Martin Modern offers luxury with a twist

Lin Zhiqin
/ The Edge Property
July 7, 2017 9:00 AM SGT
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GuocoLand’s project at Martin Place will test the resilience of the high-end condominium segment as confidence returns
Singapore-listed property developer GuocoLand is set to preview its latest luxury condominium, the 450-unit Martin Modern on the weekend of July 8 and 9. It will be the first major launch of a condo project in Martin Place in over nine years — since the 302-unit Martin Place Residences next door was first rolled out in 2008. It will also mark the first launch of a luxury condo in 2017.
GuocoLand had upstaged 12 other bidders to win the 99-year leasehold site in a government land tender with a top bid of $595.1 million, or $1,239 psf per plot ratio (ppr) a year ago. At that time, many had considered GuocoLand’s bid aggressive.
“Now, one year on, it doesn’t look so expensive,” says Cheng Hsing Yao, group managing director of GuocoLand Singapore. The developer’s confidence in the site stems from the sales it had continued to garner at two of its luxury condo developments: the 210-unit, freehold Goodwood Residence on Bukit Timah Road; and the 381-unit, freehold Leedon Residence, off Holland and Farrer Roads.
Cheng: When it comes to luxury projects in the prime districts, what’s important is the sense of space and greenery
These strong sales were achieved against a backdrop of lacklustre sales in the rest of the luxury condo segment last year. “What that showed us was that if you make the best use of a site to create a product that people like, demand will be strong regardless of the state of the overall market,” says Cheng.
Rare GLS site
The other reason for GuocoLand’s confidence was that there are very few state land sites in the prime neighbourhood. The last Government Land Sales (GLS) site sold in the Robertson Quay neighbourhood was in March 2011. That was when City Developments (CDL) paid $938 psf ppr for the site that has since been developed into the 70-unit UP@Robertson Quay and the adjacent 293-room M Social Hotel.
On June 30, URA launched for sale a site on Jiak Kim Street on the opposite side of the Singapore River. The 145,125 sq ft, 99-year leasehold site includes three conserved warehouses built in 1919 that used to house Zouk, a popular club that had been there for 25 years. The site, located on the riverfront, can be developed into a 36-storey project with 525 residential units and a commercial component on the first level.
Desmond Sim, CBRE head of resarch for Singapore and Southeast Asia, says: “I expect to see aggressive bidding for the site, with City Developments seeking to defend its position.” He points to the fact that CDL Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust already owns the adjacent Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. By winning the Jiak Kim Street site, CDL would be able to control a longer stretch of the prime riverfront.
Growth story
The Robertson Quay neighbourhood is also undergoing a transformation, with the anticipated opening of the new Great World MRT station, located a 10-minute walk away, says GuocoLand’s Cheng. “The location is very accessible by car, but what is transformative is that it’s going to be accessible by MRT.” The Great World MRT station is scheduled to be completed in 2021, around the same time as Martin Modern’s completion.
According to Cheng, another attraction of the Robertson Quay location is its growth story: For instance, the opening of the new InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay; the makeover of The Quayside (see story on Pages EP6 and 7); and the upcoming redevelopment of the former Zouk site on Jiak Kim Street. “That’s why we were confident that the sale price of Martin Modern could achieve a certain level,” he adds.
GuocoLand has appointed three marketing agents for Martin Modern: ERA, Huttons Asia and PropNex Realty. The agents are indicating prices starting from $1.8 million for a two-bedroom unit, and $2 million for a twobedroom- plus study unit. The expected average price is $2,300 psf.
Ahead of the preview, PropNex held a consumer event at Regent Hotel on July 1, which focused on Martin Modern. More than 200 people showed up. Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex, says: “There’s a lot of investor interest, owing to its location, especially when there hasn’t been a new launch in almost 10 years.”
Confidence returns
Gafoor also points to the GLS site won by a joint venture between Singapore Press Holdings and Kajima Development last month. It was a 99-year leasehold, mixed-use development site in the new Bidadari Estate, and the JV partners have announced that they will be developing a project with 600 residential units and a 300,000 sq ft commercial podium. The JV submitted a top bid of $1.132 billion, or $1,181 psf ppr, for the site located next to Woodleigh MRT station.
Based on the land bid price for the GLS site at Bidadari Estate, Gafoor reckons the new residential development at Bidadari Estate could be launched at prices “north of $1,800 psf”.
“The strong bids seen at recent government land tenders are a further sign that confidence has returned to the residential market,” says Gafoor. “Martin Modern’s asking prices — above $2,000 psf — are definitely something that people will consider, especially given its exclusive neighbourhood in prime District 9.”
Future landmark
GuocoLand also wanted to build a project that would become a landmark at Robertson Quay. To create something “out of the box”, the developer appointed Yip Yuen Hong of ip:li Architects as the master architect. Yip in turn collaborated with ADDP Architect’s Tang Kok Thye, principal architect of the project. Meanwhile, ICN Design is the appointed landscape architect.
