GuocoLand aims to uplift neighbourhoods through its projects

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
Cheng Hsing Yao, CEO of the group, GuocoLand, receiving the Top Developer award from Bernard Tong, CEO of EdgeProp Singapore (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Join our  Telegram  channel and follow our  Facebook  for the latest update.
EDGEPROP (SINGAPORE) - The 30-storey towers of Martin Modern stand out like a beacon against the skyline in prime District 9. Developed by GuocoLand, the 450-unit Martin Modern has been winning accolades from the moment it was launched five years ago. In 2018, Martin Modern walked away with four awards at the EdgeProp Excellence Awards — for design, landscape, innovation and top development under the Central area (uncompleted) category. This year, it bagged five awards, including sustainability for the Central area (completed) category.
Martin Modern holds special significance for Cheng Hsing Yao, CEO of GuocoLand Group: it was the first site that was purchased when he was the group managing director of Singapore.
The group had emerged at the top of 13 bids for the site in a Government Land Sales (GLS) tender in 2016, with its winning bid of $595.1 million.
The 30-storey Martin Modern was completed last year and stands out like a beacon in District 9 (Photo: GuocoLand)
In Cheng’s eyes, the 171,535 sq ft, 99-year leasehold GLS site at Martin Place is a rare site and hence highly sought after. To win it, the group had to “outbid our competition”, he says.
The land rate for the development with a gross floor area (GFA) of 480,306.75 sq ft worked out to $1,239 psf per plot ratio (ppr), which was a record-setting land rate then.

Break from convention

“When we have a beautiful site, we have to give it an equally deserving development,” says Cheng. “Otherwise we are not doing justice to the land.”
Playing it safe was not an option, he adds. Instead, the development of Martin Modern became an opportunity to redefine luxury residential living.
Cheng: When we conceptualise a project, we think about emerging and long-term trends. We also think about its adaptability (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Brainstorming with the design, project and sales teams led to GuocoLand’s design philosophy that continues in subsequent projects: designing from the “inside-out”, creating homes that promote social ties as well as bringing nature and biodiversity into the home.
Cheng also felt that a new aesthetic and architectural language was needed for luxury developments. ”That was when I was intrigued by Ipli’s relatively edgy bungalow designs,” he recalls.
Yip Yuen Hong, the co-founder of Ipli Architects and four-time President’s Design Award winner, was appointed the design architect for Martin Modern in collaboration with Singa- pore-based ADDP Architects, a prolific architectural firm behind many landmark condominiums in Singapore.
Martin Modern was Ipli’s first foray into high-rise condominium design. The firm collaborated with ADDP Architects a second time for GuocoLand’s Midtown Modern project at Tan Quee Lan Street.
secret garden - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The “secret garden” at the crown of the towers of Martin Modern (Photo: GuocoLand)
The effort taken by GuocoLand to focus on the concept, product and redefining luxury living paid off when the project was launched in July 2017 and achieved benchmark prices averaging $2,203 psf. The project is fully sold and completed in May 2021. The average price achieved in the resale market this year has risen to $2,646 psf.
“We were very gratified that despite the new benchmark prices for the location, and the break from convention, people appreciated what we were trying to achieve and bought into the project,” says Cheng.
While most people associate the word “modern” with contemporary, for Cheng, it means “the audacity to depart from convention or tradition”, he says. “That was why we named the project Martin Modern,” he adds. And that has led to two further iterations of the “Modern” series, namely Midtown Modern and Len- tor Modern.

Benchmark pricing

The 558-unit, upscale condo Midtown Modern on Tan Quee Lan Street is part of the Guoco Midtown integrated development on Beach Road. On the first weekend of launch in March last year, 340 units (61%) were sold at an average price of $2,800 psf.
Panoramic view of the surrounding area from the 30th-floor "Secret Garden" (GuocoLand)
The biggest penthouse in the development, a 3,520 sq ft, five-bedroom unit, fetched $14.83 million ($4,213 psf) at launch. Under the Bungalow Collection are two 1,808 sq ft, four-bedroom units — on the 29th and 30th floors — that fetched $8.35 million ($4,617 psf) and $8.65 million ($4,783 psf) respectively in July this year. These are the highest psf prices achieved in the project to date. Midtown Modern is 82% sold to date.
In September, GuocoLand launched Lentor Modern, a 605-unit, 99-year leasehold condo integrate with a 96,000 sq ft mall, 10,000 sq ft childcare centre and Lentor MRT Station on the Thomson-East Coast Line. The mall includes a 12,000 sq ft supermarket. More than 500 units were sold on the first weekend of launch. Over 85% of the units have been sold at an average of $2,104 psf, based on caveats lodged as of Oct 20.
“Lentor is a new residential estate [with] a beautiful natural environment,” says Cheng. “It doesn’t have anything built yet. It is like a blank sheet of paper, and the first stroke is incredibly important.”
Once again, GuocoLand was willing to pay a record price for the development land at Lentor Hills estate in a GLS tender. The developer paid $784.1 million ($1,204 psf ppr), outbidding eight others to secure the site in July last year. ADDP Architects was once again roped in for the design of Lentor Modern.
The clubhouse at the landscaped gardens on the ground floor of the Martin Modern site (Photo: GuocoLand)
“Being the first and only mixed-use development in the neighbourhood carries extra responsibility in defining the identity and also the community life for the Lentor estate,” says Cheng. “Our aspiration is for Lentor Modern to eventually become the social heart of the surrounding communities.”
By investing in the concept and quality of Lentor Modern, GuocoLand hopes to “set a benchmark for the estate”.

