Joo Chiat makeover boost for conservation shophouses

/ EdgeProp |
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While some owners are holding on to their property, TSG Group is rolling out its historic portfolio of freehold conservation shophouses for sale to capitalise on improved sentiment amid increased home sales, en bloc sales and redevelopments in the area

The lone pre-war conservation terrace house on Mangis Road (Credit photo: EdgeProp Singapore)
A lone, pre-war corner terraced house with a brightly painted façade sits elevated above street level on Mangis Road. The single-storey house occupies a freehold land area of 2,559 sq ft. “This house belongs to my husband’s family [the Chews] and at least three generations have lived here,” says Doris Soh. “My son is now 47, and all my grandchildren were raised here.”
Like most of the original residents in the Katong-Joo Chiat neighbourhood, Soh is of Peranakan descent. She remembers a time when the Joo Chiat neighbourhood was very safe: “People left their doors open and children would run in and out of the houses.”
Private developers had come knocking on her door in the past, trying to persuade the couple to sell their home. She says, “They said they wanted to give us an HDB flat in return for the land, but we refused. We said they could take the house but not the land.”
The 62-unit Geranium on Mangis Road was completed in 2006 (Credit photo: EdgeProp Singapore)
While Soh’s house has remained untouched by time, many of her neighbours have sold their homes and relocated. The area has since been redeveloped. Across the road from Soh’s home is The Geranium, a 62-unit, five-storey, freehold private condominium developed by Fra- grance Group and completed in 2006. Recently, a 980 sq ft, three-bedroom unit on the fourth floor was sold for $1.07 million ($1,092 psf), according to a caveat lodged in May this year. The unit fetched $588,000 ($600 psf) when it was launched 12 years ago.
Adjacent to her home on the right is Katong Apartments, a four-storey, 20-unit, free- hold apartment block completed in 1995. Most recently, a 1,399 sq ft, three-bedroom unit was sold for $1.27 million ($908 psf) in August. The unit previously changed hands for $538,000 ($384 psf) in July 2006.
Soh’s immediate neighbour on the left is now a row of contemporary three-storey, four-bedroom terraced houses completed in 2009. The one adjacent to Soh’s house was sold for $2.23 million ($1,741 psf based on land area) in April this year.
Katong Apartments, a freehold 20-unit apartment block completed in 1995 (Photo credit: EdgeProp Singapore)

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Ongoing gentrification

“The Joo Chiat area has undergone a gentrification over the past decade,” says Krystal Khor, director of Mondania, a niche real es- tate firm specialising in marketing shophouses. “There’s an increase in demand for conserva- tion shophouses from people who appreciate such properties.”
According to Khor, it started with redevelopments taking place on the thoroughfare of East Coast Road: the refurbishment of The Red House heritage development and a new block of apartments behind it; 112 Katong mall; Katong Square; and the two new hotels adja- cent to it — Hotel Indigo and Holiday Inn Ex- press; as well as The Flow, a newly completed mixed-use development with strata shops, clinics, restaurants and a food court.
The Red House heritage development was recently completed, and contains a new block of apartments located behind it (Credit: EdgeProp Singapore)
The Joo Chiat area has also benefited from its proximity to the upcoming $3.2 billion Paya Lebar Quarter by Lendlease, says Sulian Tan- Wijaya, executive director of retail and lifestyle at Savills Singapore. A new integrated devel- opment on a 3.9ha site, Paya Lebar Quarter includes the 429-unit Park Place Residences condo, a 340,000 sq ft mall with about 200 shops and three office towers with a total of a million sq ft of Grade-A office space.
The first phase of 251 units at the 99-year leasehold Park Place Residences was launched in March and fully sold in a single day at an average of $1,801 psf. The second phase will be launched in March next year.
In addition to Paya Lebar Square and the upcoming Paya Lebar Quarter, the completion of the redevelopment of SingPost Centre introduces new retail, F&B and lifestyle concepts to Paya Lebar Central, adds Tan-Wijaya.