Yip is a four-time winner of the President’s Design Award. Having founded ip:li in 2002, he has been focusing on designing Good Class Bungalows (GCBs). Yip’s initial inspiration for Martin Modern came from the historical background of the site, which is the warehouses. “We wanted to replicate the lofty spaces of the warehouses,” he elaborates. “Set within an oasis, people would be transported into a tranquil world when they enter the project.”
Scale model of Martin Modern, GuocoLand’s latest luxury condo
To come up with a distinctive identity for the project, the façade of the buildings will have a rugged look, to be achieved using corrugated pre-cast panels. “The rawness of the concrete panel alludes to the warehouses that were there before, and by juxtaposing these rough materials against the smooth, sleek interiors, the project should stand the test of time,” says Yip.
As the 450 units in the condo project are situated in twin 30-storey towers, that frees up 80% of the 171,535 sq ft site for landscaping. “We wanted to create a living heritage, a forest with a wide range of fauna and flora,” says Simon Morrison, director of ICN Design.
Green area for residents
GuocoLand wanted to have a “Botanic Gardens” in Martin Modern because it realised that greenery was one of the most important aspects for residents at Goodwood Residence and Leedon Residence. “When it comes to luxury projects in the prime districts, it’s important to create a sense of space and a setting amid lush greenery,” says Cheng.
The crown of the two towers will have secret gardens where residents can enjoy the greenery and panoramic views
Given Martin Modern’s sloping terrain, the landscape architect could also carve out various entertainment spaces such as a party lawn and an air-conditioned reception lounge, a 50m swimming pool and water features. At the crown of the two towers is also what ICN Design calls “the secret garden”, where residents can enjoy the rooftop greenery as well as panoramic views.
Another important aspect was the sense of arrival, with a grand drop-off before leading to the underground car park. This concept was adapted from the GCBs and black-and-white bungalows, whose sweeping driveways and spacious gardens with mature trees gave the buildings a feeling of grandeur.
To lend a sense of exclusivity, there is an 8m wall at the arrival court. This wall, together with the dense foliage and greenery, provides privacy for residents. “People passing by outside the development will not be able to see anything beyond the wall and the dense greenery,” says Cheng.
Sense of spaciousness
For GuocoLand, the interior spaces were also important. “We wanted to make sure that the layout of the units was functional, and home owners would appreciate both the internal spaces and the views from their units,” says Cheng.
The balcony and living room of a 1,798 sq ft, four-bedroom premium showflat
One-third, or 150, of the units in Martin Modern are two-bedroom apartments of 764 sq ft. Ninety other units, or 20%, are two-bedroomplus- study apartments of 850 to 883 sq ft. Three-bedroom units of 1,012 to 1,087 sq ft also make up 90 units. There are 60 units each of three-bedroom premium types of 1,324 to 1,421 sq ft and four-bedders of 1,701 to 1,798 sq ft.
The common bedrooms are designed to be big enough for a queen-sized bed and the master bedroom is large enough for a king-sized bed. Even the study is large enough to fit a single bed for house guests. All the bedrooms are, therefore, usable, says Cheng.
The master bedroom of a four-bedroom premium showflat
Another consideration is the ability to entertain at home. “Whether it’s an owner-occupier or a tenant, we see the resident as someone who’s very cosmopolitan and well-heeled, who expects a certain level of quality and will want to entertain friends and family at home,” notes Cheng. For seamlessness between the external and internal spaces of a unit, the balconies will feature marble mosaic tiles to be in harmony with the marble flooring in the living and dining area. The three-bedroom premium and four-bedroom units have two balconies — one located outside the living room and the other next to the dry kitchen and dining area.
This layout not only facilitates cross-ventilation but also brings in natural light throughout the day. It is ideal for those who entertain at home, as the balconies act as an extension of the living and dining area.
“Even if you’re not entertaining, it’s nice to have different spaces to relax in when you come home,” observes Cheng. “Regardless of the unit size, what is important is the sense of spaciousness.”
What was also important was the orientation of the units within the two towers. All the units will have unobstructed views, says Cheng. “They will have a view of the Singapore River, the city skyline or the gardens within the development.”
Investor interest, lifestyle purchase
Given the prime location in Martin Place and the quality of the project, GuocoLand foresees strong interest from both owner-occupiers and investors. “Beyond being an investment, it’s a lifestyle purchase,” says Cheng.
In the prime districts, the quality of a project and its location outweigh the tenure of the land, according to Huttons Asia. This was evident from the recent sales at OUE Twin Peaks, where units above the 20th floor have been sold at $2,755 to $3,311 psf, based on caveats lodged with URA Realis in May and June. At Cairnhill Nine, units have been sold at $2,616 to $2,769 psf over the past two months. Both OUE Twin Peaks and Cairnhill Nine are 99-year leasehold projects and located in prime District 9. In the Robertson Quay neighbourhood, UP@ Robertson units were sold at $1,904 to $2,908 psf when the project was launched in 2012.
GuocoLand’s Cheng is therefore confident that Martin Modern will stand out as a new landmark at Robertson Quay. “It’s hard to find something comparable in the area,” he says.
This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 787 (July 10, 2017) of The Edge Singapore.

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