Aurum Land keeps in step with business trends

By Bong Xin Ying
/ EdgeProp |
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Woh Hup Holdings, a privately owned construction and civil engineering group, has a long history that dates back to the 1940s. That has not stopped Michelle Yong, a fourth-generation family business leader in the group, from keeping its property development subsidiary Aurum Land up-to-date with changes in the business arena.
More than a decade ago, Yong took over Aurum Land and expanded it. In addition to property develop ment, its business portfolio now encompasses two co-working spaces — one catering to start-ups and corporates, and another bringing together fitness and wellness professionals — and an investment in a co-living start-up. “Aurum Land is now reinventing itself from being not just a property developer, but also to be a space and business innovator,” says Yong, who is its director.
Collision 8 co-working
Aurum Land’s co-working space business, Collision 8, boasts a diverse community that looks to scale their businesses together. Collision 8 has 277 members: 50% are start-ups; 15% to 20%, corporates; and 10% to 15%, investors.
Yong: Despite the function of the digital in the digital world these days, people still need that face-to-face interaction and personal touch (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
When Yong founded Collision 8 two years ago, the co-working segment in Singapore was just starting to crowd, with big players such as WeWork and JustCo dominating the market.
“Our timing for Collision 8 was really bad,” says Yong. “We opened just when the supply was starting to take off exponentially, and the price war started."
“It is hyper-competitive, but I do believe there is a real demand for co-working. I don’t think this is a passing phase, as this is a new way that people want to work and it’s not just start-ups who think like this.”

Core Collective

With co-working in vogue, Yong takes an unconventional stand with Core Collective, a collaborative centre for fitness and wellness professionals and enthusiasts.
The common area on Level 22 of 79 Anson Road encourages interaction between personal trainers and their clients (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
As a community and co-working centre, Core Collective fosters entrepreneurship, and facilitates the cross-sharing of knowledge, explains Alex Loh, general manager at Core Collective.
More than 40 professionals have congregated there four months into its opening. In such a short span, 1,700 members have enjoyed the services that Core Collective has provided, says Yong.
Located in the CBD at 79 Anson Road, Core Collective spans Levels 1, 21 and 22, with a total area of 23,500 sq ft and offering a wide range of services from physiotherapy and body wellness, to Pilates, boxing and even ballet.
For a similar space elsewhere, professionals would be paying less, but they would not have the use of facilities like those provided at Core Collective (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
The idea for Core Collective came about from Yong’s experience with her osteopath and boxing instructors, who faced difficulties in setting up their own businesses.
“I started to think that the co-working model could be very beneficial to all these fitness and wellness professionals who would like to start out on their own, but lack the capital to do so,” says Yong. Closing the gap in this industry with Core Collective, Yong lowered the barriers to entry by eliminating the need for the professionals to take up a two- to three-year office rental lease.
There are a total of 17 treatment and consultation rooms, seven premium suites and seven studios at Core Collective. The rooms on Level 21 measure 120 to 400 sq ft, and can be rented out at rates of $30 an hour to $11,000 a month. On Level 22, the studios are up for rent at $58 to $118 an hour.
For a long-term rental, the rooms can be designed the way the professionals like it (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
“The professionals would be paying less for a similar space elsewhere, but they would not have the available facilities to utilise. It is a close community with a lot of cross-referrals,” says Core Collective’s Loh.
Along with various other facilities, the boxing ring is a prominent feature on Level 22 of 79 Anson Road (credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)

Hmlet investment

Just last year, Yong launched Aurum Investments, a Singapore-based multi-million-dollar venture capital fund that invests in start-ups that have synergies with the group’s core businesses. Aurum Investments made its first choice with Singapore co-living space start-up Hmlet, and led a seed round that raised a total of US$1.5 million ($2.1 million) in November.
Yong says the Hmlet investment came about through an introduction from a Collision 8 member. “We, as a group, did not know anything about venture funds or venture investing, but with Collision 8, we met many seasoned investors whom we consulted with,” she says.
“Hmlet chose Aurum Land not because we gave them a high valuation, but because they believe in us; and, along with all sorts of synergies in our expertise and the connections we’ve been making, we grow together."
Hmlet @ Sarkies, located in the Newton neighbourhood, is fully 100% leased and 75% occupied (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
“Despite the function of the digital in the digital world these days, people still need that face-to-face interaction and personal touch, which Hmlet offers,” says Yong.

Property development

With Yong at the helm, Aurum Land has expanded further. In May, it made a bulk purchase of eight units at Balmoral Gardens for nearly $83 million. It amalgamated the adjacent site at 11 Balmoral Road, which it had acquired.
Named The Hyde, which was inspired by Hyde Park in London, the new development will have more than 100 units.
The Balmoral development is Aurum Land’s biggest project, comprising mainly three-bedroom units.
Besides the Balmoral development, Aurum Land also purchased the 22,800 sq ft site at 12 Amber Road. With the heritage of the East as a reference, the new development on the site, Nyon, will have Peranakan influences.
“Nyon will have a more futuristic feel, with the exterior of the building having a lace veil texture. The common area is going to be really bright and colourful, with features like Peranakan porcelain tiles,” says Yong. Aurum Land will be working with architectural firm Park + Associates, and 2nd Edition interior design.
Both The Hyde and Nyon are expected to be launched by 1Q2019.
Aurum Land has bagged development awards such as the South East Asia Property Award for the Best Boutique Developer in 2015.
Its 1919 development, a collection of 75 black-and-white apartments in the Mount Sophia neighbourhood propelled the developer to fame. The project bagged the Silver Residential I-DEA Award in 2012, and was the Silver Winner of Residential (Low Rise) at the FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Awards in 2017.
Following 1919 and Three 11, a 65- unit condominium in Upper Thomson, Aurum Land went on to develop The Orient, a 52-unit boutique condo at Pasir Panjang. Launched in 2015, The Orient has only four unsold units.
What’s next for Aurum Land? Yong is setting her sights on overseas expansion, where she sees “big potential”, especially for Core Collective. To be sure, the company will continue to pursue business diversification, all while keeping up with trends in the property industry.

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