Katong: the heritage gem of the east

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/ EdgeProp Singapore
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April 5, 2019 1:18 PM SGT
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KATONG - Koon Seng Road, named after businessman Cheong Koon Seng, boasts distinct shophouses and homes in Peranakan style
Koon Seng Road, named after businessman Cheong Koon Seng, boasts distinct shophouses and homes in Peranakan style (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
At the heart of Katong is an eye-catching, fire-engine red shophouse called The Red House, arguably its most famous landmark. Located on East Coast Road, it used to be known as the Red House Bakery, an informal name for the Katong Bakery & Confectionary, a popular breakfast haunt famous for its Swiss rolls and curry puffs. It was also the first bakery in Singapore to bake three-tier Western-style wedding cakes in the 1920s.
The bakery, which closed in 2003, was surrounded by several icons – Joo Chiat Police Station, Katong Shopping Centre, Tay Ban Guan Supermarket, and the Roxy and Odeon Katong theatres in the early to mid-20th century. These, together with the boathouses and beachside villas built by the wealthy Straits Chinese or Peranakans and Eurasians, made up the coastal area known as Katong.
Then, land reclamation took place, extending the shorefront all the way to East Coast Park and creating the Marine Parade housing estate. Today, the Katong, Joo Chiat, Amber Road, Marine Parade and Tanjong Rhu areas make up District 15, which is known for its seaside proximity and diverse array of local food and hipster eateries housed in picturesque heritage buildings.
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KATONG -  Katong offers a diverse mix of F&B options, including Chinese Perenankan cuisine at Rumah Bebe, local hawker food such as Katong Laksa, as well as Western fare at cafes and hipster joints
Katong offers a diverse mix of F&B options, including Chinese Perenankan cuisine at Rumah Bebe, local hawker food such as Katong Laksa, as well as Western fare at cafes and hipster joints (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
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Hipster fare and heritage buildings

Katong does not disappoint with its hipster joints and traditional restaurants lining East Coast Road. There is Rumah Bebe, a restaurant that serves Chinese Peranakan cuisine and sells souvenirs, knick-knacks and trinkets. The exterior of Rumah Bebe is a striking turquoise, adorned with Peranakan tiles of flower motifs.
East Coast Road was once lined with Katong Laksa stalls with each one claiming to serve the original Katong Laksa. Today, only 328 Katong Laksa remains at 51 East Coast Road. Its chef defeated celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey in a laksa cooking showdown in 2013. While the stall has evolved into a chain with locations at Thomson Road and Tiong Bahru, foodies are still returning to Katong for the classic hawker dish.
Down the road, Forty Hands offers a wide selection of coffee and food choices, from the Western staples of toast and scrambled eggs, pasta and burgers to local delicacies such as red bean buns and steamed buns with braised pork. A few shops away is Brawn & Brains Coffee, serving quality coffee and a selection of pastries. At 63 East Coast Road, Birds of Paradise offers healthy gelato, with flavours such as Spiced Pear, Strawberry Basil, White Chrysanthemum and Lychee Raspberry.
Meanwhile, The Red House is now occupied by Heavenly Wang, a local franchise serving breakfast staples – coffee, toast and eggs – on the first floor, and residential units on the second floor. Opposite The Red House, the former Roxy Theatre has become Roxy Square, a mixed-use commercial and residential development, while the old Joo Chiat Police Station, next to The Red House, has been conserved and is now part of Hotel Indigo.
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The area is also home to malls including 112 Katong (formerly Katong Mall), Parkway Parade and Katong Shopping Centre, as well as reputable schools such as Tao Nan School, one of Singapore’s oldest primary schools.
KATONG - The Red House is now occupied by Heavenly Wang, a local franchise serving breakfast staples – coffee, toast and eggs – on the first floor, and residential units on the second floor
The Red House is now occupied by Heavenly Wang, a local franchise serving breakfast staples – coffee, toast and eggs – on the first floor, and residential units on the second floor (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)

