Eclectic vibe in Balestier

By Ruth Loh / EdgeProp | July 27, 2017 11:53 PM SGT
Balestier Road is just off Thomson Road on one end and the Novena area on the other end. Unlike most typical residential areas, which are more homogeneous in character, Balestier Road is more eclectic — with shops, eateries, hotels, temples, industrial buildings, hospitals and apartment blocks. “This makes the neighbourhood colourful and busy,” says Ong Teck Hui, JLL national director of research and consultancy.
Aerial view of Balestier and Whampoa Drive, which has undergone a renewal
URA identified Balestier as an identity node in 2002 and gazetted many conservation buildings in the area, including heritage shophouses built in the 1840s and monuments such as the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall under its Old World Charm conservation proposal.
Part of Balestier’s charm is its blend of old and new — the juxtaposition of heritage shophouses against retro-age and new buildings. It has a rich history spanning 160 years and was named after Joseph Balestier, the US’ first consul to Singapore and a sugarcane plantation owner who named his plantation Balestier Plains.
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The Novena area has also long been a desirable CBD fringe office location, with office towers at Novena Square as well as the upcoming Royal Square and its mix of offices and medical suites
People can now learn more about Balestier from the 1.6km Balestier Heritage Trail and the Balestier Food Trail map detailing special spots that set the area apart as culturally unique. Places of interest on the heritage trail include the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, the Maha Sasana Ramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple and The Former Shaw Malay Film Studios — a significant site in Asian Cinema from the 1930s to 1980s.
Evolving enclave
Long associated with its numerous lighting shops, hardware and home-fitting shops and local food, Balestier is also evolving. The traditional food haunts are still there, including Loong Fatt Eating House and Confectionery, House of Tau Sar Piah, Noi’s Mushroom Minced Meat Noodles, Founder Bak Kut Teh, Boon Tong Kee and Loy Kee Chicken Rice.
The famous Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice draws tourists to Balestier
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There is also Balestier Market, where some of the popular stalls from Longhouse Food Centre — including the famous Long House Soon Kee Boneless Lor Duck Rice, Ah Hui Big Prawn Noodle and Boon Pisang Goreng — have moved to.
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The Balestier Food Market, where some of the popular stalls from Longhouse Food Centre have moved to
New cafés and restaurants that have sprouted up in Balestier include Café de Hong Kong; Paw Pet-radise Café, which is pet-friendly; Starker Bistro; and Wheeler’s Yard, an industrial warehouse café, a favourite with cyclists.
The retro-age Balestier Plaza (directly above) and adjacent Shaw Plaza shopping centre on Balestier Road
The Balestier neighbourhood has also undergone a renewal in terms of its residential landscape, following the last wave of collective sales, which saw new apartment and condominium projects spring up in the area. “The fact that there have been some 30 collective sales in Balestier since 2006 shows a healthy demand for housing in that area and no shortage of interest from developers,” says Ong.
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The Wheeler’s Yard, an industrial warehouse café in Balestier that is popular with cyclists
It looks like the Balestier area is poised for another collective-sale wave, with developments such as Balestier Regency, Boon Teck Tower and Kemaman Point attempting collective sales.
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Residential offerings
An influx of international students has also helped in the rejuvenation of Balestier in recent years, especially given the proximity of the area to Curtin Singapore, East Asia Institute of Management and Global Indian International School. There is therefore strong rental demand, which bodes well for investors, especially since they can achieve net rental yields of 2% to 3%, according to JLL’s Ong.
Curtin Singapore, East Asia Institute of Management and Global Indian International School have helped in the rejuvenation of Balestier, bringing foreign students to the neighbourhood
New developments in the area that will soon be completed include City Suites, a 56- unit freehold project located on Balestier Road. Developed by Singapore-listed international property developer SingHaiyi Group, it has a wide range of one-bedroom units measuring 452 to 527 sq ft. The project is expected to obtain its Temporary Occupation Permit in 3Q2017.
Exterior of the 56-unit City Suites, one of the new residential developments in Balestier
The one-bedroom units have fully fitted kitchen appliances and cabinets, bathroom accessories as well as built-in wardrobes. Assuming an average selling price of $1,800 psf and a monthly rental rate of $2,500, investors can achieve gross rental yields of 3.1% to 3.7%.
Over the years, Balestier has become popular with investors. For example, one named Loke chose to invest in an apartment in Balestier after looking at different parts of Singapore 11 years ago. He has found it easy to lease out his two-bedroom apartment in Balestier since purchasing it in 2006. “It’s so close to town, and the return on investment isn’t bad compared with properties in the nearby prime District 11 which have higher prices psf,” he says.
Besides City Suites, new developments in the area include OKIO, VIIO @ Balestier and Viridian. Over the past year, transacted prices in these projects have ranged from $1,230 to $1,724 psf, according to caveats lodged with URA Realis. “These prices are affordable to investors and owner-occupiers, given their cityfringe location and freehold tenure,” notes JLL’s Ong.
New commercial developments, Health City Novena
One development that has really changed the face of Balestier is Zhongshan Park, a mixeduse development with a premium office tower, and two hotels branded Days Hotel and Ramada Singapore. Within the development is also Zhongshan Mall, which has more than 58,000 sq ft of retail space and is anchored by FairPrice Finest supermarket. Zhongshan Park is also part of the grounds, which include the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall and the park around it.
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Besides Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Ren Ci Hospital, other existing medical facilities in Novena include Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Specialist Centre
An added attraction of Balestier is its proximity to Health City Novena, poised to be Singapore’s largest medical hub. Officially launched in 2013, Health City Novena will be developed jointly by the Ministry of Health, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and National Healthcare Group. When completed by 2030, healthcare-related space at Health City Novena will double to 6.46 million sq ft from 2.69 million sq ft today. It is also expected to see 30,000 people either working there or visiting the complexes daily, which will have a significant ripple effect on the surrounding area.
Zhongshan Park, a mixed-use development, contains an office tower, two hotels and Zhongshan Mall, and is part of the grounds that include the conserved Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
Besides Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Ren Ci Hospital, other existing medical facilities in Novena are Novena Medical Centre as well as Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Specialist Centre. Complementing Health City Novena is Thomson Medical Centre, a private hospital specialising in gynaecology and in-vitro fertilisation.
Amenities for residents
Besides Balestier Plaza, Shaw Plaza and Zhongshan Mall, the residents in Balestier are also well served by the shopping centres in the Novena area — Velocity, Square 2 and United Square — which are linked underground to the Novena MRT station.
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This tau sar piah shop in one of the old shophouses on Balestier Road continues to be a favourite today
The Novena area has also long been a desirable CBD fringe office location, with office towers at Novena Square, Newton 200, Goldhill Plaza, Revenue House and United Square. A new mixed-use commercial development in the area is Royal Square, which contains a mix of offices and medical suites.
The Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall is a heritage building surrounded by parkland
In terms of public transport, Balestier is well served by buses and the MRT. It is also accessible via the Central Expressway and Pan Island Expressway, which means it is just a 10-minute drive to the CBD, Marina Bay and Orchard Road.
This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 790 (July 31, 2017) of The Edge Singapore.