Ho Bee’s Metropolis

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SINGAPORE: Fans of DC Comics will remember “Metropolis” as home to Superman.
However, unlike the fictional city in those comics, The Metropolis by developer Ho Bee Land comprises twin solid office blocks of over 20 storeys each, sitting next to the Buona Vista MRT station in one-north.
Since its completion in 4Q2013, The Metropolis has been home to MNC tenants such as Boston Scientific, P&G, Neptune Oriental Lines and General Electric.
It is also Ho Bee’s headquarters.
On Nov 3, Ho Bee held the inauguration ceremony for The Metropolis.
With 1.1 million sq ft in net lettable area, it is considered the single biggest office development outside the CBD.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was guest of honour at the official opening, which underscored the importance of the development, as well as one-north, as a hub for R&D, high-tech activities in biomedical sciences, IT, media and engineering industries.
When Ho Bee broke ground for The Metropolis in March 2011, many industry observers were still uncertain about the viability of a pre mium office development in one-north, a suburban location more established as an R&D hub, recounts Chua Thian Poh, chairman of Ho Bee Land in his speech on Nov 3.
However, with a mix of foresight and fortitude, the venture has paid off.
Today, Metropolis is 95% leased, with average rents hovering around $6.50 psf per month, according to industry sources.
With a development cost estimated at $800 million, it is the biggest investment property in the company’s portfolio, and is regarded by Chua as “Ho Bee’s crown jewel”.
The building marks “a very significant upgrade” in non-CBD office premises available for MNC tenants, says Chris Archibold, JLL’s international director and head of markets.
“In terms of specifications, it’s comparable to those of Grade A office buildings in Raffles Place and Marina Bay.” Ho Bee’s first property may be an unglamorous Soon Wing Industrial Building on Aljunied Road in 1987.
However, 16 years later, its name became synonymous with Sentosa Cove, billed as “the Monaco of the East”.
The company was a first mover in Sentosa Cove in 2003, when the 117ha reclaimed strip on the eastern edge of Sentosa Island was still untested.
When the global financial crisis struck in 2008, “we took a hard look at our business model to see how we could make it more sustainable, more robust”, says Chua.
That led to the decision to build an investment portfolio with properties that will “yield a more stable recurrent income stream”.
That, in turn, led to the inception of The Metropolis.
To commemorate its official opening, Ho Bee made a $5 million donation to kick-start the SkillsFuture Jubilee Fund.
The fund will be used for study awards, which will be given to those in the workforce who wish to pursue “mastery in every skill and industry”, said the Prime Minister in his speech.
This article appeared in the City & Country of Issue 651 (Nov 10) of The Edge Singapore.

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