Collective sale wave

The last collective sale wave in the Amber Road-Marine Parade-Mountbatten Road area a decade ago had injected about 3,000 condo units in new developments such as Silversea, The Sea View, One Amber, The Esta, The Shore Residences, Amber Skye and Marine Blue. This brought an influx of thousands of new resi- dents to the prime District 15 neighbourhood.
The Shore Residences contains 408 units and was completed in 2013 (Credit Photo: EdgeProp Singapore)
This year, a collective sale wave took place in the Amber Road-Meyer Road area, the big- gest of which involved Amber Park, which was sold for $906.7 million ($1,515 psf per plot ratio). City Developments and parent company Hong Leong Holdings, which purchased the site, intend to redevelop the 200-unit condo into a new freehold, 800-unit condo.
UOL Group purchased the 36-unit Nanak Mansions for $201 million ($1,429 psf ppr) in September and plans to redevelop it into a 68- unit condo. In January, UOL had purchased a former nursery site on Amber Road for $156 million ($1,063 psf ppr); it will be redeveloped into a 139-unit freehold condo.
Meanwhile, a consortium led by Sustained Land purchased Parkway Mansion for $146.99 million on Dec 13.
“The wave of collective sales in the Meyer Road-Amber Road neighbourhood this year is one of several factors that have increased the level of interest in conservation shophouses in the Joo Chiat area,” says Savills’ Tan-Wijaya.

New businesses

In recent years, the Joo Chiat area has seen the emergence of trendy new cafés such as Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique; Avenue Café by Quadwork, an architectural and interior design firm; and Fire Bake, a bakehouse and restaurant. Joining them are boutique gyms such as Oompf! Lifestyle Fitness and Spartans Boxing, dance studios such as Dance- vault Studio and MMA studios such as Spirit Gym-Muaythai Gym.
“Housed in the conservation shophouses in Joo Chiat, they have a vibrant, bohemian vibe that appeals to millennials and are difficult to replicate in malls and commercial buildings in the city,” says Tan-Wijaya. She sees millenni- als shaping Joo Chiat’s evolution into “an at- tractive place to live and work in” and expects new co-living and co-working concepts to be added to this eclectic mix in the near future.
“Everything is falling into place — upside in the residential market, the advent of co-working and co-living space, continued gentrifi- cation of Joo Chiat and proximity to the up- coming Paya Lebar Central commercial hub,” adds Tan-Wijaya.
Very few commercial shophouses on East Coast Road and the main Joo Chiat Road are up for sale, as these assets are tightly held, observes Mondania’s Khor. As such, there is a spillover in demand for conservation shop- houses and terraced houses in the neighbour- ing streets, including Joo Chiat Place, Joo Chi- at Lane, Tembeling Road, Everitt Road and Mangis Road.

‘Rare collection’

Sensing this confluence of factors, the Teo family-controlled TSG Group has rolled out one of the biggest portfolios of conservation shophouses for sale in recent times. “It is a rare collec- tion, as the shophouses are freehold and there is demand for such investment properties,” says Tan-Wijaya. Savills Singapore has been given the mandate to market TSG’s portfolio of shophouses in the Joo Chiat area in association with Mondania.
The row of five conservation terraced houses at 33 to 41 Tembeling Road (Credit Photo: Mondania)
The conservation shophouses are a row of five adjoining double-storey terraced houses— 33 to 41 Tembeling Road, which are zoned for residential use; a row of nine adjoining shophouses perpendicular to the five on Tembeling Road —30 to 46 Joo Chiat Place, which are zoned commercial use on the first level and residential use on the upper levels; and, farther down Joo Chiat Place, a row of six terraced houses — 92 to 112 Joo Chiat Place, which are zoned residential. Given the residential ele- ment, buyers have to be Singaporeans or Sin- gapore-based companies.
TSG Group, founded as Teo Siok Guan Pte Ltd in 1950, accumulated the portfolio over a period of more than half a century. The main reason for divesting the assets is that TSG Group wants to reposition its invest- ment portfolio. The indicative price for the entire portfolio of 20 conservation shophous- es is $68 million, or an average of $1,380 psf based on built-up area.
“Savvy investors who see the value in the Joo Chiat and Tembeling shophouses under- stand and appreciate the vision of Joo Chiat and how it will evolve as an attractive resi- dential and lifestyle area of the future,” says Savills’ Tan-Wijaya.