Recent launches in Katong

The Katong enclave has seen a number of new launches recently. The latest one in March is One Meyer, on Meyer Road, a 66-unit development by Sustained Land. The condo comprises a mix of two- and three-bedroom units, ranging from 614 to 1,033 sq ft, which are described as facing the sea. Indicative prices at One Meyer are said to be in the $2,500 to $2,700 psf range. Sustained Land purchased the 23,400 sq ft site for $69.12 million in July 2017. It was formerly the site of The Albracca, a 10-storey, 11-unit residential development.
Located on Amber Road, Aurum Land’s Nyon marks the first new launch this year in the neighbourhood. The 92-unit development occupies a 28,409 sq ft, freehold site, for which Aurum Land paid a total of $74.4 million. Nyon’s design is inspired by elements of Peranakan heritage, befitting its location in Katong. Peranakan tiles will be used throughout the development, while the swimming pool will feature Batik-inspired tiles. Units range from one- to three-bedders of 484 to 1,582 sq ft. There are also four three-bedroom penthouses sized from 1,281 to 1,615 sq ft. Indicative prices are at $2,300-$2,400 psf.
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Last year, Amber 45, along Amber Road, was launched in May. The 139-unit, freehold development by UOL Group consists of twoto four-bedroom units with sizes from 614 to 1,798 sq ft. To date, 99 units at Amber45 have been sold, according to caveats lodged with URA, fetching an average of $2,353 psf.
KATONG - 328 Katong Laksa, at 51 East Coast Road
328 Katong Laksa, at 51 East Coast Road (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)

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Upscale residences near the city

Ong Teck Hui, JLL’s senior director of research and consultancy, believes that condos such as Nyon, One Meyer and Amber 45 will appeal to buyers who prefer a “more private and exclusive” unit as opposed to a big condo with more than a hundred units. All three will enjoy proximity to upcoming MRT stations on the ThomsonEast Coast Line: “Katong Park Station is at the doorstep of One Meyer, Tanjong Katong Station is a stone’s throw from Nyon, while Marine Parade Station is a short walk from Amber 45,” says Ong.
The Thomson-East Coast Line is slated to open in stages from 2019 and will be fully operational in 2024, with 31 stations connecting Woodlands North to Sungei Bedok.
The neighbourhood also appeals to expatriates who like to be near the city while living in a “more upscale residential area”, says Tricia Song, head of research at Colliers International. “The fact that they are close to East Coast Park and the seaside means that many of the homes have a seaview, and they typically command a premium in both sales and lease transactions.”
The area is a few minutes' drive away from the CBD and Marina Bay areas via the East Coast Parkway (ECP), Nicoll Highway, and Marina Coast Expressway. The ECP also links Katong to Changi Airport as well as Changi Business Park.
Of the three developments, Nyon is the only one offering dual-key two-bedroom units, Song notes.
KATONG - Firebake is a bakehouse and restaurant, offering a range of woodfire-baked sourdough bread cooked with traditional European techniques
Firebake is a bakehouse and restaurant, offering a range of woodfire-baked sourdough bread cooked with traditional European techniques (Credit: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore)

Upcoming developments

A series of new launches in the Katong neighbourhood is expected this year, intensifying the pricing competition among developers. Meyerhouse was purchased by UOL for $1,429 psf per plot ratio (ppr); the former Amber Park was bought by CDL and Hong Leong Holdings for $1,515 psf ppr; the former Casa Meyfort was purchased by Guocoland for $1,580 psf ppr; while the former Parkway Mansion was bought by a Sustained Land-led consortium for $1,536 psf ppr.
To that end, “developers will have to try to keep the overall price quantum of the units affordable”, says Desmond Sim, CBRE’s head of research for Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Colliers’ Song believes that with the upcoming launches, developers will compete by differentiating their product. “Meyerhouse is going to be large-format with only three- and four-bedroom units. The former Amber Park will probably boast of being the largest freehold project in East Coast and District 15, with 616 units. Meanwhile, Parkway Mansion and Casa Meyfort would likely be mid-sized projects with 100 to 200 units each,” she says.
The Katong and Joo Chiat areas typically exude a “strong appeal” to buyers, says CBRE’s Sim. “The allure of the Katong/Joo Chiat area lies in the proximity to various F&B and recreational options; it is near many renowned local eateries, cafes and bistros. In fact, many heritage F&B outlets are located in this enclave, often with a strong Straits Chinese influence.”
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