly Place (TAP) at 116 Lorong J Telok Kurau. Campus by TAP has two blocks on a 104,469 sq ft site: a smaller three-storey block with 161 beds and a larger four-storey block with 265 beds. “We are bringing the co-living experience to student accommodation,” says Eugene Lim, founder and CEO of TAP.
In the pre-marketing phase, which began three weeks ago, over 120 beds in the smaller block were booked, and some students have already moved in.
The students are mainly from China and countries in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Most of them are enrolled in James Cook University, Kaplan City Campus and Singapore University of Technology and Design. “We have signed MOUs [memorandum of understanding] with 14 educational institutions, and 10 have already listed our property on their websites. We’re targeting the November enrolment,” says Lim.
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One of the standard rooms with seven beds, where the average rate per bed is $850 per month (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The rooms at Campus by TAP have different configurations. Those with two or three beds are considered premium rooms, while the rest have four, six or seven beds. They are all air-conditioned. The average rate per bed is $850 per month, with the premium beds going for up to $1,600 a month. The premium rooms in the smaller block are almost entirely taken up, according to Lim.
Amenities include an air-conditioned residents’ lounge where movies can be screened, an outdoor cross-fit gym with an air-conditioned section, a basketball court that can be used for five-a-side soccer, a giant chess set, and outdoor seating areas. “As the land size is huge, we created communal spaces for the students,” says Lim.
Each block has a communal dining area and social kitchen on the first level, equipped with kitchen appliances and vending machines with ready-to-eat meals, instant noodles and milk. A co-study area is on the second level of both blocks. Each student will also have a study corner next to the bed and a wardrobe. Male and female toilets and shower facilities are available on each floor.
The communal dining area also comes with a communal kitchen equipped with cooking appliances and vending machines with ready-to-eat meals (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Creating a new niche

Lim says 55% of TAP’s members are 30 years and below. Of these, 65% are international students. Lim realised there was an untapped market for international student housing. However, most students have a monthly housing budget of less than $1,000. He surmises that the monthly rental rate of a typical co-living space of $1,500 to $2,000 is beyond their affordability range. Hence, he decided to explore the international housing market in Singapore further.
“When I started studying the market to see what is available, it was a shock,” says Lim. “We are still very backward in terms of the types of student accommodation that we offer here, compared to the purpose-built student housing in the UK, US and Australia.”
Very few big sites are available for sale as student housing with space for communal facilities. Hence, when the site at Lorong J Telok Kurau was launched for sale by Knight Frank in September 2022, more than 15 bids were received at the close of the tender the following month.
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The outdoor cross-fit gym with an indoor air-conditioned gym (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The top bid came from a joint venture between TAP and Apricot Capital, the family office of David Teo, founder of the Super Group instant beverages empire. The purchase price was $40 million ($383 psf) for a 103-year lease. Apricot Capital holds the majority stake in the joint venture, while TAP holds the minority stake and is also the operator of the student accommodation. The seller is The Trustees of the Presbyterian Church in Singapore, which still holds the underlying 999-year lease on the property.
On top of the $40 million for the site, the joint venture partners invested another $6 million over 3½ months in retrofitting the property. This included replacing the air-conditioning, electrical systems, plumbing and the casement windows. Nearly $1 million was spent on landscaping the vast site. Thanapong Boonyasiriwat (Gong), director of Ecoplan Asia, was the landscape architect.
“The grounds looked like a slum previously, with weeds growing everywhere,” relates Lim.
Close to $1 million was spent on landscaping the grounds, including the outdoor communal facilities (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

103-year lease

“Since we purchased this site on a 103-year lease, we were willing to invest more in capital expenditure,” says Lim. “Most SLA [Singapore Land Authority] sites are only on a nine-year lease, limiting the amount people are willing to invest in capital expenditure.”
Before the property was sold to the joint venture between Apricot Capital and TAP, it had operated as EastLodge, a 120-room student accommodation at the existing two blocks on the site. The 1960s building formerly housed Telok Kurau Primary School.
Lim expects to see $4 million in annual revenue when the buildings are fully leased and operational.
A residents’ lounge where students can watch movies (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Apart from just offering beds to students, TAP intends to offer programmes too. These could include career talks in the tech sector, sports science or F&B, depending on the students’ interests and the programmes they are enrolled in.
“It’s important to build a community,” Lim notes. “Mental wellness is key. International students in Singapore may feel lonely without their parents or siblings here. So it’s important to have programmes that allow them to interact with others.”
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2,000 beds by end-2023

TAP will end 2023 with 2,000 beds, including the 426-bed Campus. TAP launched 42 rooms at 6 Duke’s Road in February this year, with all the rooms taken up within six weeks. Early April saw TAP take over Feng Lai Mansion, an 80-room apartment block at 39 Lorong 30 Geylang. TAP manages the apartments as co-living spaces. All the rooms were taken up within two months of its launch.
One of the co-study areas on the second level of the blocks (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Renovation works have begun at the former Goodland Building at 18 Roberts Lane, off Serangoon Road. Another building that TAP will take over progressively from December is 21 Lorong 13 Geylang. Together, the two buildings will yield 55 rooms, which TAP will manage in its co-living portfolio.
TAP’s first serviced apartment project, YMCA @ Stevens, opened in mid-March with 27 units and 46 rooms. It has recently launched its second serviced residence, TAP Service Residences @ River Valley, at 3 Tank Road, with 15 rooms. A third serviced residence at 18 Penhas Road was launched in the middle of this month.
Including the recently launched Campus, TAP has 1,800 beds to date. The plan is to hit 2,000 beds by end-2023, and 3,000 beds by 2024. “While TAP is cash-flow positive,” Lim says, “to turbo-charge our growth, we will need to embark on another round of fund-raising.”

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