Catering to owner-occupiers

Most of the buyers for Lentor Modern are Singaporeans and owner-occupiers, says Cheng. Such buyers are generally “the toughest group of buyers to convince”, he adds, because they are looking at the property in terms of how it can meet their needs and aspirations, not just for the immediate future, but also for the years to come. “They are sophisticated; they know what they want and what matters to them.”
The buyers of Lentor Modern include younger Singaporeans who are buying a unit as their matrimonial home when it is ready in a few years. “We’ve also seen some people who are living in, or who used to live in landed homes in the surrounding estate but are now looking for a home that’s easier to care for and with the convenience of amenities and immediate ac- cess to transportation, especially as they age,” observes Cheng.
Lentor Modern scale model - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The 605-unit Lentor Modern is now 85% sold at an average price of $2,106 psf (Photo: Samuel Isaac/EdgeProp Singapore)
Having a functional and efficient unit layout is also important to owner-occupiers. Hence, GuocoLand has a good mix of one- to four-bedroom units. Two- to four-bedroom units are provided with an additional flex-room that is ideal for a multitude of uses — as a nursery, workspace, hobby room or video-conferencing corner.

Redefining ‘prime’ property

The definitions of Core Central Region (CCR), Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Outside Central Region (OCR) are becoming less relevant today, says Cheng. He attributes this to the growing transportation network, quality of neighbourhoods, amenities and sustainability features of developments, which contribute to redefining a “prime area”.
“‘Prime area’ no longer follows those concentric circles,” he says.
Instead, what a developer is able to bring to the market — in terms of product, innovation, design, concept, and quality — should be given more attention, he notes.
Showflat of a two-bedroom unit at Lentor Modern, where the two- to five-bedroom units come with flexi-room (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Pricing a property is not the same as pricing of commodities; and housing projects are not like grains of sand, where one grain is indistinguishable from another, argues Cheng.
“In reality, the design, construction quality, concept and community that moves into the development will have a drastic impact on the quality and value of the project later on,” he says.
Another factor that has contributed to the redefinition of a “prime area” in Singapore is the expanding MRT network. “Orchard Road and the CBD are both just a train ride away [from Lentor Modern] via the Thomson-East Coast Line,” notes Cheng.


For property developers who have to buy land with at least a five-year time horizon in mind, it has become an increasingly challenging environment, given the shorter property cycle and market vagaries including rounds of property cooling measures.
The two-bedroom unit has a flexi-room next to the kitchen, which can be converted into a baking studio (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore0
In Cheng’s view, it has become even more important to be “future-oriented”. “When we conceptualise a project, we think about emerging and long-term trends,” he says. “We also think about its adaptability.”
For every project, GuocoLand activates its multi-disciplinary departments to vet the designs and refine them over and over again un- til the team is satisfied. “That is the first step towards the project’s commercial success and ability to hold its long-term value,” he says. (Find Singapore commercial properties with our commercial directory)
Consequently, GuocoLand has been known to be “painfully pedantic about the way we want our mixed-use development, office buildings, retail mall and residential apartments to be designed”, admits Cheng. Not a square inch escapes the developer’s attention. “We also look at service and back-of-house areas,” he adds.
Beyond the development design and building aspects, GuocoLand pays attention to “engineering the future community” that will own and inhabit their projects.
Midtown Modern scale model - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The 558-unit Midtown Modern is now over 85% sold over a year after its launch at an average price of $2,800 psf (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
“Having a quality development is a prerequisite to attracting an affluent clientele,” says Cheng. The unit mix, apartment design and quality of the communal amenities contribute to the overall lifestyle offering, he adds.
“The clientele we attract will eventually be the community that will inhabit the property,” according to Cheng. “They will be the council members who will be the future caretakers of the property.”
Cheng wants people to purchase GuocoLand’s property “because they are in love with it”, not because it is cheap. “If they are in love with the property, they will continue to care for it,” he says. “In five- to 20-years' time, there will be a stark difference in the quality of a property that is owned by a community that is ‘in love’ with it and one that is not.”

