LHN revamps 1557 Keppel Road into office and co-living spaces

By EdgeProp Singapore | May 21, 2021 6:00 AM SGT
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Before 1557 Keppel Road was revamped into what it is today, employees who worked from the office were used to the warehouse environment they ran operations from — lighted-up lofty ceilings, flanked by four walls without windows. These were mainly small SMEs in the shipping and marine industry that wished to be closer to the port, shares Danny Wong, general manager at LHN Group, a real estate management services firm. (See: LHN Group sets Green Mark target and $1 mil investment for EV charging stations)
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The integrated development at 1557 Keppel Road comprises office and co-living spaces, occupying over 96,299 sq ft (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
Once the lease of nine years was up in December 2019, LHN — the master tenant of the state land — decided to repurpose the place on a fresh term of lease into an integrated space comprising office and co-living spaces, occupying over 96,299 sq ft. The renovations took about 10 months, with delays due to the pandemic.
The co-living business at the development runs under LHN’s brand Coliwoo, which has a total of over 800 rooms in the city-state. Coliwoo also operates in other areas like Balestier, Boon Lay and Bukit Timah.
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The integrated development at 1557 Keppel Road comprises office and co-living spaces, occupying over 96,299 sq ft (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)

Working from 1557 Keppel Road

At 1557 Keppel Road, in place of the dreary warehouse set-up, LHN introduced expansive windows into the office spaces. Capitalising on ceiling heights of 5.5m to 6.5m, the windows let natural light in, and allow views of the ports. The office block spans 83,318 sq ft of gross floor area across three storeys.
To date, LHN says 50% of its office spaces are already leased out. Confirmed tenants include a digital media and financial consultancy firm, while arrangements are still pending with three other businesses: an architectural firm, a digital media consultancy and a FinTech company. There will also be a gym operated by Anytime Fitness, and an F&B eatery catering to the office and residential tenants within the development.
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The smaller units of 180 sq ft come equipped with a Murphy bed that doubles up as a day sofa to optimise space (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
LHN has also carved out an office space on the first floor, which it intends to use as an experiential centre for its storage business. This business has run for the last five years, shares Kelvin Lim, executive chairman and group managing director of LHN Group. “We targeted e-commerce companies to store their things with us. In the recent year, because of Covid-19, most of their businesses are doing quite well, so we do see demand as they would like a place to work, as well as to showcase and display their items,” he explains.
Lim likens the space to a co-working space, where these small businesses can operate out of a cubicle of 150 to 200 sq ft. “They can work and display their items inside, and the customers can come and visit them, but we won’t allow them to retail from there. This is something which you cannot do in a self-storage facility,” he says.
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LHN introduced expansive windows to the office spaces, allowing views of the ports (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)

Co-living at Coliwoo; expansion plans

At Coliwoo 1557 Keppel Road, LHN has carved out 47 co-living units ranging from 180 to 260 sq ft across two residential blocks. All units are standalone and come with kitchenettes, smart TVs, microwaves, fridges and a washer-dryer. The smaller units of 180 sq ft come equipped with a Murphy bed that doubles up as a day sofa to optimise space. The cheapest offering starts from $2,200 a month, including utilities.
Due to pandemic-led lockdowns, Coliwoo has seen demand from locals increase to 30%, from 10% previously. “The pandemic has actually brought more demand for the co-living space,” says Lim. “We see that there are more and more people wanting to have their private space, because now as we work from home, a lot of younger people want more private spaces to work in, rather than working from home where their parents are around.”
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The lounge area for Coliwoo residents (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
Lim is also hopeful that Coliwoo 1557 Keppel Road would be able to cater to expats who wish to cut rental costs. The most expensive room at the development costs $2,800 per month with utilities, which he believes is cheaper than in central locations where rentals can go up to $3,500 to $4,000 a month. These units are, however, typically double the size of those at the development.
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Lim believes that when travel resumes, Coliwoo 1557 Keppel Road can also cater to travellers. As the site is approved for serviced apartment use, travellers can stay a minimum stay of seven days, at rates of between $120 and $160 per night.
In April, LHN acquired eight flats at 75 Beach Road for $16.8 million, on levels three to six. It intends to move its headquarters from 10 Raeburn Park to occupy two storeys — levels three and four — at the new location, and develop the remaining levels into co-living units.
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The shared space at Coliwoo 1557 Keppel Road, where residents can work remotely (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
The company is “still contemplating” if it should convert its old headquarters into Coliwoo properties, says Lim.
When it makes sense, LHN is open to renting out land to other co-living players, with a focus on making profits, Lim says. The group had previously jointly developed a co-living property under its indirect subsidiary with co-living player Hmlet, at Hmlet at Cantonment, just minutes’ walk from 1557 Keppel Road. For the space, Hmlet signed a master lease with LHN.
“We do not mind if some co-living operator comes and says they want to run [our space]. We are happy, as long as they can meet our asking rent,” he says.