Adaptive reuse, value-add

The nine conservation shophouses at 30 to 46 Joo Chiat Place benefit from double frontage along Joo Chiat Place and Tembeling Road (Credit Photo: Mondania)
Mondania’s Khor sees two possible options for the nine pre-war shophouses at Joo Chiat Place: One is to increase the internal gross floor area through additions and alterations; the other is to extend the rear portion by building a new annex block of up to six storeys. The nine conservation shophouses at 30 to 46 Joo Chiat Place also benefit from the dual front- age on Joo Chiat Place and Tembeling Road, adds Khor.
The five conservation terraced houses at 33 to 41 Tembeling Road and the nine conservation shophouses at 30 to 46 Joo Chi- at Place share a common back lane, which can be revitalised into a residential commu- nity garden, subject to approval from the au- thorities. Khor says, “Adaptive reuse of this space can add value to the surroundings and be explored.”
Khor points to some of the conservation terraces on Tembeling Road that have done that. An example is Sandalwood on Tembe- ling Road by niche shophouse investor and developer Breezeway Development. The de- velopment comprises a row of 12 two-storey conservation shophouses that have been ret- rofitted and a new five-storey annex with 16 apartments. Sandalwood was designed by re- nowned architect Chan Soo Khian of SCDA Architects and completed in 2006.
The latest transaction at Sandalwood was that of an 850 sq ft, one-bedroom apartment that changed hands for $1.06 million ($1,247 psf) in July. Meanwhile, farther down Tem- beling Road, a newly completed three-storey terraced house was sold for $3.3 million. The 3,960 sq ft terraced house has five bedrooms and five bathrooms, and sits on a freehold land area of 1,800 sq ft.
Near TSG Group’s five conservation terraced houses on Tembeling Road is the 100-unit Legenda at Joo Chiat developed by Hoi Hup Development and completed in 2004. The latest transaction at the 99-year leasehold condo was in October, when a 1,216 sq ft unit on the second level changed hands for $1.15 million ($945 psf).
Farther down Tembeling Road is D’Fresco, a freehold 30-unit boutique condo by HLH Holdings. The project was completed in 2010. The latest transaction at D’Fresco was that ofa 1,539 sq ft, three-bedroom unit on the fifth level that changed hands for $1.25 million ($812 psf) in November. Prior to that, a 1,119 sq ft two-bedroom unit that went for $1.23 million ($1,099 psf) in October, according to caveats lodged.

Eclectic mix

The shophouses at 92 to 102 Joo Chiat Place (Credit Photo: Mondania)
TSG Group’s row of six conservation terraced houses at 92 to 102 Joo Chiat Place has been completely refurbished. The façade of the two-storey transitional-style townhouses was restored and a new three-storey rear extension was added. The interiors were transformed into modern family-friendly homes with two bed- rooms and a study each. The mezzanine level contains the master bedroom and en suite bathroom. The open kitchen comes with a skylight, and the spiral staircase is a central feature of each townhouse. Designed by lead- ing architectural firm Ong & Ong, the property won the URA Heritage Awards in 2009 when refurbishment was completed.
The six conservation terrace houses at 92 to 102 Joo Chiat Place have an average floor area of 2,013 sq ft each and total floor area of 12,099 sq ft. Khor sees potential for rental en- hancement from the current $3 psf per month. “Residences of a similar quality can range from $3.99 psf for a three-bedroom apartment to $5.35 psf for an intermediate heritage-style apartment as seen at the neighbouring Lotus at Joo Chiat,” she estimates. Simon Monteiro, associate director of Savills Singapore, who specialises in the marketing of heritage buildings, reckons the TSG Group portfolio of properties will appeal to family offices and investors like the Teo family — “those who appreciate conservation property and are interested in adding value and hold- ing them over the long term”.
And like Doris Soh, owner of the lone, conserved corner terraced house on Mangis Road, there are those who like these proper- ties because they are timeless. Soh is unfazed by the transformation of the Joo Chiat neighbourhood. “I’m not sad because I’m still staying in my own house,” she says.

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