Building pipeline

The group’s focus right now is on completing its $2.4 billion, large-scale, integrated mixed-use development in the CBD, Guoco Midtown. The development includes a 30-storey, 770,000 sq ft premium office tower; a six-storey network hub; 30,000 sq ft of retail and F&B spaces; as well as the 219-unit Midtown Bay, with Soho-style luxury apartments.
The group’s focus right now is on completing its $2.4 billion, large-scale, integrated mixed-use development in the CBD, Guoco Midtown (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The 30-storey office tower topped out in late May, and the project is targeted for completion in phases from 4Q2022.
Guoco Midtown is linked underground to Midtown Modern and Bugis MRT Interchange Station. Midtown Modern is a joint venture between GuocoLand, Hong Leong Holdings and Hong Realty.
Upcoming projects by GuocoLand’s joint-venture partners include the 598-unit Lentor Hills Residences at Lentor Hills Road (Parcel A), which will have a sheltered link to Lentor MRT Station. The project is a joint venture between GuocoLand and Intrepid Investments, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Leong Holdings. “We look forward to the launch of Lentor Hill Residences,” says Cheng.
Another upcoming development is at the neighbouring Lentor Hills Road (Parcel B). TID, a joint venture between Hong Leong Group and Mitsui Fudosan, paid $276.36 million or $1,130 psf ppr, for the site in September. It can be developed into a 495-unit, 99-year leasehold private condo.
Another upcoming development is at the neighbouring Lentor Hills Road (Parcel B). TID, a joint venture between Hong Leong Group and Mitsui Fudosan, paid $276.36 million or $1,130 psf ppr, for the site in September (Source: URA)

Investment properties make up 60% of asset value

While traditionally a residential property developer, GuocoLand has, in recent years, built a formidable investment property portfolio. As of end-June, the value of its investment properties stood at $5.9 billion, accounting for 60% of its total asset value (of both development and investment properties combined) of $9.8 billion. “The proportion of our income from investment properties is growing,” says Cheng.
At Guoco Tower — GuocoLand’s flagship integrated mixed-use development in Singapore — its premium Grade-A office towers and retail units have maintained “almost 100% commitment” since inception. “Premium Grade-A offices and retail units continued to maintain high occupancy and record positive lease reversions even through the pandemic,” notes Cheng.
Guoco Midtown, when completed, will add another 709,000 sq ft of premium Grade-A office space to GuocoLand’s portfolio, further boosting its recurring income. According to Cheng, 60% of the office space has already been pre-committed.
Secured and prospective tenants include major multinational companies from a diverse mix of industries ranging from technology, banking and finance to private equity, life sciences, trading and reinsurance. Having tenants with “very strong covenants” also ensures that GuocoLand’s investment income is “very stable” even during tough times like the pandemic, he notes.
The showflat of a four-bedroom unit, where two units on the 29th and 30th floor were sold in July at $8.35 million ($4,617 psf) and $8.65 million ($4,783 psf) respectively and were the highest psf prices registered at Midtown Modern to date (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

End-to-end capabilities

While rising interest rates and construction costs have put pressure on GuocoLand’s margins, “we are better prepared for this more challenging environment because we have built up a strong multi-disciplinary team”, says Cheng.
He describes it as “end-to-end capabilities” — from concept to execution and management. “Our strategy is to continue to be innovative and deliver quality and future-relevant products,” says Cheng. “Meanwhile, we continue to improve the efficiency of our execution to optimise resources.”
Cheng’s aim is to “uplift neighbourhoods” where GuocoLand has a presence. “When the neighbourhood gets uplifted, our own property values get enhanced,” he says.

Follow Us
Follow our channels to receive property news updates 24/7 round the clock.
EdgeProp Telegram
EdgeProp Facebook
Subscribe to our newsletter

Our Site (previously known as The Edge Property Singapore) is the best property portal for real estate agents, investors, home-seekers and sellers alike in Singapore. On EdgeProp, you will be able to find the latest and hottest property news, property listings, and access tools for your research and analysis.

Whether you are looking to buy, sell or rent apartments, condominiums, executive condos, HDBs, landed houses, commercial properties or industrial properties, we bring you Singapore’s most comprehensive and up-to-date property news and thousands of listings to facilitate your property decisions. Click into any listing to check out the new AI Redesign tool to envision your property based on your preferred style, be it Scandinavian, Minimalist or many others.

View More